How to Breed Smart Rats

In what addiction expert Dr. Stanton Peele calls "The Great Age of Addiction," we are way too smart for our own good. We have become the smart rats in the maze, the ones who know exactly where the cheese is, and exactly how to find it.

"Faster Smarter Better" is the 21st-century mantra of the addicted smart rat. Once addiction takes over our internal debates (as it always does if left to its own devices), it turns our intelligence against our own better interests, and puts it to work on behalf of its own self interests and preservation.

In the maze of our obsessions and addictions, intelligence is a liability: The more we know, the more facile our thinking, the deeper and more complex the maze becomes. The enhanced premium we attach to our intellects as we navigate the maze only deepens the maze.

As smart rats we always think we can outsmart our own obsessions and addictions. But we can't. We can moderate our behavior and re-introduce sobriety into our lives, but we can't outsmart our obsessions and addictions.



So what's the answer? If our intellect not only fails us but ultimately turns against us when we need it most, how do we escape the maze? I would suggest that the question itself is a byproduct of addictive thinking, what happens when our thoughts are attuned almost exclusively to escape. The smarter we become, the more sheer brainpower we dedicate to our escapes. Our obsessions and addictions escalate commensurately.

I would suggest that we re-examine the nature of the maze. The question is not how we escape the maze; the question is how to make the maze itself more livable, how to create a place we don't feel so compelled to escape in the first place.

If the current exodus of creative talent from the agency side to the client side is any indication, we need to concentrate on efforts to make our maze more livable. This means creating an agency environment that promotes quality over quantity, proactive thought over knee-jerk reaction, with a decided emphasis on the message rather than delivery of the message.

Our obsessions and addictions to our own communications and media technologies all but preclude the one pre-requisite to quality: time. We spend most of our time at work reacting to diversion, most of which comes in the form of email, IMs, pages, and phone calls. This leaves precious little time for any proactive thought whatsoever.

To help counteract the damaging reactive forces generated by our communications and media technologies, I would recommend the institution of an electronics-free lounge for all offices, a place where employees can go to read, chat, or just think -- without the constant interruptions forced upon us by our own technologies.

Even -- and especially -- smart rats need a place to unwind and be quiet. If there is no escape from the maze (other than that provided by our obsessions and addictions), at least we can furnish some peace and quiet.

Your thoughts?

Many thanks, as always, and best to you and yours...

Please note: The Einstein's Corner discussion group at is dedicated to exploring the adverse effects of our addictions to technology and media on the quality of our lives, both at work and at home. Please feel free to drop by and join the discussion.

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