We have come to believe our high-tech, fast pace, overbooked lifestyles have caused an erosion of our ability to concentrate. Deducing from responses of his impressively sizable audience, Dr. Jordan Peterson suggests this might not be true. At his February 2019 presentation in Australia, he asserts the following and, if valid, there is ground for optimism.
A Market for the Dark Web
The Intellectual Dark Web is a term coined by Eric Weinstein making reference to a group of highly diverse thinkers who fiercely and frankly discuss or debate deeply intellectual topics in the realm of philosophy, society, psychology, ethics, environment and religion. Contributors include names such as Joe Rogan, Ben Shapiro, Dave Ruben, Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson, to cite only a few. What they share in common is possession of their own independent media platforms. The media revolution has allowed for video and audio content to be easily produced, essentially free for consumers, widely distributed and permanent in nature. Therefore, these intellectuals produce and distribute thoughtful, journalistic content free from corporate oversight (in other words, they say what they want) and due to the intellectual profundity, it is not unusual that discussions span from 1 to 3 hours. As it turns out, there is a mass market for this level of commentary. Statistical reporting from Podcast Insights, in its January 2020 update, indicates that over 60 million homes listen weekly to podcasts and 80% of listeners, averaging 7 podcasts per week, listen to most or all of each episode. An announcement on Science Friday reads as follows:
For a couple of years now, the Science Friday podcast has been broken up into a series of segments—short interviews on just one topic. But it turns out that most of our podcast listeners want to hear us the way we’re played on the radio, with longer files that include a number of different segments.
We listened, and starting with this week’s show, we’re going back to hour-long podcasts. (link)
Other Than Reading
For a variety of reasons, reading a book to extract valuable information and content isn’t always an effective or appealing option for everyone. In fact, highly literate reading is a comparatively rare skill but listening to content tends to be quite easy for almost anyone. Crediting the media revolution, YouTube, podcasts, live-streaming and audio books make it possible for many more people to access complicated, intellectual material than would have previously been reached. Peterson contends that access to this level of content could possibly shape educational trends.
Has Traditional Media Dumbed Down the Audience?
A close analysis of classical television format depicts the following. An interviewer acting essentially as a speaking device for the corporate owner adheres to a scripted narrative while corralling guest responses into hyper-abbreviated soundbites. This formatting is necessary because every minute, even every second, is extraordinarily expensive and risk prevention from commentary gone horribly awry can be avoided with limited exposure. The problem is, all subject matter simply cannot be addressed properly in 30 seconds and often it is foolish, even dishonest, to try. Whereas, long form conversations such as those occurring among the Intellectual Dark Web types allows for sufficient conversation to delve to the depths of the matters in honest search for meaningful resolution. Presumably, a fairly significant percentage of the population is interested enough to follow along for rather long periods of time.
Could it be that our more primitive forms of mass communication and technologies have suppressed a natural inclination to delve more deeply into content rich thought by having scripted discourse and shortened presentation timelines due to an underlying assumption that the audience was nominally intellectual and only capable of limited attention span?
Whether or not media has affected our intellect or attention span, it is optimistic to learn there exists a reasonably large swath of people who want to ponder big ideas and continue the pursuit for truth.