“Waldenponding” is a phrase coined by Rao to describe the growing backlash movement against hyperconnectedness, driving people to disconnect completely and long for a life of lower information overload and deeper meaning — a reincarnation of Thoreau’s idea from Walden. This podcast interview is about an essay Rao wrote last year that argues against this idea, a contrarian viewpoint considering the “right” or “intelligent” thing to do is considered to be disconnecting from the vapid, toxic environments of Twitter and Facebook. He makes a compelling case about a continuum of information-light vs. information-dense sources of data, and high and low latency, arguing for the merits of connectedness and low latency social media sources — the “Global Social Computer in the Cloud” as he says. On one end you have low latency/shallowness (tweets) and the other high latency/richness (1000 page history books).
I love this idea. Anyone making arguments for diverse spectra of material and owning your own attention has my interest. In the essay he describes the view of the waldenponder as someone convinced that the Googles and Facebooks of the world have attention-hacked our brains and that their platforms are poison, an argument he refutes by saying that that’s “giving the attention hackers too much credit”. I would agree — people have more agency than they admit. After all, it’s easier to blame your inability to put down your phone or close Instagram on an algorithm than your own decision making.
Great interview and fantastic, thought-provoking essay.