Beyond the 'Matrix' Theory of the Human Mind

You can either read (NYT Paywall) or listen (in a brisk, 18-minute podcast rendition), but whichever you choose, this piece feels like a triumphant synthesis of several ideas Ezra Klein has been slow-cooking over hours upon hours of interviews on the various podcasts he's hosted over the last decade. If you have an Internet connection or participate in an economy, I strongly recommend you read and reflect on this column.

Many of the themes Ezra hits on are things that I've felt compelled to write about here, even back in the mid-2010s when I only blogged semi-annually. Like the "mysterious" reason that productivity is flat despite so many breakthroughs in information technology. Or my various exhortations that the best thing Apple could do for humanity is help users save themselves from notification hell. And more recently, the kinds of work that AI will both replace and create for us.

Anyway, Ezra's diagnosis is bang on and I'm in such violent agreement with his take here that I struggle to even imagine a counter argument. It seems to me the reason why such a profound and clear truth can fail to take the world by storm is that these are mostly systemic issues that represent collective action problems. After all, if your boss wants you to reply to emails within 5 minutes, or if your coworkers will judge you for not being a green bubble in Slack all day, what can you really do to reclaim your individual ability to focus?

Still, we probably each have more control over how much of our focus we cede to technology than we probably admit to ourselves. Always worth taking a moment to think about.