The Two April Fools

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

Two fish, or rather two books on the "goldfish" came out in April: one entitled The Goldfish Paradox by Hesna Cailliau (J'ai lu, Poche, reissue of the 2015 edition), the other The Goldfish Civilization – A Short Treatise on the Attention Market by Bruno Patino (Grasset).

The first fish is the koi carp, which has always been revered by the Chinese, because it represents wisdom, combining serenity, flexibility and efficiency, with its eight virtues inspired by Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism: "Do not settle in any port, aiming for no goal, living in the present moment, ignoring the straight line, moving with ease in uncertainty, living in a network, remaining calm and serene, going back to the source. We cannot help but discover with delight this concentration of oriental wisdom, which the author, a graduate of Sciences Po and sociologist, advises to inspire us “both for our personal development and our business efficiency. »

The second fish is the goldfish in its bowl, and whose attention cannot exceed, according to Google's calculations, eight seconds. However, the attention span of today's generation of young people, who grew up with connected screens, is barely nine seconds! “We are therefore, says Bruno Patino, specialist in media and digital issues, become goldfish, locked in the jar of our screens, subject to the merry-go-round of our alerts and our instant messages. "Children, young people, adults, whether in the office, at home, or on the street, we are all on the road to addiction with our tablets and smartphones, which capture our attention hundreds of times a day, and which lead us to a permanent, frenetic and irrepressible zapping. This digital servitude would serve a new mutation of the consumerist economy: the attention economy. “It is a question, explains the author, of increasing the productivity of time in order to extract even more value from it. »

What is serious is that this manipulation of attention risks disrupting thinking, no longer distinguishing good information from bad information, and ultimately causing people to lose their bearings, values. Combined with the development of artificial intelligence, slavery and digital-economic dumbing are likely to prove even more relentless in the future.

Faced with this alarming observation, announcing an imminent catastrophe for “the connected man”, what can we do? Not much, except to make aware of it to as many people as possible, and in particular to young people, the most vulnerable. And absolutely return to the basic teaching of Buddhism: to cultivate as much as possible samma-sati,just be careful which is one of the eight paths of deliverance, and which is the basis of meditation mindfulness, mindfully.

Living in full consciousness is more relevant than ever, so that we are no longer like a goldfish in a bowl... We can also ask Hesna Cailliau the question: do you believe that the Chinese will always remain like quiet koi carp, or that with economic expansion and the acceleration of digital, they will also end up mutating into restless goldfish?

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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