808: Picking The Right Resolution

The human eye is designed to focus on specific object. As Jordan Peterson says, “Our minds are built on the hunting-and-gathering platforms of our bodies. To hunt is to specify a target, track it, and throw at it.”

Outside of a small area of visual focus, the Fovea, our vision is low-resolution. Outside the small area of our intellectual focus, we are mostly blind unless something gets in our way. This is the inattentional blindness revealed by the invisible gorilla experiment, among others.

Peterson continues, “That’s how you deal with the overwhelming complexity of the world: you ignore it, while you concentrate minutely on your private concerns. You see things that facilitate your movement forward, toward your desired goals. You detect obstacles, when they pop up in your path. You’re blind to everything else (and there’s a lot of everything else—so you’re very blind). And it has to be that way, because there is much more of the world than there is of you. You must shepherd your limited resources carefully. Seeing is very difficult, so you must choose what to see, and let the rest go.”

It may seem weird talking about the problems of too much focus, in this age of distraction, but I think it’s worth talking about, because whether we are focusing on anything useful or not, our attention is constantly on the THING THAT’S IN FRONT OF US RIGHT NOW!

And that’s a problem.

Years ago, I read an article about the release of Terminator 2, which back in 1991 was the most expensive movie ever made. One of the producers was asked what made James Cameron (the director) so special, and I’ve never forgotten the sense of what he said.

The thing that he picked out was Cameron’s ability to simultaneously see the big picture and the tiny details, and how they worked together.

In other words, Cameron was equally comfortable at either end of the resolution scale, and moved between them with ease.

Most of us have no problem focusing on the thing right in front of us. That doesn’t mean it’s worth-focusing on, but it’s how we are built.

But the problem is that with mobile phones, YouTube et al and social media … there is always something in front of us.

And that means that we are fighting many problems at the wrong resolution.

What we need is the bigger picture, and that requires us to put down our phones, close our eyes, and let our thoughts unfold.

(Unlike our eyes, our thoughts have no problem moving from one resolution to the other.)

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