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Complexity-Induced Mental Illness

Complexity-Induced Mental Illness

    Unless you live in an unusual place, at least a third of your adult friends, coworkers, and neighbors have some sort of mental illness that is being treated by big pharma and/or big alcohol.

    If that sounded high to you, just add together the folks with alcohol problems (about 10-20% of your neighbors) plus the folks on anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and other prescribed meds. That gets you to 30% fairly quickly. 

    Now add the people with serious sleeping problems. And don’t forget your ADHD and your OCD, and of course your crippling stress.

    My personal estimate is that 75% of adults are suffering from some sort of serious mental problem because the human interface to life is broken. In the year 2015, life serves up a level of complexity and unrelenting stimulation that most folks can’t handle it, and I believe it is frying our brains.


    Personally, I prefer a healthy dose of complexity in my life. It feels like the antidote to the boredom I called my childhood. But even with my preference for high stimulation, life can be overwhelming. My guess is that I’m somewhere in the top 25% of humans that can survive high complexity without going mad. And I’m starting to feel the water line touch my chin.

    As just one example, this morning I decided I will never again try to watch television with other people. It got too complicated. For starters, I can never find anyone at the same point in their binge-watching of a series. Secondly, I have to figure out if a show is on a premium channel, DVR, On Demand, NetFlix, or whatever. Then I have to find the episode where I left off. Then I have to hope my technology for serving up the show works. My TV takes about five steps just to power it on. If I am watching on my computer, that’s another level of complication. Rarely does “watching television” work smoothly these days.

    Last night I recorded the NBA finals and invited a friend to watch it with a 30-minute delay. Fifteen minutes before the end of the show she started worrying that it would go to overtime and we would miss an exciting finish. What should have been a fun evening turned into a non-stop debate about whether I should pause my enjoyment of the game and spend several frustrated minutes navigating a shitty DVR interface to add some extra recording time. I resisted because the odds of two overtime games in a row seemed about 5%. But the pestering never stopped and it ruined my enjoyment of the show. Especially when it went into overtime and we missed the finish.

    The simple act of watching television has turned into a non-stop debate because there are so many options to consider and so many ways it can fail. And when was the last time a parent made it all the way through a 30-minute TV show without a smartphone interruption?

    Earlier that same day I asked my friend who was in town for the night if she knew the French Open finals were being played that morning. 

    She said, “Yes! Wawrinka won!” 

    I said, “The second thing I was about to say is that I have it recorded.”

    So nothing is simple these days. Television is a trivial example, but literally everything in my life has reached the point of frustrating complexity.

    Now add to your  baseline stress the fact that, according to the news, the world is ending because of this-or-that crisis. And your friends and family probably have health issues and money problems. Now add the highest expectations a society has every put on its members and you have a recipe for mass mental illness. And that’s what we have.

    What percentage of adults do you believe have mental illness in this environment? My guess is 75%.

    In Top Tech Blog, we will soon be able to make clothing out of synthetic spider web material. I don’t know the details but I assume they figured out how to keep flies from sticking to your shirt.

    And hey, someday you will be able to print your own clothes if this company has its way. So maybe I will print me up one of those spider web shirts just to scare the bugs in my house.

    And if you thought stealing WiFi from your neighbor was fun, now you can steal his electricity via the signal as well.


    Note: This model was attractive even before she read my book. 

    The book was written with “graduation gift” in mind. There is still time to get one if you hurry. See it here.

    Do you  follow me on Twitter at @scottadamssays​ ?

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