A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention by Matt Richtel is a fascinating book which conveys much scientific information in an interesting way. There is much scientific information presented in the book, but it is never dry or boring.Matt Richtel combines scientific data with a the story of Reggie Shaw, who at the age of 19 was involved in a fatal car crash. Shaw was convinced he was innocent, as sad as the accident was, it was simply that – an accident.
But Mr. Shaw was texting a few moments before the accident, this was in 2006 when scientists were just studying the effects cell phones and texting have on the brain. After all, we can do multiple simple tasks while driving, we can talk, listen and even find our favorite radio station.
What scientists were, and to some degree still are, figuring out is that constant emails and texts appeal to a primitive part of the brain which is on constant lookout for a change in the environment because it might be important. That change used to be a crush of leaves indicating a predator behind you, now it’s a car speeding up and cutting you off. That part of the brain is on constant alert scanning the environment (which includes your electronic device) not knowing if the next message is SPAM or an important business deal. Our brains are geared towards a dynamic, constantly changing environment like Facebook or a slot machine – a win could be just around the corner.
Mr. Richtel takes the reader on a scientific and judiciary journey. Along the way Reggie Shaw, a devout Mormon, completes a journey from complete denial to realizing that he was at fault for the deadly accident and works tirelessly to spread the message of the inherent dangers of texting and driving.
I found the book to be very informative and interesting, as well as learning a few things (such as the concept of “inattention blindness” where a driver looks like he/she is focused on the road but is mentally somewhere else, this could happen up to 15 seconds after sending a text). Even before reading this book I was a firm believer on doing one thing at a time and that multi-tasking might allow you to do multiple things, but none would be as good if you only concentrated on only one task, I have many conversation about this with co-worker and family – this book must might become a staple on my bookshelf for easy reference.
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