• Applicable
  • Well Structured
  • Concrete Examples


Your attention is a valuable commodity, says computer science professor Cal Newport. The more time you look at screens, the more companies such as Facebook and Twitter harvest your attention and sell it to advertisers. Digital tools are addictive, Newport argues, and companies enhance its stickiness. He proposes a way to enjoy digital technology while avoiding addiction and distraction: prune the clutter of tech in your life, take a 30-day tech sabbatical and regaining control of the tech you want after contemplating your values and goals. If you glanced at your phone in the last 15 minutes, you might benefit from Newport’s advice. If you looked at it before you finished this paragraph, you definitely will.

Your Valuable Attention

Computer science professor Cal Newport explains that in today’s digital economy, your attention has become a valuable commodity. “Extracting eyeball minutes, the key resource for companies like Google and Facebook,” Newport says, “has become significantly more lucrative than extracting oil.”

Digital services such as Facebook derive data from your online behavior and sell it to advertisers. The more of your attention they snare, the more money they make. To that end, according to Newport, they design their products to be as addictive as possible by exploiting quirks of human psychology that induce compulsive behavior. He finds that this results in a culture in which people rarely stray far from their mobile devices while obsessively checking for texts, likes and retweets.

About the Author

Cal Newport, associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, is also the author of Deep Work and So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

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