Petter Neby, founder & CEO of Punkt., is a Norwegian technology entrepreneur.
He launched his first business in Norway in 1989, at the age of seventeen, and in 1991 moved to Paris, to work for an international consumer electronics company.
Innovation and creativity have led Petter to launch and manage successful businesses in the telecommunications, enterprise software and website creation.
Petter created Punkt. in 2008 to offer straightforward alternatives to multi-function devices that were starting to dominate the consumer electronic marketplace.
What kind of devices do you use, and how do you use them?
An MP02 in combination with a ThinkPad.
Effectiveness requires focus. How vulnerable are you to the distraction industry?
It is almost impossible not to be vulnerable to the distraction industry in the 21st century; that is the reason I founded Punkt. just over ten years ago. I could see the effect that having the Internet in your pocket all the time would have on people's attention span and lifestyles. The demands of modern life make us feel that we need to be online all the time. It’s time to create some healthier boundaries in our relationship with technology, for a better quality of life.
Multitasking is a myth; we don't do things as well when we do more than one thing at a time, whatever it is. But avoiding distraction these days is tougher than we think; even when we are driving, which requires perceptual skills, we are often working at the same time. By dividing our attention, our labour increases and the results for our efforts are more mediocre. And that applies to me as much as anyone else: I notice this when I try and do more than one thing at once. Focus gives better results.
Prominent figures in Silicon Valley are known to strongly limit their children’s contact with tech. Madonna has recently said that she believes she made a mistake in giving her older children phones when they were 13.
The differences between people who grew up before smartphones and those who didn’t?
A better sense of orientation! We have all read about people driving off cliffs because the GPS told them to! I think that with the advent of the smartphone, we are seeing quite a lot of cognitive de-skilling.
With the Internet at our fingertips 24/7, we forget how easy it is to outsource our brains to phones. Choose a restaurant, get directions, ping a friend, go on a date, select some music, download a health app; when in doubt, ask Google.
Looking out of a window, sitting on a city bench, chatting to strangers, asking for directions, or getting lost can be great opportunities for serendipity and human interaction. Even boredom, something we avoid more and more with smartphones, is essential for creativity.
I fear our autonomy may atrophy if we become too reliant on smartphones to do everything for us. And autonomy is an essential part of human well-being.
Before the smartphone, real life connections helped people develop skills and opinions of their own – and perhaps even a stronger sense of belonging in the world.