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Editor's Note: Log Off

Vannevar Bush had a wonderful idea. He envisioned a device he called the Memex that could hold and retrieve information in a way that let the human mind easily make logical connections. Data would be stored using “associative indexing,” where documents would be linked by related content. Pull up one document, and the Memex would retrieve related concepts so you could logically pursue a topic. In 1945, Bush formally proposed this device in the pages of The Atlantic in an article titled “As We May Think.

The idea was far-fetched at the time, notes Gloria Mark in her new book Attention Span. But associative indexing was a brilliant leap forward, according to Mark, because it mimics how the human mind works by leveraging what is known as semantic memory.

“Seeing an event, hearing or reading a word, or even a memory, can light up the pathways in our minds to think about other related concepts,” she writes.

This structure should be familiar now to any user of the Internet. And while it is efficient and intuitive, it can also be manipulated. The Internet uses cognitive priming to draw people ever onward in that search for information by connecting related words or concepts. It also gives the user a feeling of agency that isn’t there. “Priming can lead us to think about and sometimes even do things automatically as a response to some cue,” writes Mark. “Activating our inner goals without us even making a conscious choice to do so.”

This means that—by design—the Internet distracts us, leaving us feeling scattered and overwhelmed. But all is not lost. Carefully designing our online information consumption can help combat the negative aspects of the digital world. Rote activities—such as online games or reading social media—are healthy in appropriate doses. And, by knowing when their powers of concentration are at a peak and planning activities around that schedule, people can push back against priming and be more productive.

A powerful way to modulate online distraction is simple human interaction. “Conversation is an art,” writes Mark. “A dance among partners that is best enacted in the physical world, choreographed by the social information we use in a three-dimensional space.”

Powerful and inspiring human interaction is the backbone of GSX 2023, where more than 150 education sessions provide the latest in security trends and solutions. In particular, three Game Changer sessions help security professionals understand how current challenges playing out on the world stage—including ethics violations, natural disasters, food insecurity, and acceleration of technology—can make all the difference between an adequate security program and an extraordinary one.

GSX also has more networking opportunities than ever, including GSX Exhibit Hall events and a special ASIS Celebrates party, sponsored by FiscalNote and Securitas.

Mark writes that “cues in the digital environment…just don’t create an expressive atmosphere for interaction in the same way as when you and your partner share the same environment in an office, outdoors in a park….” or at GSX.

Teresa Anderson is editor-in-chief of Security Management. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her directly at [email protected].