Sarah Bakewell at the Financial Times:
In Aldous Huxley’s utopian novel Island, mynah birds are trained to fly around the island’s proto-hippy paradise calling, “Attention! Attention!” and “Here and now, boys!”, to keep people alert to the moment.
This seemed a fine idea in 1962, when the novel appeared, but it might work less well in today’s world. Our problem is not so much one of vague absent-mindedness as of bombardment by exactly the sort of uncalled-for twittering Huxley was proposing as a solution. Each time we walk down the street, take a cab, enter an airport or navigate the internet, we field volleys of demands on our attention from advertisers and corporations, as well as from supposed public service announcements and the general cacophony. We don’t need more alerts; we need filters for screening the existing ones out.
Such ideas provide the starting point for Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head: How to Flourish in an Age of Distraction, which follows his successful The Case for Working With Your Hands (or Shop Class as Soulcraft, as the US edition was more evocatively called).