CM 042: Matthew Crawford on Individuality in an Age of Distraction

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Blog Post - Matthew CrawfordWhat if our distractions are robbing us of our individuality? Philosopher-machinist Michael B. Crawford noticed just how much attention we give up — often against our will — to all the distractions strategically placed in front of us, from commercials on ATM screens to blaring airport televisions. He has written a guidebook to identifying the sources of lost attention, and he makes suggestions for how to get it back.

Matthew is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He is also a fabricator of components for custom motorcycles. His first book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, prompted a rethinking of education and labor policies in the U.S. and Europe, leading the London Sunday Times to call him “one of the most influential thinkers of our time.” His latest book, The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction gets at the heart of what it means to be human.

In this conversation, we talk about:

  • Silence as a resource as important as air, food, and water
  • The high price we are increasingly forced to pay to avoid distractions
  • All the ways distractive tech makes us more alike
  • The connection between deep work and independent thinking
  • The overlooked intellectual side of hard labor
  • How personalizing experiences can make them unreal
  • How reclaiming the real requires submitting to something or someone else
  • Why doing and taking action results in knowing
  • The Maker Movement as an attempt to reconnect with what makes us human
  • How machine-based design can lead to addiction, compulsion, and loss of control
  • The fact that most schooling is disconnected from real-world learning
  • Why trust lies at the heart of deep learning
  • How traditions of learning offer opportunities for deep connections

Selected Links to Topics Mentioned

Matthew B. Crawford

Reclaimed Fabrication

Cal Newport

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford

Addiction by Design by Natasha Dow Schull



Michael Polanyi

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