President's Page by Renee Ezer
I admit it. I’m a bit of a junky for books that involve lawyers and the legal system. I’d think that after spending most of my days communicating with lawyers and clients, drafting pleadings, preparing for hearings, or arguing in court, I’d opt for a different storyline in my free time. But that’s not how it works. I can’t explain why.
Last month I read A Deadly Wandering, a book that was published four years ago. Its author is Boulder native son, Matt Richtel (son of the Hon. Murray Richtel). On one level, it’s an investigative narrative of a deadly car accident in Utah in 2006 caused by a young man’s texting while driving, the subsequent investigation and trial, and how it impacted those affected by the accident. On another level, however, it’s a fascinating exploration of cutting-edge neuroscience, the science of attention, and technology’s evolving influence on individuals and society over the better part of the past century.
My father told me years ago that multitasking was a myth, and that a person could only effectively concentrate on one thing at a time. Turns out that what he knew intuitively is now backed by science. And yet, it’s so very difficult to concentrate on just one thing at a time. As I have aged and technology has evolved, I am even more easily distracted. My desk phone rings and I stop what I’m doing. An alert for an email comes across my computer screen and I glance at it for priority. My iPhone, pings a different sound for a variety of notifications I receive continually throughout a day, and I mentally evaluate each one before I decide whether or not to immediately react or respond. I have become accustomed to making myself available to distraction.
Colorado law permits a driver over the age of 18 to talk on the phone while driving, but not to enter or transmit data on a cell phone (i.e., to send a text message or browse the internet). Drivers under 18 are prohibited from talking on the phone and transmitting data while driving. See, §42-4-239, C.R.S. (2016) This statute is an acknowledgment by the Colorado legislature that distracted driving is hazardous, but also an acknowledgment technology is so pervasive in our lives that it is not reasonable to prohibit talking on the phone while driving. A little bit of distraction while driving is ok, so long as your eyes stay on the road. If I had to, I could argue both sides of this premise like a true believer.
If you haven’t read Mr. Richtel’s book, I recommend it. It contains a very accessible discussion of cutting-edge neuro-science of attention, relevant to everyone who practices law. There is not one “right answer” or right way to respond to some of the ongoing questions posed by evolving technology and its ever-increasing impact on our brains and neurological processes. It nonetheless merits examination and discussion, awareness and conscious decision-making about the role that technology should play in our day-to-day lives.