Highlights & Annotations
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these types of minor corrections , willpower , tips , and vague resolutions are not sufficient by themselves to tame the ability of new technologies to invade your cognitive landscape —
PART 1: Foundations
1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 6 · Location 202
These changes crept up on us and happened fast , before we had a chance to step back and ask what we really wanted out of the rapid advances of the past decade .
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It’s not about usefulness , it’s about autonomy .
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managed to succeed in metastasizing unhealthily far beyond their original roles .
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The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T - shirts selling an addictive product to children . Because , let’s face it , checking your “ likes ” is the new smoking .
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“ Well , every time I check my phone , I’m playing the slot machine to see ‘ What did I get ? ’ ”
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Bill Maher , for his part , thought this interview seemed familiar . After playing a clip of the Harris interview for his HBO audience , Maher quips : “ Where have I heard this before ? ” He then cuts to Mike Wallace’s famous 1995 interview with Jeffrey Wigand — the whistleblower who confirmed for the world what most already suspected : that the big tobacco companies engineered cigarettes to be more addictive . “ Philip Morris just wanted your lungs , ” Maher concludes . “ The App Store wants your soul . ”
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BJ Fogg’s famed Persuasive Technology Lab — which explores how to use technology to change how people think and act .
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Note - 1: A Lopsided Arms Race > Page 12 · Location 260
Halt and catch fire?
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Drunk Tank Pink ,
- Note - Book rec
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- Note - Book rec
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Something about unpredictability releases more dopamine — a key neurotransmitter for regulating our sense of craving .
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This behavior can also be sparked by unpredictable feedback : most articles end up duds , but occasionally you’ll land on one that creates a strong emotion , be it righteous anger or laughter . Every appealing headline clicked or intriguing link tabbed is another metaphorical pull of the slot machine handle .
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As whistleblower Tristan Harris explains : “ Apps and websites sprinkle intermittent variable rewards all over their products because it’s good for business . ”
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Consider , once again , social media feedback buttons . In addition to delivering unpredictable feedback , as discussed above , this feedback also concerns other people’s approval . If lots of people click the little heart icon under your latest Instagram post , it feels like the tribe is showing you approval — which we’re adapted to strongly crave . * The other side of this evolutionary bargain , of course , is that a lack of positive feedback creates a sense of distress .
2: Digital Minimalism > Page 28 · Location 428
To reestablish control , we need to move beyond tweaks and instead rebuild our relationship with technology from scratch , using our deeply held values as a foundation .
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In the absence of this introspection , we’ll be left struggling in a whirlwind of addictive and appealing cyber - trinkets , vainly hoping that the right mix of ad hoc hacks will save us .
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mortise and tenon joints
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“ I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately , to front only the essential facts of life , and see if I could not learn what it had to teach , and not , when I came to die , discover that I had not lived . ”
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There’s truth to this interpretation , but it misses a whole other side to Thoreau’s experiment . He had also been working out a new theory of economics that attempted to push back against the worst dehumanizing effects of industrialization .
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It’s important for our purposes to understand this more pragmatic side to Walden , as Thoreau’s often overlooked economic theory provides a powerful justification for our first principle of minimalism : that more can be less .
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Thoreau then contrasts these costs with the hourly wages he could earn with his labor to arrive at the final value he cared most about : How much of his time must be sacrificed to support his minimalist lifestyle ?
- Note - I need to do this. What kind of lifestyle do I need to support?
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This magician’s trick of shifting the units of measure from money to time is the core novelty of what the philosopher Frédéric Gros calls Thoreau’s “ new economics , ” a theory that builds on the following axiom , which Thoreau establishes early in Walden : “ The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it , immediately or in the long run . ”
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Thoreau’s new economics considers such math woefully incomplete , as it leaves out the cost in life
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If you value new connections and exposure to interesting ideas , he might argue , why not adopt a habit of attending an interesting talk or event every month , and forcing yourself to chat with at least three people while there ? This would produce similar types of value but consume only a few hours of your life per month , leaving you with an extra thirty - seven hours to dedicate to other meaningful pursuits .
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It’s easy to be seduced by the small amounts of profit offered by the latest app or service , but then forget its cost in terms of the most important resource we possess : the minutes of our life .
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The law of diminishing returns is familiar to anyone who studies economics . It applies to the improvement of production processes and says , at a high level , that investing more resources into a process cannot indefinitely improve its output — eventually you’ll approach a natural limit and start experiencing less and less extra benefit from continued investment .
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When a new technology rolls around , there’s typically an “ alpha geek ” ( to use Kelly’s term ) in any given Amish community that will ask the parish bishop permission to try it out . Usually the bishop will agree . The whole community will then observe this first adopter “ intently , ” trying to discern the ultimate impact of the technology on the things the community values most . If this impact is deemed more negative than helpful , the technology is prohibited . Otherwise it’s allowed , but usually with caveats on its use that optimize its positives and minimize its negatives .
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The goal of a digital declutter , however , is not simply to enjoy time away from intrusive technology . During this monthlong process , you must aggressively explore higher - quality activities to fill in the time left vacant by the optional technologies you’re avoiding .
PART 2: Practices
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“ All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone , ”
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sine qua non
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A Room of One’s Own ,
- Note - Book rec
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“ the ability to be alone . . . is anything but a rejection of close bonds , ” and can instead affirm them .
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friends , even passionate love , are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened .
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This cycle of solitude and connection is a solution that comes up often when studying people who successfully sidestep solitude deprivation ; think , for example , of Lincoln spending his summer nights at his cottage before returning to the bustling White House in the morning , or of Raymond Kethledge taking a break from the busy courthouse to clarify his thoughts in a quiet barn . The pianist Glenn Gould once proposed a mathematical formula for this cycle , telling a journalist : “ I’ve always had a sort of intuition that for every hour you spend with other human beings you need X number of hours alone . Now what that X represents I don’t really know . . . but it’s a substantial ratio . ”
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I don’t mean to create a false sense of nostalgia for these pre – cell phone times .
- Note - // to not romanticizing Thoreau’s Walden experience
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making time to write a letter to yourself when faced with demanding or uncertain circumstances .
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When given downtime , in other words , our brain defaults to thinking about our social life .
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The loss of social connection , for example , turns out to trigger the same system as physical pain — explaining why the death of a family member , a breakup , or even just a social snub can cause such distress . In one simple experiment , it was discovered that over - the - counter painkillers reduced social pain . Given the power of the pain system in driving our behavior , its connection to our social life underscores the importance of social relationships to our species ’ success .
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the unintended side effects of digital communication tools — a sort of social fast food — are proving to be similarly worrisome .
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life well lived requires activities that serve no other purpose than the satisfaction that the activity itself generates .
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The most successful digital minimalists , therefore , tend to start their conversion by renovating what they do with their free time — cultivating high - quality leisure before culling the worst of their digital habits .
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FI stands for financial independence , which refers to the pecuniary state in which your assets produce enough income to cover your living expenses .
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Leisure Lesson # 1 : Prioritize demanding activity over passive consumption .
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He soon grew disenchanted with the oddly disembodied and ambiguous nature of this work , so he did something extreme : he quit to start a motorcycle repair business . He now alternates between building custom motorcycles in his garage in Richmond , Virginia , and writing philosophical tracts on meaning and value in the modern world .
- Note - The dream
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Leisure Lesson # 2 : Use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world .
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The most successful social leisure activities share two traits . First , they require you to spend time with other people in person .
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The second trait is that the activity provides some sort of structure for the social interaction , including rules you have to follow , insider terminology or rituals , and often a shared goal .
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Leisure Lesson # 3 : Seek activities that require real - world , structured social interactions .
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Jennifer is more suspicious , however , of the increasingly popular Instagram Stories feature , which lets you broadcast moments of your life . Jennifer describes
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I don’t think we’re really supposed to be connected to so many people so frequently . ” Jennifer now tries to keep friend engagement * below the Dunbar Number of 150 — a theoretical limit for the number of people a human can successfully keep track of in their social circles .
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waiting until the next morning to read the article about the story in the Washington Post almost always leaves him more informed .
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Another important aspect of slow news consumption is the decisions you make regarding how and when this consumption occurs .
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isolating your news consumption to set times during the week .
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interested in applying new technology in highly selective and intentional ways that yield big wins. Just as important : they’re comfortable missing out on everything else .