"You have to go to the gym, the attention gym, every day in order to stay fit, for your attention to stay fit and for your perception to stay fit, and without it you get lost, unproductive, miserable."

Christian Madsbjerg

Ever find yourself navigating the maze of modern distractions, longing for a moment of true focus? Christian Madsberg, author of "Look: How to Pay Attention in a Distracted World," joins us to share practical strategies for cultivating the kind of attention that can enrich our lives. Christian introduces us to the concept of panoptic attention - a background focus that's as essential as it is often neglected. As we dissect skills that have become second nature and the cultural nuances that shape them, we uncover the profound impact of our attention's direction on who we become.

Follow Chase @chase_chewning


In this episode we discuss...

(00:00) "Improving Focus and Attention in Distraction"

(14:02) Navigating Focus

(26:00) Leading With Observation, Not Opinion

(35:12) Learning From Behaviors to Predict the Future

(40:57) Distractions and Artificial Intelligence's Impact


Episode resources:

EFR 793: Mastering the Art of Attention and How to Live a More Focused and Fulfilling Life with Christian Madsbjerg

Ever find yourself navigating the maze of modern distractions, longing for a moment of true focus? Christian Madsberg, author of "Look: How to Pay Attention in a Distracted World," joins us to share practical strategies for cultivating the kind of attention that can enrich our lives. Christian introduces us to the concept of panoptic attention - a background focus that's as essential as it is often neglected. As we dissect skills that have become second nature and the cultural nuances that shape them, we uncover the profound impact of our attention's direction on who we become.

Follow Chase @chase_chewning


In this episode we discuss...

(00:00) "Improving Focus and Attention in Distraction"

(14:02) Navigating Focus

(26:00) Leading With Observation, Not Opinion

(35:12) Learning From Behaviors to Predict the Future

(40:57) Distractions and Artificial Intelligence's Impact


Episode resources:


00:00 - Speaker 1 The following is an Operation Podcast production.

The majority of us will say I can't focus. What is it about this aspect of not having focus that then only makes us try to get it back?

00:17 - Speaker 2 We're poisoned by distraction and it is a muscle, just like exercising is the ability to see how things work and to see the background. So the background is observable, you can pay attention to it and you can describe it. But instead of doing that, we seem to have opinions about everything, we seem to get lost in not important things. But it's something. You have to go to the gym the attention gym every day for your attention to stay fit and for your perception to stay fit, and without it you get lost, unproductive, miserable. You feel kind of lost. I think a lot of people feel lost like that today. Hello, my name is Christian Madsberg. I'm here to talk about my new book, look how to Pay Attention in a Distracted World, and we're going to talk about attention, about the philosophy I teach. Welcome to Everford Radio.

01:17 - Speaker 1 One of the best ways I have found to improve my overall energy, reduce muscle fatigue, improve recovery time. It's actually I just changed my socks, but not just any sock. I'm talking about today's sponsor, the gradual compression socks from Comrade. Essentially, compression socks and compression stockings are clinically proven, snug fitting socks designed to gently put a specific level of pressure on your legs. This pressure improves circulation, which allows you to feel more energized, while minimizing the chance of varicose veins, blood clots, inflammation, swelling and just general discomfort. These are socks with benefits. Comrade's True Graduated Compression Socks are the most effective form of compression, offering a medically designed gradient level of support. True graduated compression or pressure stockings work by creating precise amounts of pressure at different parts of your legs and feet for optimal circulation. They never slide down your leg. They have a stay up cuff, breathable fabric, an antimicrobial, smart solar technology and anywhere from 15 to 20 millimeters mercury graduated compression, not to mention cushioned heel to toe baby for all day, softness and comfort.

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03:36 I got a quick question for you to prime, to prime your mind, before we jump into today's episode with Christian Madsberg, and that is have you ever found yourself navigating the maze of modern distractions? Are you longing for a moment of true, uninterrupted focus? That is what today's episode promises to teach you how to do. Christian is the author of Look, how to Pay Attention in a Detracted World, and in today's conversation he shares deeply insightful strategies for cultivating the kind of attention that can truly enrich our lives. He is going to be uncovering the intricate balance between observation, reflection and selective attention. Simple things like just getting a cup of coffee are going to be transformed into a lesson in social practices and, more importantly, their influence on our daily interactions. We're going to be tackling the challenge of reclaiming our focus in an era where smartphones truly command our gaze and attention more often than the world around us the real world around us and also stay tuned towards the end. Because we unpack the concept of AI, artificial intelligence. What role, if any, does it have in helping us get more dialed in, help us narrow in our focus, or are these new tools meant to make our lives easier, just becoming yet another distraction?

04:58 Christian sat down with me in studio here in Los Angeles. If you want to check out the video, I'll have it linked for you, as always with everything else we talk about in the show notes under episode resources. It's also always available at ever forward radiocom or head over to the YouTube channel. It's been growing like crazy the last few months. Thank you all so much for tuning in. Smashing that subscribe button thumbs up the video. We're just seeing so much growth over there. I truly appreciate it the more growth that we get. By just doing simple things like subscribing to YouTube, spotify, apple helps this show grow immensely, helps us grow, helps us level up the production, helps us attract even more and amazing guests that are going to help you every episode. Live a life ever forward.

05:41 And before we jump into today's episode with Christian, I want to give a special shout out to a partner that has been fueling me and him here every episode for over five years now. Shout out Strong Coffee Company, today's sponsor. I love Strong Coffee Company because it is real organic coffee that I can make at home on the go, hot or iced. Having those morning moments to myself really helped get my mind primed for the day's tasks. But strong coffee is truly a ritual beyond routine, and that's because it's coffee plus essential nutrients in seconds, not your average cup of joe packed with 15 grams of grass fed collagen, 250 milligrams of adaptogens. Coffee has really never been better. So many amazing flavors to pick from, but they all are made with the highest quality ingredients no refined sugars, lactose free and the best part is thanks to ingredients like l-theanine, you get no crash, no jitters and laser focus if you're drinking coffee and you care about your health.

06:41 I think everyone should be switching to strong coffee company, and you do. You want to try it out? I want you to save some money. At the same time, throw down code CHASE at checkout to save 15% when you head to strongcoffeecompanycom. I was doing some research on some stoic quotes and kind of passages around paying attention distractions, and this one hit me from one of my favorites, epictetus, and he says you become what you give your attention to. My question for you is what are we becoming, then, if we are what we give our attention to?

07:15 - Speaker 2 Right. Well, I suppose our life is whatever we pay attention to, whatever our not our front focus of attention, but the way we move through the world, and the only way we can do that is by paying attention to things. In the book I wrote, I have three different types of attention that are all important, but I think one more important than others. So we are what we pay attention to.

07:45 - Speaker 1 Is paying attention the same thing as giving our focus to something? Is there a difference between attention and focus, right?

07:53 - Speaker 2 Focus is a kind of attention. It's very important, it's what we all want, it's what we tell our kids when we say pay attention. A lot of us struggle with that kind of attention. So focus would be trying to write or it would be really listening to someone, where you, where your perception, is focused on one thing. It's also what happened when you look at, let's say you look at a car or a t-shirt and you and you sort of see which kind of red color is that and you pay close attention to that. That's the kind of attention that we all talk about, but I don't think it's the most important. Uh, it's something we can do.

08:33 It's what natural scientists do. They focus close, close attention to an isolated thing. So so you could say, focus really is zooming in on something in particular. Three different types of attention that we could go into. Um are all good, they're all very helpful, but one of them is more fundamental. So without that, we couldn't figure out anything in the world where you can live. Without focus, you can't live a good life.

09:04 - Speaker 1 But you can live a productive life without it. What do you mean by that? We can live without focus.

09:08 - Speaker 2 You can move through the day without thinking about anything, without really looking at anything. You can sort of drone through the day, and I'd say most of the time we drone. When you walk down the street. You don't think about the traffic rules, you don't really see what colors things are, you don't really hear the colors in the background, you don't pay attention to how that whole thing works. You just do it because you know it right and that's a background type of attention.

09:39 In the book book I call it panoptic attention. So a panoptic attention is what you do when you walk down the street out here and you know that. You know how la works, you know what one does in this place. There's a particular style to how you live here. Uh, there's a, there's a way that's different about la than there is for seattle, or you know frankfurt, and and, and they work in a different way. But once you lived here for a little while, you just it just becomes part of you.

10:07 And in one philosophical tradition that I'm interested in, which is called phenomenology, the phenomenologists are focused on how does that background work? So one example is when you hammer, when you, when you hit nails with a hammer, you don't really think about it. You just know how hammering works. You know you have wood, let's say, and you have nails, and then you know to drive in those nails with a hammer. If you start thinking too much about it, you might, you might not know. It just becomes a rhythm and it becomes part of that. But if you step back and think, what is hammering? It is a skill or a practice that sort of recedes into the background when you actually do it. So the same goes with driving, I would imagine, or playing tennis or anything like that, that there is this whole background of practices of knowing things that is more panoptic than it is focused.

11:07 When you play tennis, you don't think about the rules, you just play. You don't really feel. You know how to hit the ball, you know how to drive in a nail and those practices are the most important things about humans that we have. That you could also call that common sense. You could call it many things right right, um, but, but.

11:25 But that is how we move through the world and you can you realize that when you either lose something or you or you, um go to a different place. So so when you I live in New York, when I go to LA, you guys drive differently. The space between two cars here is not an opportunity to get ahead like it is in New York. The style of driving here is quite different. And then in the beginning, when you then drive here, it just feels looser in a sense, and less angry. It takes a little while to get used to it, and let's say it takes, you know, five days to get used to that style. But then it becomes completely. You become completely immersed in it and you and you stop thinking about it. Another example could be losing your mobile phone. Let's say you sit in a taxi, you lose your mobile phone. Suddenly you realize all the things you do on that phone that you just didn't think about without it.

12:20 - Speaker 1 It's right, the phone isn't just the thing that's gone. It's what I can do with it.

12:24 - Speaker 2 It's your practices and you realize that. You don't realize that when you have your phone it's like hammering you just use it and it's part of your life. Once you lose it, you suddenly realize what that phone phone is and you don't understand what a phone is unless you lose it true very true, and you know the pandemic we just went through.

12:45 You didn't understand the role of friendships, the role of restaurants, the role of school, because it was so. You just kids go to school and we go to restaurant, and uh, so in sociology there's a, there's a technique called breaching exercises, which is to understand something by taking it away from people. So, in order to understand the role of Google, you say you can't Google the next week and then they can start seeing it. So it goes from a background practice that you don't think about, that you pay attention to, but you don't pay attention to it in a focused way. But the breaching exercise forces it into the foreground and suddenly you can focus on it and see what it really is.

13:28 - Speaker 1 So it's kind of a research technique in a sense majority of us will say I can't focus, I struggle from lack of focus, I can't seem to get dialed in or I lose focus very easily. What is it about this aspect of not having focus that then only makes us try to get it back?

13:47 - Speaker 2 Right? Well, we're poisoned by distraction and it is a muscle, just like exercising. It's the ability to see how things work and to see the background. So the background is observable, you can. You can pay attention to it and you can describe it, but instead of doing that, we seem to have opinions about everything we seem to, we seem to um, um, get lost in on not important things, but it's something.

14:24 You have to go to the gym, the you know attention gym, every day in order to stay fit, for your attention to stay fit and for your perception to stay fit, and without it you get lost, unproductive, miserable. You feel kind of um, you feel kind of lost in a way.

14:43 - Speaker 1 I think a lot of people feel lost like that today these three categories of a person or personality trait kind of came up for me, and I was a champion, participant and observer right and we can be approaching any task.

14:58 Let's say, whatever you listen or viewer right now, whatever your most important work is right now, take that most important work and inject yourself in these three different personalities. You're the person with the laser focus that only sees the task at hand and only sees the need and desire to accomplish it and excel in it. But then also kind of go the participant. You know you're just, you're in, you're in the room with the people doing the same thing. You know what's what's happening, what is the flow, what, what maybe are other different approaches to it, and then you know just being involved in just the lightest capacity possible. I think it's all about relationship building to the task at hand and for me, when I think focus, when I think attention, I automatically go to this kind of hypervigilant relationship to it. I so many other things have to be off, so many other things have to be turned down, so that I can be turned up and turned on and in this task. But that's just one way to go about it.

16:02 And you remind me of this other note I had down from your work about you know really what we see versus what is reality. There's what's happening in front of us, and then there is what has always been in the background. It's just kind of, when we look at, you know, through a camera, we can have the lens focus right up close on us and blurs out the background or vice versa, but it doesn't mean one isn't happening without the other, that doesn't mean that maybe even one isn't happening because of the other. So that kind of brings up the question for me of what then is reality? What? What then do we? Do we look at to really take in? As this is my reality, this is my truth, this what warrants my attention, what warrants my focus? How do we navigate those?

16:50 - Speaker 2 two, the. Let's take an example Having coffee seems like a very banal thing. Just meet someone, you have coffee and you can be focusing on the other person you have coffee with and that's amazing that people do that and maybe the most important in that case. But you can also be in a coffee shop or a cafe and you can think of, you can observe, what is having coffee, like, the phenomenon of having coffee, yeah, and it turns out there's a lot of types of having coffee and it doesn't necessarily involve coffee, like you don't have to drink coffee to have coffee, right, um? And? And it sometimes involves alcohol, it sometimes involves tea, it sometimes doesn't involve anything, but all of it is having coffee, the social phenomenon of having coffee.

17:54 So a good observer will, of course, think about the person that listened to the other person. But they also have this sort of curiosity about how does this whole thing work. And it starts by defining a phenomenon so winning in chess, or being seen as a as a bass player in a jazz band by the other jazz musicians, or it is the phenomenon of having coffee, uh, which is a social thing often. Sometimes having coffee is flirtatious, sometimes it's work related, sometimes it's just humdrum of every day. You just go have a coffee. Um, sometimes it's relationship building, sometimes it's not. So if you sit in a coffee shop next time, think about how are these people having?

18:42 - Speaker 1 coffee. Oh, I do all the time Right.

18:44 - Speaker 2 Well, you're observing Every time. Yeah, that's observation for me.

18:47 - Speaker 1 All right, let me ask you this If we want to better understand being a participant in the task at hand let's say, getting coffee right and you know we're here, we're getting coffee I want to get to know you more, whatever the goal is, but yet we recognize the other side, just gaining other perspective, and my audience definitely. That's. That's important to them. How can we use one side of that coin to serve the other? How can we maybe in the same experience, navigate going participant observer, participant observer, so that maybe we extract the most benefit from it, we extract the most amount of lessons, or just we just sponge up as much as possible? So maybe later on we can, you know, reflect on it in a different way so I've made a living out of observing the background of something.

19:45 - Speaker 2 How do people buy cars? What's it like to be told you have cancer? Um, what's it like to struggle with an exercise or a food regimen that's good for you? Um, that is not banal. You can say, well, just eat better. Or you can say what are the social practices that is involved in your life that ends up as this result? So you can, you can be observant about the context or the background, and that can help you be clear about it and be clearing. Be clear about it means you can make product that fits right, right you can make decisions that fit.

20:22 Without that I think you're lost, right. So so there's this sort of first slow, then fast. So first you slowly immerse in the immerse yourself in a dynamic of something, and then you can make stuff then you can do things so, for instance, we I did a lot of work for adidas, the german sports company heard of them.

20:46 Yeah, yeah, it's a really great company, um, and the first time, the first time I met them, they I went to a board meeting and in the you know, you could just listen to what they say and you know being there. But I was interested in who are these people, what's the dynamic, and you could then learn by looking at them. You could see, in the lunch break people would go run up a mountain or something like that, and you can then see the dynamics of this. A highly competitive, very male group of people and you can see what is sports to these people, the phenomenon of sports to these people. How are they thinking about it? They're not thinking about it in the sense that they know it, it's just their culture that works that way. So they would compete, they would run up mountains. They keep compete about themselves, with themselves. They would compete with others.

21:42 So at the core of this company, the core values of this company, was winning, winning gold medals, winning in football, out-competing others and so on. So the core of the whole leadership group was like that. Then they asked us could you go look at how people deal with their bodies and and sports? And when you look at them, their culture is completely different if you if you go out for runs with people and so on. It's nothing to do with winning, it has to do with feeling good, it has to do with accomplishment, of actually doing it, of following in regiment, and it's not about make, making a number in terms of how fast you run 10k or anything like that.

22:24 So you have a. You have a, a company for whom all product, all services, all marketing is about performance and winning, and a customer group for whom, for most of them, that's not the case. It's not about winning. And then, if you look at the product lineup, all the shoes and all the apparel and so on was designed to win, but that was irrelevant for most of the people. Yeah, and that's why this is 20 years ago, that's why the, the product lineup, was made to a tiny fraction of the actual market and not rest of rest of the market. Then we sort of observed what about women? Um, they said they had women's products, but when you look at the way they were organized, there was foot pleated, running, basketball and so on, and then there was a group that was called women.

23:30 - Speaker 1 So basketball, baseball, Specific, specific, specific broad.

23:35 - Speaker 2 What does that mean? If you observe that it means they don't give a shit, Right right, or they don't give a shit, right, right.

23:39 - Speaker 1 Or they don't give as much of a shit as they do about these other categories. They think they do, but they don't right.

23:45 - Speaker 2 I try to in my life. I try to just be ultra disciplined, but with a low bar. So, for instance, I write a page a day, one page. I get up in the morning, I write one page, hopefully a good page I can use, but never more than a pace page, never less than a page. So, for instance, when I, when I write a page and I want to write a little more, I stop myself. When I, when I are not, haven't written a page, I feel like not having brushed teeth. It just becomes this thing and the reason why you have to stop after one page is that next day you really want to.

24:26 - Speaker 1 You've been thinking about it yeah, you really want to lean absolutely and you need to, yeah right.

24:31 - Speaker 2 So if you trick yourself into that, you end up writing a page a day and now you can say well, a page is not much, but there's 365 days in a year and if you write one every day, 365 pages and that's highly productive so so by being disciplined about the rhythm, about the practice of it and get it to get it to the brushing teeth level of habit.

24:57 You can be extremely productive in that way. So so, discipline, low bar basically. Um, much better to work it out a little bit than not do it at all.

25:09 - Speaker 1 Speaking of writing, I heard I think I forget if it was in the book or I heard it in another interview of yours. You talk about the importance of observation, and we've definitely kind of discussed that already. But take it a step further and go observation, notation, observation and notation can be used as a way to kind of level the playing field when we're looking at, what am I paying attention to, where is my focus going, and only then formulate opinions and take action. What would be a couple of different ways? Maybe you would recommend for somebody to to know that they've observed enough, noted enough. Now it's time to to to kind of change your mindset, change perspective and then take action on that and step back out into the world again.

25:59 - Speaker 2 Yeah. So my students, uh, have a lot of opinions about the world. They have opinions about immigration, about homelessness, about coffee, about the environment, about a thousand things, and they would lead with opinion. So you discuss something and they would have strong opinions about it, without much reflection about where does those opinions come from and are they truly mine. So, instead of leading with opinion, lead with observation.

26:35 So, if you have a strong opinion about homelessness, how about you observe it a little bit and figure out what's it like to be homeless? Talk to them, what is it like to not knowing where to sleep tonight? And then you'd see this rich world of people, humans that lead a life that's very different than yours. And the way to do that is by observing it and describing it. Help Helpful to write it down, take notes Before you start saying it's good or bad, or right or wrong, or moral or immoral. Instead of forcing your opinions on it, you take the time to observe, describe. At a certain point, you've described the phenomenon as well as you can not with full understanding, but the best you can do and then you're allowed to have opinions. That's kind of the thing about opinions right?

27:36 - Speaker 1 is we give them so freely and feel so strongly about them?

27:40 - Speaker 2 There is this American journalist who's called Robert Caro and I describe a story of him in the book. He is maybe the greatest journalist alive. He wrote five books in his life one about Robert Moses, who built a lot of the expressways and changed New York, and four books about Johnson. Like President Johnson, and he has a story about Johnson where he needed to understand him. You could have lots of opinions about him. He stole an election. He you know Vietnam War, civil rights. He passed the civil rights. So you can have all kinds of opinions about him. But he says how can I understand him?

28:24 - Speaker 1 and what he?

28:24 - Speaker 2 did was, which is pretty extreme. He went and lived in the place where Johnson grew up for a while. He, and then he, in order to understand him, he took a sleeping bag and he went out to the place where he grew up to sleep in order to hear, just like, like, hear the acoustics of a place. What's it like to wake up? What was it like for him to wake up? Uh, in order, uh, and what was it like for his mom to live there and be quite alone, like the, the depth of loneliness that you would, you would feel when you, when you live in a place like that and you could say that that took him a night, you know to sleep out there, but you get this sort of sensory feel of what it must have been like to grow up as a child there.

29:18 Then the second thing he did was he was known to run to work, just so he would, he would, he would live in a, in a, um, and you know why. Why would he run to work? That's a, that's a, with a briefcase and a suit like that. That's not normal and you could say the guy's weird.

29:37 You could say the guy is excited, you can have opinions about it, but instead of that he walked the walk, uh, that johnson did from his little hotel room that he stayed in a little rented room towards the Capitol Hill and he couldn't figure out why would he run. But then he said I want to walk that walk the same time of day. That Johnson walked it. And when you do that it walked it. And when you do that it turns out when you do that you see the sun rise behind capitol hill and the white house and you, you know it's seen it many times.

30:18 It's glowing and he says, and after he saw that he says of course he ran.

30:24 - Speaker 1 Who would want to miss that? Of course he ran.

30:27 - Speaker 2 Like the energy of seeing this shining situation in front of him. You know it's obvious why he ran. So by putting yourself in somebody else's shoes like that, you understand them not perfectly, maybe even not well, but a whole lot better but at least you have any understanding, whereas before, with an opinion, you probably didn't have any you don't?

30:53 it's a flat life to lead. It's a boring flat life. So so we can't all be robert caro, but we can try to understand others our, our spouse, our kids, our um, you know, and so on by being a little more like Robert Caro.

31:13 And he had this rule when he interviewed people, he would write on his notebook, he would write SU every time he had a thought or a question, which meant shut up and just let them speak and listen to them and I think writing that down, if nothing else, mentally, when you look at something, think about something every time you have an opinion about something and just take a little more time to observe it and be a little more like what would Robert Caro do.

31:41 - Speaker 1 Another question I have about your work is how can we take this to a larger scale? How can we scale observation? How can we now take this enhanced method of focus and attention that we've been learning about and take it to scale to, you know, outside of our world, our most important work, to our community, or even global matters? Does attention, does focus, scale like?

32:06 - Speaker 2 that? Yeah, absolutely. I think companies should be run that way. I think the leadership teams of companies or governments should do this way more. If you run a hospital or a health care system, how about you try to understand what it's like to be a nurse or a cancer patient or a diabetic, and not just assume or look at numbers, but experience it yourself? Wow, that's powerful If you want to understand. Why is it that everybody cares about climate change but does very little about it? You could say they're idiots, or you can try to observe. What is this phenomenon of the distance between what you say and what you do? Um, and it's so easy to be just mental with other people when they are where there's a big difference between what they say and what they do. Why the hell are these people not just taking their medicine? Why do? Why is? Why are my friends whining? Why?

33:08 - Speaker 1 why is this client not listening to my nutritional advice? Why are they not doing the workout? Why, right, yeah?

33:13 - Speaker 2 exactly so. So I've spent 25 years as a, as an advisor to big companies mostly big companies understanding, trying to understand not always successfully, but sometimes what's the human background or the human context of what we're making. So if we're making mobile phones or weight loss technologies, which we were quite involved in, or travel experiences or something, it's a skill to do that and you'll make better things and you'll make better decisions if you, if it becomes a practice.

33:54 - Speaker 1 So it's scalable, teachable, learnable and you know, I've seen just people make a ton of money from being good at it, which, if they are, they deserve, I think in all of your years of research and teaching and advising, is there one or maybe two things that you have seen just become so common in the world of like? How could you have missed this? Or you're paying attention to the wrong things.

34:29 - Speaker 2 Yes, of course, many years ago I described this as well. I work with a big electronics company from Korea you might imagine who it is and they were making big TV screens like this one, and they would say bigger TV screens like this one. And they would say bigger TV screens is better. Of course people will buy bigger TV screens, higher resolution, so on, and there'll be a resolution arms race. But then they said, could you look at media Like, how are people watching TV? What is watching TV? What is watching TV? What is watching TV for a normal family, so on.

35:12 And then we went to. I had anthropologists like 100 anthropologists to send out in the world to study behavior, so they would spend days or weeks or sometimes months, with people doing something every day in order to understand it. And what we found this is in 2003 or something like that. The internet was quite young. Youtube didn't exist yet not really, so a lot of things were new and we found. So it was hard to imagine the future. What would the future be like Today? Looking back, it's easy, but then it wasn't. And what we found we went to. First we went to a little town in Japan, because we found these people that were stealing a lot of content, stealing a lot of. There were these file-sharing services where you basically stole things right.

36:09 Yeah like limewire, yeah, pirate bay or something, yeah yeah, yeah, and we just why are these otherwise fairly, you know, well-off people, stealing content, you know, and and then we found these behaviors that were that were new, so stealing content was big but also highly specific content. So it would be in that case, they would be obsessed, this little group, with movies made in Monument Valley in Arizona. That's very specific, Extremely specific but not very different from YouTube channels. There are lots of YouTube channels that are so specific focused in on one football club one.

36:48 You know something like that podcasts too extremely specific podcasts and what we've exactly what we found was this group was connected to other groups around the world. That was that were obsessed with the same thing. Then we found a different group that were really interested in david lynch uh, twin peaks, you know obsessed about it, and they would be watching it together, they would be commenting on it, they would find things, they would share things articles, clips, interviews and and, of course, footage and obsess over it. So there were these micro communities around the world. They would have these long watching sessions six hours or something like that which at that time was not normal to have, the what today is called binge watching but they would do that together. So what we found really was binge watching, micro community, global micro communities with highly specific interests, just like this podcast, highly specific community around it, what today is called YouTubers or podcasters, so people that were at the core of that or nodal points in that system that would be commenting, producing, sharing and so on.

37:59 So already back then you could see the future. But the future wasn't normal yet. It was unevenly distributed, as William Gibson says. It was unevenly distributed but already here, already in existence, so the behaviors were ready. So when you see these things, these new behaviors, you can say what does that mean? Well, it also means YouTube. It means, over the top, no longer using the remote control to scroll through a hundred idiotic channels going directly to it exactly so.

38:35 So so basically, if you, if you were smart and we were, we didn't fully understand it. We understand some of it, but we would see the future like that so if you, if you want to innovate, or if you want to create new things in the world, understanding behaviors that are already there and what they might mean means you can make shit to them, right, you can make it well, right, you waste less, and so on. So maybe that's a story about how it's possible to study the future through observing behavior.

39:09 - Speaker 1 Is it more about our ability to create a better future for ourself, to know where to shift our attention and focus? Is it better understanding our present or our past?

39:19 - Speaker 2 I don't know Both, I hope. I have a hard time understanding the past and I'm not a psychologist or anything like that. But I've seen historians understanding the past through putting together data, information about the past and seeing a bigger picture. And I think what historians are doing is the same thing as observing the present, same skill of seeing things that otherwise wouldn't be necessarily connected. So let's say you want to understand the 1920s germany, say, interesting topic that was helpful to understand. You would, you would read newspaper articles, you, you would see footage, images, you know literature from the time, and then a historian can put it together into a sense of what that might have been like.

40:18 That's a little bit what Robert Caro is doing, right, what's the sense of Johnson and his life? And that can be done by the present as well. You can. If you're jazz musicians, musician or a musician, understanding how that whole thing works will make you better as a, as a band member and as a player. Uh, you'd understand your taste and style and so on better. So I think I don't understand. I don't know if past or present is the better, but I think it's the same skill, it's the same fundamental ability to observe that is helpful for both of them, okay, right.

40:57 - Speaker 1 What's your take on distractions? Well, when it comes to attention and focus, what role do distractions play in paying attention?

41:09 - Speaker 2 Maybe two things. One is it's true that there is a lot of distraction. It's true that the amount of input that we get now, compared to when I grew up, is significantly more. I mean, I'm from Denmark. We had one TV channel, one one, well yeah and sometimes you could tune in on Swedish channels if you're lucky, but not a lot.

41:35 Right. It's also, it's Denmark. It's ridiculous. Second is snap out of it like just get your act together, put it down, do something else. We can do that with exercise, we can do that with lots of things. You don't don't pick it up. I think there's there's, there's a sort of a discipline to do it and without that discipline there's no freedom and you end up being an idiot, right and just waste every day. And wasting time is lovely, it's with others. If it's with a phone, what are you doing, right? How do you do that? Um, get make, get into a rhythm where it feels yucky to be on your phone for 20 minutes.

42:18 It just feels like you haven't brushed your teeth yeah, really just stop, yeah and uh, I'm, I'm as guilty as anyone, but, but I feel bad when I do it, and that's a good thing, because then you, then you um you know what to change? Yeah, yeah then you brush your teeth every day, or you are you um, eat, eat properly, and so on. So this is, I mean, don't be harsh on yourself, but just come on don't be an idiot.

42:49 - Speaker 1 Don't pick up the phone when you're at a stoplight because you think you have 10 seconds, 2 seconds, 30 seconds to check your email, check social media um, don't. It really comes down to the phone, as I'm kind of saying this out loud, you know. Don't carry the phone with you into the next room when you're sitting, when I'm sitting down to eat. Don't look at the phone, don't look at the TV. It's really about the thing that I'm doing. Let that be the thing that I'm doing, and not introducing anything else into the realm. Um, not doing things more than doing things has allowed my broad attention span to thrive, and then, therefore, I feel I have so much of a stronger capability and choice really to choose what I'm focusing on instead of just being sucked in to all these other things that are out there the best example for me is concerts, when you go to a concert and somebody is so talented and prepared and practiced for their whole life, and then people look at the concert through a little screen like it kills me.

43:56 What are you?

43:56 - Speaker 2 doing like this concert is for you. Nobody will ever, ever see that footage. It doesn't matter, put it down, enjoy, enjoy what it is.

44:09 - Speaker 1 I wonder what it's like for musicians that have been touring doing this for I'd say probably at least 20 years, 20 years ago. They're at a concert performing and no one's out there with their cell phone. Now every other person probably has their phone out. I like to to grab a couple clips of mine that show, when I'm at a show as well, but you know, I'm definitely not filming the whole damn thing. I feel so disconnected and, honestly, I feel like I'm not getting my money's worth when I'm being honest, like I paid to just record this, like I can watch that on youtube later, kind of thing. Um, I would love to get.

44:43 - Speaker 2 even you wouldn't do that Probably not. It's so boring Actually. Yeah, we really wouldn't.

44:47 - Speaker 1 Yeah, true human behavior. I'd be curious what a musician, what their take is on 20 years ago compared to now. Like that's got to take away from them a little bit too. Like I used to perform to people, now I'm performing to people hiding behind. I can't even see their faces, they're just hiding behind a camera. So as we kind of get towards the end here, I want to ask one other question, because I feel like no matter what type of guest I have on the show, nowadays, the word or the letters excuse me, ai can't not spill over. What is your take on artificial intelligence right now in terms of diminishing or improving our attention and focus? What role does AI have in this work?

45:34 - Speaker 2 Maybe it's not that important.

45:36 - Speaker 1 What do you mean?

45:38 - Speaker 2 Just like the metaverse wasn't that important, or crypto wasn't that important, or NFTs wasn't that important, but at the moment it felt really, really important. I'm not sure it's that important, or nfts wasn't that important, but at the moment it felt really, really important. I'm not sure it's that important it's it's there's a new trend coming out of san francisco people lose their minds and I just don't know how to use it yet. Yeah, I don't, I don't think. I think there are other things that are important eating and working out and being a great husband, and or at least try to.

46:09 - Speaker 1 Uh, you know, those things are more important than ai let me refine my question a little bit, if I could, please. Do you think, is there a place for ai to learn how to better pay attention and or develop better focus skills?

46:25 - Speaker 2 right, there's a. There's a silly book that my son is reading called hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy. In the book there's a planet where you can rent um robots to watch tv for you, so you don't have to watch tv. And and you can also rent monks that'll believe for you, so you don't have to struggle with spirituality and religion and so on, and this is hard to do that, whether you believe or not.

46:53 But you can outsource that to to robots, and you can say that with writing as well. You know, wouldn't it be nicer if a robot wrote for you well, you don't get it?

47:03 - Speaker 1 then the reason why we're right is to think but it saves so much time, it saves so much time.

47:09 - Speaker 2 Why do you? It's that's it. It will save you time to have a robot watch tv for you. If you ever watch tv, you know if you feel distraught, you know if you follow that logic. So I just don't understand why do you want a machine to do that, like that's not the point in the in the first place? There are these people that why do you want a machine to do that? Like that's not the point in the first place. There are these people that said you could get a robot, like a language model, to write textbooks for students Much cheaper, much easier, maybe even better. But why do you think we write textbooks? It's because a professor is collecting his thoughts about something that he's been teaching and he gives from one generation to the next. Without the practice of writing the book, all that collapses.

47:56 - Speaker 1 It's just robots teaching people, robots, teaching robots In the end right, maybe eventually.

48:01 - Speaker 2 Just get a robot to synthesize the book for you and then what the hell are we doing? So I think it's highly distracting and I think the conversation we're having about it is so funny. I'm not interested in reading an email made by a robot. You can get robots to write fiction. So what I want to connect to a human you can get it to write punk songs. It doesn't come from the anger and the frustration and the misery to.

48:32 - Speaker 1 We have robot rights, yeah maybe, I don't know they're super frustrated about not having their the ram updated in a couple years. Who knows?

48:40 - Speaker 2 maybe, yeah it's my name, robot, I wonder. I wonder what it feels like. It's just. It is good for practical things, like any other technology. You know, the hammer is stronger than our fist. Binoculars are better at seeing birds than with our eyes. It's an extension of man, right, it's an extension of humans, as Marshall McLuhan would say, technology is an extension of man it's important to keep it as a tool.

49:08 Yeah, of course, tools are created to be tools get it under control, right, otherwise, and and use it for your purposes rather than let it run by itself, because then you end up with this ridiculous idea that you would you would that anyone would want to listen to a punk song written by a robot.

49:26 - Speaker 1 Other than the novelty, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, novelties can be of interest.

49:30 - Speaker 2 But that's not what punk songs are.

49:32 - Speaker 1 To our point of concerts. We don't go to concerts now of bands that have been around 10, 20, 30 years because they were written by an algorithm. It's because the personal longevity and the experience and the blood, sweat and tears I can't imagine a punk song now that we might be jamming out to or again enjoy the novelty of, we're going to still feel that connection to in you know, 10, 20 years, or if that same platform has a comeback tour right in 20 years. You know, hey, chat g GPT is coming in his 20-year world tour reunion. Here's our top punk hit. Is anybody really going to care?

50:09 - Speaker 2 Yeah, I remember everybody experimented with write a song that sounds like Radiohead and Shakespeare or something like that. That song wouldn't exist without Radiohead and Shakespeare. So the raw materials, the ingredients are human and then thinking that that imitation of it is creative and talking about it as if it's creative. It's not, it's just very advanced. What's it called on Google when you write a search word in Google and it guesses which search word?

50:44 - Speaker 1 is next Autocomplete. Oh, what is it called? Yeah, complete. Oh what it's called, yeah, auto complete, auto complete, yeah, yeah, it's just very sophisticated auto complete and has nothing to do.

50:53 - Speaker 2 I like that interpretation, yeah, um, extremely impressive and fun and so on, but but you don't want the robot to watch TV for you.

51:06 - Speaker 1 For more information on everything you just heard, make sure to check this episode's show notes or head to everforwardradio.com