Nicholas Carr's 2010 book, The Shallows, begins with the author's irritation at his own truncated attention span for reading. Something neurophysiological is happening to us, he argued, and we don't know what it is. That must be the case, because if there is any law of neurophysiology, it is that the brain wires itself continuously in accordance with its every experience. A decade later, Carr's discomfort is shared by growing legions of frustrated, formerly serious readers.
Almost as soon as the shaking stopped, city officials began worrying about how the populace would respond. With every shop window broken, would looters ransack the local merchants? Would citizens panic at the sight of the dead or wounded? …The Anchorage officials weren’t being unusually paranoid. At the time, most experts believed any major disaster would cause “a mass outbreak of hysterical neurosis among the civilian population,” as social scientist Richard M. Titmuss had put it some years earlier. Shocked by carnage and desperate for food and shelter, people would “behave like frightened and unsatisfied children.” Only firm control by powerful authorities could keep the lid on such dangerous situations….Anchorage quickly became a kind of open-air laboratory for testing this public-panic hypothesis.