Wear Space is a cubicle for your face

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Panasonic is developing blinders for your face so you can preserve a “personal psychological space.” The company debuted the item dubbed Wear Space last year at SXSW in Austin. Writes the product website:

As open offices and digital nomads are on the rise, workers are finding it ever more important to have personal space where they can focus. WEAR SPACE instantly creates this kind of personal space – it’s as simple as putting on an article of clothing. The device can be adjusted based on the level of concentration you desire, so it adapts to the various situations you’ll find yourself in.

The device also comes with Bluetooth headphones just in case you want to shun the world, office, or coffee shop out even more.

While these look like ridiculous racehorse blinkers, they could actually be remarkable. Until then, I’ll stick to my scientifically optimized music to help me focus.

They took our jobs 🤖

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In the 1920s, Hoover marketed its vacuum not just as a time-saver but as a human energy saver: “Hoover offers the least fatiguing way of cleaning carpets and rugs.”

If a robot wrote this blog post, would you even know the difference?

The future of automation says that robots will displace human jobs. Gmail’s auto-responder already responds to email for you.

Writes Logic, a magazine about technology.

Since the dawn of market society, owners and bosses have revelled in telling workers they were replaceable. Robots lend this centuries-old dynamic a troubling new twist: employers threaten employees with the specter of machine competition, shirking responsibility for their avaricious disposition through opportunistic appeals to tech determinism. A “jobless future” is inevitable, we are told, an irresistible outgrowth of innovation, the livelihood-devouring price of progress. (Sadly, the jobless future for the masses doesn’t resemble the jobless present of the 1 percent who live off dividends, interest, and rent, lifting nary a finger as their bank balances grow.)

I doubt the rise of technology obviates the need for human brains and hands. We are thinking machines while the automatons themselves excel in action, at least for the time being.

The bigger problem seems to be the perception of jobs. Most people allow work to justify their existence when really it’s the things we do outside the office that should make us feel needed. There’s more to life than a paycheck!

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The machines are going to be there like they’ve been all along, helping people get their work done more efficiently. The bots versus brain chasm is a non-zero-sum game.

But if it just so happens that all we do is push buttons all day, perhaps it’ll give us a chance to do other things like making better art.

Wouldn’t that be something?

How technology impacts the way people write

Nietzsche wrote on a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball // How technology impacts the way people write
How technology impacts the way people write
How technology impacts the way people write

From Nietzsche’s Writing Ball, to Stephen King’s typewriter, to Steve Jobs’ Macintosh and iPhone, technology has changed the way we write.

Describes Matthew Kirschenbaum in The New Republic:

“Our writing instruments are also working on our thoughts.” Nietzsche wrote, or more precisely typed, this sentence on a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, a wondrous strange contraption that looks a little like a koosh ball cast in brass and studded with typewriter keys. Depressing a key plunged a lever with the typeface downward onto the paper clutched in the underbelly.

It’s well-known that Nietzsche acquired the Writing Ball to compensate for his failing eyesight. Working by touch, he used it to compose terse, aphoristic phrasings exactly like that oft-quoted pronouncement. Our writing instruments, he suggested, are not just conveniences or contrivances for the expression of ideas; they actively shape the limits and expanse of what we have to say. Not only do we write differently with a fountain pen than with a crayon because they each feel different in our hands, we write (and think) different kinds of things.

I like to believe that my best writing appears in long-form first. Writing by hand produces this magical experience of disfluency, where the brain moves swiftly with the pen in synchronicity.

Writing on the computer, on the other hand, tends to make me overtype and therefore edit most of my words. However, I have noticed that drafting a note on the phone with one hand typically produces something more thoughtful than typing two-handed on a desktop.

Whether we write with a digital device, pen, or pencil “we become what we behold,” Marshall McLuhan reminds us, “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”

Does automation make us less human?

Life on auto-reply

How much of our thought process do we want to relinquish to artificial intelligence?

Even Gmail’s auto-replies takes the burden out of typing in two-word responses with pre-populated text likes “yes, great,” “sounds good,” or “awesome.” Soon enough the computers will be the only ones conversing and high-fiving each other.

Just as the painter imitates the features of nature, algorithms emulate human memes. The problem is the tendency to abuse these recipes to avoid thinking altogether. Bathing in such idleness set the precedent for laggard times.

Without thought and action, our memories will starve. When we type, we produce pixels on a screen. Auto-reply forfeits the experience of being there. But such detachment may not be as harmful as we think. 

The symbiosis of man and machine begs for innovation. AI may free up cognition for other more intensive tasks. In other words, having a dependable personal assistant may compel us to do even more great work. 

The only fear of AI is complete human dependence. We need elements of crazy to keep creating. We’ll die off as soon as we stop winging it.

Hobbying for hobbies sake

Whether it’s trying surfing or playing the guitar when’s the last time you did something out of pure joy?

In this Instagram-edited era where everyone gets their own stage, people only like to do things they’re good at. The thought goes: ‘if I can’t share it and show my best self, why do it?’

The aim for perfection limits the urge to enjoy hobbies for hobbies sake. As the author Tim Wu notes:

“But there’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have hobbies: We’re afraid of being bad at them. Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation — itself a hallmark of our intensely public, performative age — that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time.”

The comedian never knows how their material will reciprocate until they get on stage and try their material. The jazz musician tweaks their tempo to test audience reaction. The writer publishes a first chapter of the book for feedback. In terms of professional life, showing your work is critical. But as a hobbyist, you don’t need reassurance. Again, writes Wu:

“Lost here is the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.”

Playing is natural, reception is artificial. It is hobbies that feed the soul with pure goodness. Showcasing the hobby is not necessary, but if so, neither is acing it.

Hobbies shouldn’t feel like work. They are a process to enjoy.

“The physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have a destination that it ought to arrive at. But it is best understood by its analogy to music. Because music as an art form is essentially playful. We say you play the piano, you don’t work the piano.”

Alan Watts

The hidden power of focusing on ONE to-do ✔️

The to-do list is a strange paradox. It compels you to get stuff done yet it can also make you feel inadequate for leaving boxes unchecked.

“We like lists because we don’t want to die,” said Umberto Eco.

Perhaps instead of trying to do everything you pick one thing to execute.

Called the Hunter Strategy, it asks you to surround yourself with a simple Post-it note to get stuff done.

All you do is choose one task that is going to be the focus of your day, even if it doesn’t take you the whole day to complete. You write that item down on a Post-it note, stick it to your laptop (or a wall, we presume) and use it as your lodestar. Look to the note when your mind begins to wander to your waiting text messages, to your dry-cleaning, or to any of the ridiculous things people do when they should be working.

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How do you know which task to start with?

According to the CEO of Jotform Aytekin Tank, “If you’re having trouble thinking of something I’ll give you a hint — it’s usually the thing you least want to do.” That thing is probably the activity we reserve for the end of the day, other than brushing our teeth.

There’s no need to throw our phone into the ocean just yet. But if we‘re using the mobile as a way to procrastinate, perhaps we should consider it. 

PS. Also consider giving the Pomodoro Technique a shot.

Hashtag heaven

Luxury today and tomorrow will be defined by the ability to disconnect, to live a secret life where there’s no need to stay constantly connected for the sole purpose of a future job or fear of missing out.

Social media is a poor insurance policy. Except disconnecting is not the goal — moderation is.

An excess of anything will make you sick, your eyes roll and stomach turn. The culprits: beer, candy, coffee, tv, and screen opiates.

Drunk and unconscious, the dopamine on loop — you aren’t meant to pursue hedonism all the time. You need time to restore some willpower.

The connective power of the internet is uncanny. Mobile tech is too good to be true. But we don’t need to be a millionaire to stem its negative impact.

The key to unlocking hashtag heaven is to take a deliberate break every once in a while. Leave your phone behind or you’ll unconsciously use it.

Instead, grab a leash and take your thoughts for a walk. That’s wellness that works.

What spreads, rarely sticks

The problems never stop. If they did, they would no longer be problems. They’d be solutions.

The good thing about solutions is that they’re typically social-proof and benefit from the network effect: What works for one person multiplies as commonality gets shared with the next.

The simplest form of information exchange is language. Words are memes. And memes can be rebranded and copy-pasted, completely overriding the origin. Even Dunkin’ Donuts made the word doughnut extinct.

Physical nature can also be maximized. The city, like an ant hill, is one big shared experience, a marketplace for swapping ideas. Residency, streets, bridges — all spawned from tiny cells into a collective pinnacle of innovation.

At the root of every solitary puzzle is a chance to do our best, to graduate from the individual to some type of collective high where the concept gets received and adopted.

The lone genius is a myth. Behind every wizard lies a team. No crowds, no celebrities.

Thinking, doing, and building all require form maintenance to ensure longevity. ‘Build it, and they will come is’ therefore a canard. A product’s existence depends on the strength of marketing and overall spreadability.

The Lindy effect says if a book is around a decade, it’ll last for another 50 years. Ideas and products are at the mercy of banter and eyeballs. Whatever gets shared sticks around.

When the crazy ones propose anything novel, they beg for neighborhood’s attention. It is the external reaction, the possibility of adoption that excites the misunderstood maker. That is, until the urge to recreate the system sparks blindness toward the facets worth keeping.

“We build our computer (systems) the way we build our cities: over time, without a plan, on top of ruins.” — Ellen Ullman

For better or worse, mass adoption is what triggers the desire to invent something new.

Dancing with the algorithms

Dancing with the algorithms, yielding results random but time-saving. How else are we to discover all these gems in a sea of content?

From Spotify to Gmail, we accept the recommendations to curate and speak for us. Playlists generate themselves, email answers itself.

Predictive life is human, stung with errors.

The computers and their code are often over their heads, impractical and sometimes stupid.

But in combination with human neurons, the computer gets closer to the truth: that we just need help deciding.

What appears random at first is the marriage of a happy accident.

Snacking on disattention

Wake up snack

We snack when we’re bored, especially when we watch tv.

But it’s no longer the food that woos us. It’s our phones.

What was our third screen is now our first, so distracted we couldn’t be bothered to skip the tv ads.

The tube has been relegated to mere background noise.

Every time we check Instagram, we get a little snack. Stuck pecking at refresh, our profiles dangle like carrots begging us to buy more stock.

Will Kevin Kelley’s 1,000 true fans make us a successful influencers? What should our influencer price tag be?

Forget the future. We are poor fortune tellers. We live in the persistent presence of distraction, amusing ourselves to death.

Humans seek fantasy. But wake-up science reveals only hell. The real world screams peak screen.

Gamed and uattended

Beyond the robot. Waiting for the robot.

The question of who does what won’t matter when the automata yield the paintbrush, teach Castilian Spanish, dance, and write best-selling romance novels.

Even if this is all simulation, the gamers from above played their part in permitting the unscripted.

Like hungry pigeons, we were just picking up the scraps following in the footsteps of Neanderthals, cavemen, and dinosaurs before us.

Now the era of wonderful nonsense gives drones and bees a first person perspective.

The sharing virus

The biggest threat to a virus is its own exhaustion. It wants to be said, repeated, and spread until it cements into a meme.

Words, ideas, and apps are all types of viruses. Pretty much anything that spreads. Most are benign of course but perhaps none is more pervasive and self-inflicted than the sickness of self-promotion.

The social media age is plagued with envy, where everyone tries to one-up each other with their next best post. The cycle of jealousy shatters reality into shards of half-truths.

The sharing virus constricts people to a 1080 x 1080 square. Meanwhile, portrait mode constrains satisfaction. Spiraling into overextension, overworked trends and habits start to leak.

We like to think we’re dabbling in the next niche before the entire market even knows it.

Skim reading is the new normal

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Ziming Liu from San Jose State University has conducted a series of studies which indicate that the “new norm” in reading is skimming, with word-spotting and browsing through the text. Many readers now use an F or Z pattern when reading in which they sample the first line and then word-spot through the rest of the text. When the reading brain skims like this, it reduces time allocated to deep reading processes. In other words, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader’s own.

Read Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound

We are cultivating impatience, begetting callousness and ignorance. We need to go deeper. Huxley forewarned us.

Information resurfaced with Readwise

The glut of information means that we need to review things more than ever.

And one of the most useful tools I’ve come across is Readwise.

Each day or weekly (up to you), it emails you a dose of your Kindle and Instapaper highlights.

Rereading through them not only reminds you of the interesting passages you once discovered, but also how that “old” information connects to your existing thinking.

According to professor Kenneth Goldsmith at the University of Pennsylvania, “an educated person in the future will be a curious person who collects better artifacts. The ability to call up and use facts is the new education. How to tap them, how to use them.”

The pennies of Instapaper or Pocket articles you collect add up over time but their meaning is in their extraction. The simple act of reviewing allows one to remix and convert previously found artifacts into forward-thinking idea-generating value.

From bytes to bits of reality

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We demand privacy yet admit ourselves to the culture of exposure. But rather than celebrating our uniqueness, we publish the same things everybody else does: selfies, food porn, and bullet journal snapshots.

The one benefit to seeing other people’s stories is the reinforcement of FOMO (fear of missing out). The unlived life taunts one into action. In such a way, FOMO can represent a positive form of encouragement. It gets off our screens and into the real world.

Life’s richest data emerges from lived experiences rather than the pixels on a screen. Exposure carves us into beings rather than lemmings of technology’s manipulative desires.

Inspired by adventure, we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and explore more of the parts unknown.