October 21st, 2016
The Shallows - summary and analysis. Serious shit
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Join Date: 10/10/2010 | Posts: 61

This post ties in with my previous one of designing your own reality.

The Shallows

The Shallows – written by Nick Carr, is an insightful book.

At times it is boring and the point is made very slowly, but overall the main takeaways from the book are very important!

In this post I give a summary of the book along with a few thoughts of my own, then I state my own analysis of the implications of the book.

Key Points from the Book

- Do not engage in multi-tasking.

Give whatever you are doing your full attention and put some quality into it. You may think that you are being effective by exposing yourself to a lot of different information and stimuli, but for the vast majority of people it holds true that this only serves to diminish your effectiveness and plants a bad habit in you.

More is usually less. What matters is not how much information or stimuli you get exposed to, but to which extent you are capable of absorbing it.

How much information do you think registers to you if you are eating at the same time as you are surfing the Internet, watching TV, and texting with a friend?

The (conscious) mind can only register about 7 bits of information per second, so you better make damn sure you can hold your attention and focus on the task at hand. It is far more pleasurable and productive to focus fully on one thing than to disperse quality of awareness onto a number of things.

How many people do you know that are consciously in the habit of improving their attention span daily?

- Google is in the business of distraction – it is in their interest to make you click as much as possible, they’ve got plenty of incentive for doing so.

Google does not want you to reach a point of deep reflective reading because that translates to less money on its balance sheet.

By (ab)using Google and the Internet, we are changing our brains on an anatomical level downright to how our brain cells are wired – “neurons that fire together wire together”.

- Our habits change our brains.

We are all in the habit of continually gathering as much information as quickly as possible and only sifting through it, as opposed to carefully reading the text and reflecting on its meaning and how it relates to us or other things. We gather information, we do not reflect on it.

Our generation becomes good at gathering loads of information and putting it together, but we rarely know the implications of it, or find any deeper meaning because we lack the reflective ability as a result of having let it atrophy for so long, and our brains have changed on a neurological level – making it very difficult for us to do anything that it isn’t accustomed to doing.

Other Interesting Stuff

Short-term memory and long-term memory work differently. Short-term memory is limited in “space or bits” and doesn’t change the structure of the brain or create new synapses to a very large extent. Long-term memory on the other hand is as far as we know unlimited and requires assimilation and synthesis of proteins (glutamine + vitamin b niacin) to restructure/rewire the synapses and make links between neurons.

Short-term memory is stored in the hippocampus, long-term memory is only partially stored in the hippocampus – while also being stored in a multitude of places in your brain and body.

A study showed that hippocampus increased in size for London cab drivers due to all the memorization they have to do. (Einstein’s brain was also much different from normal people)

In previous times…

It was considered that the best tool for developing one’s thinking process was to keep “commonplaces” – diaries relating to different subjects.

(I agree with this, I feel like my thinking has evolved exponentially since I started the habit 6+ months ago)

People such as Seneca and Francis Bacon also believed that memorization of things was an essential process. Seneca believed we should be like bees gathering and mixing honey, ruminating on the information until we have created our own synthesis and made it uniquely our own. So basically it would work like this:

You start out with the information your brain has stored.

You get new information, rehearse it and thus memorize it – hoping it will become part of your unlimited long-term memory.

As you learn this new information and it becomes part of your long-term memory, it inevitably becomes linked and associated to the information already stored in your brain (the different neurons create joining synapses)

You reflect on this information (here’s where our generation comes up short) and will hopefully be able to come up with something that is uniquely your own, a synthesis of the information that has different implications than the sum of the information does on its own.

(After seeing this process it’s easy to understand why most people are very similar, and why the mainstream is so massive in numbers – because people are exposed to pretty much the same sort of stimuli and they rarely reflect on the information they receive. They unconsciously get exposed to stimuli and recount what they heard from somebody else)

We are continually exposed to a tradeoff..

When we use tools, because they open up possibilities as well as impose limitations upon us.

Long ago we first started following time imposed upon us by a clock as opposed to listening to our body’s natural rhythm and the elements we began losing a few skills we were previously using.

Then we started navigating via maps and GPS as opposed to using our brains to learn, recognize, and memorize the environment and form mental maps.

Tools impose long-term (not necessarily permanent) changes in our brain structure. That’s one of the reasons why humans are considered to be smart – because of our brain’s ability to adapt so quickly!

When we use tools we are slowly numbing and atrophying the parts we end up using with tools. The tools help us save time and effort. Sometimes that effort is physical and sometimes it is mental.

(I for example, prefer writing on the keyboard of a computer to writing on paper with a pencil. I think it is much more convenient and usually I find it to be easier to communicate my thoughts than I do with a pencil.

I get into a flow state more easily and don’t feel the same need for perfection that I do when I write by pencil. When I write by pencil I always have the mental block deep inside my mind of being afraid to do wrong or having to pencil out whatever error I have made – and it is very distracting. There are famous writers who say just the opposite however. They often claim that using a typewriter or keyboard is to the work easier and essentially serves to weaken the mental muscles of a writer.)

When adopting new technology we should therefore carefully look at both the possibilities they open up to us, and to the limitations they impose on us. We ought to take note of both the advantages and disadvantages – though it may be difficult.

(No one could have guessed at the implications of the Internet when it was first created)

The important thing to take away from this is that we must be vigilant and aware of the tradeoff that tools expose us to.

To use tools, or not to use tools..That is the question.

Sometimes it makes sense to use tools and other times it does not. It all comes down to what your goals are and what you want out of life – and thus how your daily process for making it happen must be structured like.

Social networks and the use of Internet..

Inevitably lead to the perceiving of a new reality where there is none – a hyperreality. Because humans have what is called mirror neurons – we ping off of other things, in particular other humans – and easily adopt other people’s view of reality.

This was great when we were cave men because it helped us survive in case of sudden attacks, and it continually reinforced who the leader of the tribe was – the person with the strongest sense of reality.

But nowadays our lives are rarely threatened and it is straight up STUPID to let yourself be exposed to other people’s realities when you have the power to control and design your own reality. The more we expose ourselves to the Internet and social media of different kind the more we are exposed to hyperreality and other people’s realities which in either case is horrible because it serves to weaken our own sense of reality.

(Not to mention 99% of the people on the Internet and social media are idiots. Take a good look at the top-rated comments in Youtube vids. Or rather, do not. ;) )

Never give up control and responsibility for your own reality and your thinking process!

Thoughts and ideas are the number one individual power of humans. People have no idea..

What are the Implications?

It is my belief that 99.99% the people in the world will be led by the true visionaries (think Steve Jobs) who make it their life discipline to practice strengthening their reflective and intuitive abilities on a daily basis.

"The middle class trades TIME FOR MONEY. The World class trades IDEAS FOR MONEY."

-Steven Siebold, 77 Mental Toughness Secrets

99.99% of people will be auctioning out their time (the mindset of an employee) for money, they will be the information-gatherers for the 0.01% who are the visionaries that come up with the ideas and make it happen (the mindset of an entrepreneur) through their extensive networks and certainty in what they want to accomplish.

"In pursuing my goals I encountered realities, often in the form of problems, and I had to make decisions. I found that if I accepted the realities rather than wished that they didn’t exist and if I learned how to work with them rather than fight them, I could figure out how to get to my goals. It might take repeated tries, and seeking the input of others, but I could eventually get there. As a result, I have become someone who believes that we need to deeply understand, accept, and work with reality in order to get what we want out of life. Whether it is knowing how people really think and behave when dealing with them, or how things really work on a material level—so that if we do X then Y will happen—understanding reality gives us the power to get what we want out of life, or at least to dramatically improve our odds of success. In other words, I have become a 'hyperrealist'."
-Ray Dahlio, Billionaire as well as Founder and CEO of Bridgewater

Social media or even Skype are not worthy substitutes for real interactions. The reason why I say this is because when you don’t have real face to face interactions – especially in business meetings – you are seriously diminishing the principle of mastermind coined by Napoleon Hill.

Another way of explaining it is that when you have a few smart people who work well together they form a positive synergy-effect that produces a type of “2+2 = 10” instead of “2+2=4”, this is the mastermind principle.

For the past two I have intuitively felt this way about contemporary society. After reading this book I have become further discouraged from using the Internet and social media. Since writing this post I have limited my use of the Internet to 1-2 hours per day and the use of social media (including email) to 3 times a week.
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Trusted Member

Join Date: 11/08/2006 | Posts: 6925

 Great write-up I really appreciate you taking the time. Awesome thoughts in there. You're confusing the internet with social media in some places I believe. I take the internet as an information source. I do not look at other people's opinions or comments.
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Instructor | Trusted Member

Join Date: 08/20/2006 | Posts: 8722

Read it as well, important book, thanks for the great summary!

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Senior Member

Join Date: 01/14/2013 | Posts: 117

 Reat it too. Main point: Internet gives uss attention problems so that we can't focus.
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Join Date: 10/10/2010 | Posts: 61

Manwhore wrote:
 Great write-up I really appreciate you taking the time. Awesome thoughts in there. You're confusing the internet with social media in some places I believe. I take the internet as an information source. I do not look at other people's opinions or comments.
Thanks man.

I disagree. I think social media (facebook, linkedin, etc..) is just as bad for SOME people, and I am one of those people. Perhaps you are not.

Yeah I'm sure you don't, but I think that you have a pretty strong sense of reality compared to the average user. I'd say you are far above the norm in this sense, at least from what I've gathered from you at this forum. I wouldn't call you an average dude.
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Join Date: 10/10/2010 | Posts: 61

Tyler wrote:
Read it as well, important book, thanks for the great summary!

Cool, thanks!

You keep up the good work. :)
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