The abundance of digital life has run up against a seemingly insurmountable problem: the limits of human attention.

These days, arranging to meet friends for dinner, organising business meetings or going on a trip can lead to a convoluted tangle. Life becomes an endless round of juggling message streams, bouncing between emails, checking online calendars, trawling review sites, researching prices and completing transactions. And that is before the endless revisions that follow, as flights are delayed or friends change their minds.

Smartphones and apps may have brought unprecedented choice and freedom, but these benefits have come at the expense of acute cognitive overload. The frustration is expressed by Sebastian Thrun, a computer scientist and former head of the Google X research labs. “I wish these things would solve themselves,” he says.

Read more: Technology: Looking and learning

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Published by Mike Rawson

Mike Rawson has recently re-awoken a long-standing interest in robots and our automated future. He lives in London with a single android - a temperamental vacuum cleaner - but is looking forward to getting more cyborgs soon.

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Technology: Looking and learning

by Mike Rawson time to read: 1 min
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