New York — One afternoon in June, I was out with a stranger at my local park. The algorithms recommended we meet. He told me he had been reading How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, a buzzy best-seller by Jenny Odell.

“I just read that!” I said, but before the conversation could begin it was cut. “Well, that’s not surprising,” he said. “I mean, we both live in Brooklyn, we probably follow the same people, same reference points, you know.” And then he changed the subject...

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