No harm in metaphors

The brain works like a computer. The reference points are there — neurons resemble digital bytes, the brain is plastic and can keep learning like a droid pumped with artificial intelligence, etc.

Even Steve Jobs resorted to representations to make sense of complex, evolving circuits when he said that “computers are like a bicycle for the mind.”

We think in metaphors to help frame the world. Exploiting illustrative examples streamline communicate without having to go into excess detail.

The brain to computer metaphor is therefore fitting, as is an athlete who’s “on fire.” Metaphors crunch information into something that’s meaningful.

Save the complexity and nuance for the researchers.

gif by nothingisfunny

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Hopelessly absorbed

We photograph everything and observe nothing. We consume the Instagram feed, and then feel inadequate for doing so.

Human behavior is predictable, robotic. Acknowledging peak screen further cements a broken will — even the most mindful urge won't let us put our devices down.

We've officially extended digital into our cells, with the reality forthcoming. From the iWatch to iSkin, the future is implanted. From neuron to neuron, we'll check email and change the tv channel with the flick of a thought.

Digital succeeds in numbing the pain, without acknowledging what's going in our own heart.

Mind over matter, what's the matter with our mind?

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All together, alone

The clock calls for synchronization.

Where would the modern economy be without the factory mindset?

It used to be that in the mid-1800s the only way to hear a song was to see it played live.

One music file or MP3 today can be streamed thousands of times a day on the same server with a click from anywhere on the globe. Digital inventory is infinite.

Time, once scarce like music, eschewed individualism to harness a community built on the same wavelengths.

Outward, we turn — knowing that our world is shared but distributed unevenly.

Inward, we strive to make the world wild again.

“I read books to read myself,” Sven Birkerts wrote in The Gutenberg Elegies.

So we cut chords with the tyranny of the clock and build our own experiences in a place called home.

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All the internet’s a stage

via giphy

We can all assume that a social media persona is different than that in real life. Writes Jonathan Crossfield in Chief Content Officer Magazine: “Strategy or no strategy, all social media is artifice and spin.”

No one is going to post in public what they Google in private. We'd rather tweet about playing 18 holes than revealing a Saturday afternoon doing the dishes.

We curate our avatars, acting like celebrities and influencers to build up our personal brands.

If Instagram and Twitter present an edited version of life, reality is a theater full of false mirrors and digital half-truths.

We create the appearance of authenticity online

We invent polished experiences so we can share them. We manipulate the public microphone to project the best self, even if that ephemeral five-second clip disappears the next day.

All the internet's a stage. As online entertainers, it is no surprise that we often fail to live up to the shinier version of ourselves offline. Screens provide neither knowledge nor truth so the personal image never gets accurately reflected.

We set the bar too high like the movies, performing a Hollywood script that injects a personal image into a mirror that we cannot touch.

Shouldn't we be the one that we are?

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The design of the classroom from 1750 to today

The design of the classroom is a technology, and you can interpret that in a lot of different ways. Architects can make that look more, and less, typical. But the point is the instruction, the interaction in the classroom, not that it looks more like a circle or more like a square or whatever else.

The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids by Alexandra Lange 

(via NPR)

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What does it mean to be me?

Sociologist Erving Goffman believed that all human interaction was a theatrical performance. In his most famous book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life , Goffman called his analysis the study of  “Dramaturgy.”

Dramaturgical analysis is the idea that we present an edited version of our selves when we meet others in person.

All the internet's a stage

The internet, of course, adds a new layer of complexity to Goffman's perspective. If social media is edited real life, then our dramaturgical action is the physical extension of it. We are no less authentic online than we are in person.

Goffman's theory builds on American sociologist Charles Cooley's ‘The Looking Glass Self’ theory. In 1902, he contextualized the individual:

“I imagine your mind, and especially what your mind thinks about my mind, and what your mind thinks about what my mind thinks about your mind.”

Keep in mind that people didn't even think of themselves as individuals before the spread of mirrors in the 15th century.

We juggle identities online and off but each of us has a fixed character. It is our friends and family members and Google that know our truest self.

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Learning to think again

tachina-lee-42980 (1)

Humans are thinking creatures. Otherwise, the only difference between humans and other animals is that we have bigger brains that also allow us to speak.

But we use less brain power every day because we use calculators, Google, and self-driving cars. We're not lazy, but we prefer to do the things we want so we can carry on with the business of living. What we risk skipping though are the lessons in between, which give neurons a chance to make new synaptic connections.

When we want to recall a statistic or a dig back into our vocabulary, the brain runs past its library of facts and pictures and jogs the mind's memory.

Thinking is a bicep curl for the mind.

Yet today, we're more likely to outsource our chance to think, choosing exactitude rather than admitting to our weaknesses and coping with uncertainty.

Nevertheless, what most digital naysayers don't realize is that new technology, whether it's the rise of machines via the industrial revolution or smart computers driving artificial intelligence, there will be other things to learn like coding. Coding feeds the machines and tells them what to do. However, we should resist becoming the tools of our tools, as Thoreau admonished.

We're both and winning losing it at the neurocognitive level while advancing society at the same time. The hard part will be holding on to ambiguity, the space in between the strange things, as the data will always feel the need to identify and fix things. Most importantly, what thinking teaches us is that it's ok to be wrong.

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How status and likability affect your health 


Popular people live longer.

As social animals, the number of friends predetermines our well-being and lifespan. The gregarious live long than loners.

But life hinges on authenticity — it is not a popularity contest.

The number of people we know means nothing if there's zero reciprocation. The other person(s) have to like us back. There's a real benefit to solid relationships.

Think back to high school: were you amiable to a few trusted friends or sworn to attention?

The same question applies to our behavior online. It's rare to have both status — millions of followers — and likability. The difference between the two is subtle.

Explains Mitch Prinstein, UNC psychology professor and author of the book Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World:

“Likability is markedly different from status — an ultimately less satisfying form of popularity that reflects visibility, influence, power, and prestige. Status can be quantified by social media followers; likability cannot.”

Mitch Prinstein

If we're looking for happiness in the credibility of numbers, social media is the wrong game to play. Happiness links to likeability, not our number of followers.

It pays to be both well-known and well-liked if we want to extend our lives. So how do we start? For one, we can be kind to others, remembering their name, and seek a thread of commonality.

gif via Tony Babel

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