A quick adventure down the twitter hole over the merits of a Brit futurist named Richard Susskind yesterday reminded me that the notion of depth of thought, attention span if you will, is on its death bed. After some brief mention over the past few days of #ReinventLaw, which is a gathering of the techno futurist faithful that predicts Anglo-American law will be done by machines serviced in India using commodity pricing from a Chinese take-out menu, I expressed my view that it ain’t happening.
The quick take on Susskind, for those unfamiliar, in his own self-promoting words :
In his latest book, Richard claims that legal institutions and lawyers are poised to change more radically over the next two decades than they have over the last two centuries.
The future of legal service, he says, will be neither Grisham nor Rumpole. Instead, it will be a world of virtual courts, Internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditized service, legal process outsourcing, and web-based simulated practice. Legal markets will be liberalized, with new jobs, and new employers, for lawyers.While there are elements to what he “claims” that have, at least, superficial merit, on the whole it’s sheer, unadulterated hogwash. His claim to fame was that he predicted lawyers would use email. This was hailed as one of the greatest futurist predictions ever. It never struck me as much of a reach, but since then Susskind plays guru to a crowd of cheerleaders who want to drink his cool-aid, which is why I suppose he was featured at #ReinventLaw. Without promoting this grandiose yet dire paradigm shift, Susskind would be utterly irrelevant. With it, he’s the hero of people who think in six minute bursts.
When I raised my doubts about Susskind, I was asked for more details on twitter. I demurred, twitter being a terrible medium for anything remotely resembling thought. I did, however, offer my time should any of the futurist crowd want to find out whether Susskind’s dystopian vision of the future of the law could withstand scrutiny.
Pat Lamb suggested I propose myself for a slot as a speaker at #ReinventLaw and put myself up for vote in the marketplace of futurist sycophants to gain the great honor of being voted to be a speaker. This kinda missed my point. I’m not selling anything in their marketplace. I’m not seeking their attention. I have no cool-aid. The point is that the futurists talk only amongst themselves, where guys like Susskind preach and the hallelujah chorus responds with amen in four-part harmony. It would make my ears burn.
Rather, I responded, I would suffer the indignity of speaking for free if they sought balance, if they believed their vision could survive the disinfectant of sunlight. If they think they’re onto something, then they should invite people who question their vision to show that it can withstand scrutiny. Otherwise, it’s just another circle jerk among the sycophants, and unworthy of being taken seriously.
I told Pat that if they call, I’ll answer the phone. But they won’t call. Both Pat and I know it.
Which brings me to the point of this rumination, a post from marketing philosopher Seth Godin that struck at the core of the essential conflict being played out on twitter and in the Church of the Future of Law.
It’s not that there aren’t good, even brilliant, ideas out there anymore. It’s that rarely will anyone take the time or put in the effort to perform the hard labor of thinking. Every tool being developed, receiving the love, serves to shorten our attention and interest. Not only do we become increasingly superficial, but we begin to believe that it’s just as good as thinking deeply, pondering the nuance, the consequences, the implications of ideas.
No need to read the whole book, I can just glance over the Cliffs Notes… I get it.
I don’t need to hear your whole pitch, just show me the summary slide… got it.
No, I already heard about your vacation… remember, I saw the Instagram feed.
Him, why would I go out with him? I read his match.com profile.
You’re probably smart enough to ‘get it’ merely by reading the 140 character summary of just about anything. But of course, that doesn’t mean you understand it, or that it changed you. All it means is that you were quickly able to sort it into an appropriate category, to make a decision about where it belongs in your mental filing cabinet.
Twits. Six minute segments. Slogans. These aren’t substitutes for thought. If you’re prepared to base your vision of the future on such trivialities, such superficial fluff, then you have no cause to complain when it all falls in the toilet. But I get to complain when the lowest common denominator drags me down there with you. And you can bet that I will complain, because I do not agree with every harebrained scheme that strikes your fancy.
You get it? No you don’t. Not yet. Because all you’ve gotten is a tweet.
Read the book. The whole thing. Use the product. A few times. More than a few times.
Immersed. It can change you.
For the moment, there are more people who still prefer to think rather than leap blindly, but this is changing as attention spans collapse and the ease of superficiality is embraced. But the trend is downward, and there aren’t many willing to spend their time and effort to offer critical thought about where the trends will go. I offer, but there will be no takers.
Do you get it?