The Value of Boredom


By George

It’s no secret that the Boston Globe does a mediocre job of covering technology innovation in Massachusetts. The newspaper often spends more time covering California companies or the big national technology brands (like Google and Microsoft) than exploring the incredible innovations happening right in its own backyard.

The reason seems to be that the Globe doesn’t believe the technology happening here has enough consumer value. We’re constantly getting push back from Globe reporters not interested in striking firsts happening here: like the creation of the first real DNA microscope, the invention of the portable CT scanner (being used by the NFL and being featured on TV’s “ER”) or protecting our mounting amount of digital data from disaster – be it dynamic, virtual or physical.

It’s true that a lot of the emerging companies in the Bay State are business-to-business, but we think the Globe needs to spend less time covering the video gaming industry and more time on what’s happening here.

One notable exception, however, is reporter Carolyn Johnson. She has been a refreshing addition to the business pages and appears to have a real passion for writing about next-generation technologies. And the great thing about Carolyn is that she gets technology and is able to translate complicated technologies to a mainstream audience.

I was impressed with her piece in yesterday’s Idea section on – of all things – boredom. Carolyn explores the idea that boredom is necessary to spark innovation and that our modern obsession with filling every moment with micro-entertainment might not be good for us. Take this passage:

“But are we too busy twirling through the songs on our iPods — while checking e-mail, while changing lanes on the highway — to consider whether we are giving up a good thing? We are most human when we feel dull. Lolling around in a state of restlessness is one of life’s greatest luxuries — one not available to creatures that spend all their time pursuing mere survival. To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world, and to explore the internal one. It is in these times of reflection that people often discover something new, whether it is an epiphany about a relationship or a new theory about the way the universe works.”

It’s a fascinating read and an example of how Carolyn gets beyond the obvious and explores the philosophy and trends behind where we are going as a society.

It also makes you want to put down your mobile device – at least for a couple of hours every day (or until it rings).

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