June 28th, 2016 · 30 comments
Deep Thoughts with Aziz Ansari
Last summer, comedian and actor Aziz Ansari was a guest on Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics Radio show.
The stated purpose was to discuss Ansari’s book, Modern Romance, but the conversation wandered toward a wide-ranging exploration of Ansari’s complicated relationship with the Internet. I thought I would excerpt some choice quotes below.
Here’s Ansari on email versus depth:
“I would just get so many emails. And then when I started filming my TV show I just set up a thing that said, this email is dead. I’m not checking email…And I had an assistant on my show and I was like, you can call her…And you know what you realize is, all that shit people email you about all the time, all day, none of it is important. None of it is pressing…I found that I’m much more focused when I don’t have those little questions. And then at the end of the day I just have someone fill me in on everything or I call someone on the phone.”
And here he is on his social media habits:
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June 21st, 2016 · 22 comments
I’m always looking for particularly inspiring or exotic examples of deep work habits. With this in mind, I was pleased when an alert reader named Stepan recently sent me an interesting case study concerning the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman.
The following quote is taken from an interview with Friedman published in a macroeconomics textbook:
“[W]e typically spent three solid months in the country at our second home in New Hampshire to begin with and later on in Vermont. Then later on I split my life 50–50: we spent six months a year in Chicago and six months a year in Vermont. Almost all of my writing was done in Vermont or in New Hampshire, relatively little during the actual school year.”
Friedman goes on to elaborate how he maximized depth during his periods away from Chicago:
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June 15th, 2016 · 16 comments
Stellar Social Media
In the first line of Neal Stephenson’s epic sci fi tome, Seveneves, the moon shatters into seven pieces. Two years later, all life on earth is destroyed by the resulting rain of moon rocks from above.
Fortunately, before this cataclysm begins, humanity manages to send a small representative group of the species into space to live in a floating swarm of space station modules. These modules, naturally enough, are connected by social media applications running over a mesh network.
Given the projected importance of this network for maintaining a community, a social media celebrity named Tavistock Prowse is selected as one of the lucky survivors to join the new space colony. I’m not giving away anything not already stated on the book’s back cover when I note that things do not go well. (Especially for Tavistock Prowse.)
Enough people survive, however, for humanity to continue. As the book jumps 5000 years ahead, we learn that future humans have studied the life of Tavistock, and more specifically his interaction with social media.
They’re not impressed…
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June 8th, 2016 · 24 comments
Immersive Single Tasking
A few weeks ago, I wrote about an intriguing application of virtual reality: helping knowledge workers achieve hyper productive states.
To be clear, when I say “productive,” I’m not referring to the efficient processing of the types of shallow tasks that computers will one day soon automate (think: emails and administrative drudgery).
I’m instead talking about wringing the most possible value out of your brain as you work deeply on important objectives. In other words, the type of effort that’s becoming increasingly valuable in our 21st century economy.
I called this application of virtual reality immersive single tasking. In this post, I want to provide some more details about the key principles that I think will allow virtual reality to unlock this vision of hyper productivity.
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