Study Hacks Blog Decoding Patterns of Success Posts from 2018 February

Sebastian Junger Never Owned a Smartphone (and Why This Matters)

February 17th, 2018 · 60 comments

Junger’s Radical Simplicity

Last November, journalist Sebastian Junger appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast. The conversation lasted over two hours, but it was the first two minutes that caught my attention:

Joe: You have a real flip phone?

Sebastian: I do have real flip phone.

Joe: And you said you didn’t go back to it, you never left…

Sebastian: I never left her.

Joe: You never went, like, iPhone…Android…never?

Sebastian: No, I never even thought about it

Joe: There’s no draw at all? Using the internet, answering email?

Sebastian: Well, I have a laptop at home and I do access the internet, yes.

Joe: But when you’re out, you don’t want to mess with it?

Sebastian: No, when I’m out, I want to be out in the world. If you’re looking at your phone, you’re not in the world, so you don’t get either…I just look around at this — and I’m an anthropologist, and I’m interested in human behavior — and I look at the behavior, like literally, the physical behavior with people with smartphones and…it looks anti-social and unhappy and anxious, and I don’t want to look like that, and I don’t want to feel like how I think those people feel.

Joe: Wow, that’s deep. I’m a junkie.

In addition to being provocative, this exchange is important because it presents a cogent example of a new type of thinking I’m pleased to see gaining prominence in our cultural discussion surrounding technology.

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Facebook’s Desperate Smoke Screen

February 9th, 2018 · 34 comments

Soros vs. Facebook

One of the big headlines from last month’s World Economic Forum at Davos was a scathing speech delivered by George Soros. The billionaire philanthropist and liberal activist decried what he saw as multiple threats to open society in our current moment, including the rise of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe, and the behavior of the Executive here at home.

Not surprisingly, what caught my attention was when Soros directed his ire toward social media.

As John Cassidy reports in the New Yorker, Soros suggested that these “tech giants”, in addition to “making excessive profits and stifling innovation,” were “causing larger social and political problems.”

Soros began with the social problems, noting that social media companies “deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide,” acting like casinos that “have developed techniques to hook gamblers to the point where they gamble away all their money, even money they don’t have.”

He then turned to the political problems, arguing that these companies have an undue ability to influence people’s behavior by leveraging their massive data stores to precisely target messages that nudge users in specific directions.

This is nothing less, Soros claims, than a theft of citizens’ autonomy. “People without the freedom of mind can be easily manipulated.” (See Jaron Lanier’s new book for an eloquent investigation of this idea.)

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On Simple Productivity Systems and Complex Plans

February 2nd, 2018 · 44 comments

BuJoPro No More

Last month, I wrote a post about the popular bullet journal (BuJo) personal productivity system. In this article, I pontificated on a potential variation I called BuJoPro that I thought might better accomodate the demands of high intensity jobs.

BuJoPro appealed to me because it promised to unite my disparate and admittedly ad hoc systems into one elegant notebook. I liked the idea of having a single analog artifact I could carry with me and whip out, at any point, to efficiently tweak the levers that control the many moving parts of my life.

Enamored by my own hype, I then spent a couple weeks trying out this new breakthrough concept.

It was not a success.

I’ve since abandoned BuJoPro and returned to my old creaky productivity system that consists of Black n’ Red notebooks for daily plans, printouts of plain text files for weekly plans, and a collection of emails sent to myself describing temporary plans and experimental heuristics.

I learned an important lesson from this experience: there’s a difference between simplifying the complexity of your productivity systems and simplifying the complexity of your plans.

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