March 27, 2012, 4:09 PM — In the tech world and, increasingly, in the normal one, a short attention span is a survival characteristic
There is no shortage of mental illnesses within corporate IT and the computer industry.
Some are real, like the high incidence of autism among programmers DBAs, sysadmins and others with jobs requiring maximum detail-orientation and minimum interpersonal contact.
Some are metaphors used to explain system meltdowns or complex failures of service providers using language more polite than the red-faced profanity that is sometimes the most concise way to express the impact of massive project-management cluster-faults, idiopathic system failures, vendor finger-pointing matches and other common trials of life in the data pit.
Chronic anxiety, depression, confusion and obsessive worry are all common to tech workers, who are just as stressed by any major changes as non-tech workers, but whose working environment offers so little distance between the cutting edge and the pit of obsolescence that many are afraid to do more than just stand in one place and try not to get tossed too far one direction or the other.
The unrelenting pace of change – not to mention the cyclical mass layoffs caused by the collapse of another economic bubble every five or six years – create insecurity and neuroses so common and intense that the trademark business rule of former Intel CEO Andrew Grove – "Only the paranoid survive." – is considered realistic advice, not evidence of a psychotic break with reality.
Among "normal" non-geeks, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) has become so common that a shortage of Adderall (amphetamines) to treat it becomes a national crisis.