The Modern Evolution of Technology | Mind Dump

While I was attending public school when I was a child, I remember being tested on the definition of technology. At the time, the definition of technology could be summed up as using human knowledge to create tools that would make life easier. As of recent, I can’t help but think that this definition has changed, and that technology is now being used to make our lives more disrupted and distracted.

I often think about out ancestors and how at the beginning of human civilization, inventions such as the wheel were created to make life easier for those who labored. Inventions were the product of humans using their newly evolved thinking skills to create tools that would help them reduce the time needed for physical labor.

I’m not sure why humans have this innate curiosity or tendency to create things, but I think that what may have been going through the minds of many people when creating these early inventions were that the tool would give them more time to focus on things that they valued. Without the need to have to spend all day tending to the fields thanks to newly created agricultural tools, laborers could spend more time with family and their hobbies.

Now we fast forward to today’s time and I see that the advancement of technology has taken another road. Perhaps it’s due to our economic system of incentivizing profits above all else, but new discoveries in technology almost always seem to benefit those who are trying to advertise or sell a new product.

Recall the advancement of facial recognition with Facebook. While building an algorithm that can detect faces sparks interest in me out of sheer curiosity, the reason for developing and researching this algorithm is so that Facebook can auto-tag its users in photos. When, as a user, you are auto-tagged, you may get a notification and you click to see what photo you are in. This is ultimately so that users spend more time on the platform, meaning the user sees more ads and Facebook receives more profit.

With advancements in technology seemingly progressing only in order to make the masses addicted to products, I have begun to also think about general productivity and relaxation.

After working on a hard task or coming home from work, I find that I would like to relax. However, after taking a short break from social media and games, I find that these activities aren’t exactly relaxing. I think that the cultural mindset that after working you need to “relax” is recent and has only come about due to the rise of the internet and addictive technologies. Before television, what did people do to relax? They would read, go on a walk, or – God forbid – “work” on a hobby. While I can’t say for certain, I think that, as humans, we can output more than what we think we can. It is only because of these new technologies that we want to indulge in mindless entertainment after work, when in actuality, we do have enough energy in the tank to work on that side-project we have always been wanting to do.

I’ve been thinking recently that these new technologies are dulling the human spirit and our natural curiosity for the world. If we think about all the great people that have come before us, those who have invented and sought out science, they did it out of curiosity, not for an immense amount of profit. With the advent of the internet, social media, and unlimited TV series, we have had our brain hijacked by addictive, easy-to-do activities. I often wonder if our brain can naturally allow us to persevere through the hard times of learning a new hobby. It could be that we can very easily progress through the hardships of, for example, learning the guitar, but it is because our brains have adapted to the easy-to-obtain dopamine provided by these low-energy entertainment tasks that we find it impossible to do something “hard” without retreating to our social-media apps.

The changes that I am beginning to make in my life revolve around removing extraneous entertainment activities. Instead of watching TV or playing video games in my personal leisure time, I would like to grow as a person and fuel my natural curiosity. There are so many skills I would like to learn before I die, and I really doubt I will regret not watching the entirety of star wars on my deathbed. My regrets would likely be that I never took action to reign in my life and focus on activities that actually give me value.

None of this is meant to be “true”, just some thoughts that have been weighing in on my mind.

The 1 Life Hack I Have Used To Jump Start My 2019

With the new year already heading into its second month, I thought I would share the 1 tip that I have learned to help increase my productivity and overall trajectory of my life. I hope you find it useful as well.

What I have come to terms with at the end of 2018 and the start of 2019 is how much our environment influences us and guides our decision making. Too often have I thought that in order to reach my goals I needed to simply just “willpower” it out. That I needed to just “try harder.” Now I realize that there is tremendous power in taking a small amount of time rearranging your environment and letting new habits and thoughts form.

To explain what I mean, I’ll be transparent and use my own goals and environment as an example.

My goals each year have consistently been to both read and program more in my free time. However, if you had taken a look at my room just 2 months ago, you wouldn’t exactly have gotten that vibe from me.

The books that I had been wanting to read were either on a shelf, or on a table far away from my desk. Neither of those locations being convenient enough for me to default to reading. Out of sight, out of mind.

Instead I had my Nintendo Switch on my desk, where I spend most of my time, and also an Xbox controller that I used to game on my PC.

This disparity was also extended to my digital environments as well. Steam and Spotify would boot automatically on my personal desktop, subconsciously encouraging me to game the night away after a hard day’s work. My phone’s home screen conveniently had Reddit, Youtube, and a browser that had previously been on Facebook, too.

While none of these activities are inherently wrong in and of themselves, they are when you find yourself doing them when you haven’t even decided to. I call the activities that you find yourself doing without much thought or effort “default activities.”

I, like many other 9 to 5’ers, find myself tired after work. Upon coming home, I would find myself on Reddit or Youtube, without even realizing it. Because I’m typically mentally fatigued after a day at the office, I’m heavily prone to these types of distractions. When you decide in your mind that you are going to call it a day and relax, then it is fine to be “unproductive” and use these applications. However, when they become default activities, and you are using these applications without the decision to arising in your mind, then that’s when I consider it a problem for myself.

So I decided to change up my environment and see what would happen.

The first thing I did was delete Windows on my computer. Yes, delete it. I instead re-imaged my hard drive with Ubuntu, my programming environment of choice. This was to help encourage me to program more often.

I then followed this pattern of replacing what was immediately in front of me with things that I would rather have myself default to. My computer no longer boots up Steam, but it instead boots up Visual Studio Code with the last side-project I was working on. When I open up my browser, the 2 tabs that it opens up is to CodeSignal and to an Advanced React Course that I am currently taking. I deleted Youtube and Reddit off of my phone, and I moved my browser to cluttered folder, so that way I can get to it if I decide to, but not click on it out of habit when I unlock my phone without thinking.

As for my room, I opened up my books to the last place I was reading and placed them on my desk. I then moved my Nintendo Switch and my controllers to the top shelf of the closet. Out of sight, out of mind. This applies to unproductive things as well, I’ve learned.

Now, have I been more productive? Absolutely. I don’t think I have ever been this productive in my life. If only I had known this tip in college, I might not have gotten a C in one of my classes for not writing pesky blog posts about an internship I was taking. If I could go back, I would have made my personal laptop boot up and open Blogger to encourage me to just get it done.

So what does all of this mean? Am I saying that you should take everything that you enjoy or think is fun and chuck it into a closet or garbage bin?

No. What I am saying is design your environment in a way where you can easily default to activities that help you progress towards your goals. You do not have to be productive all the time. There is time to work, and there is time to relax. The problem is that the digital technologies of our time are so addictive and easy to do without thought, that they can suck away your time without you even deciding to use them. I still play games, and I still watch Youtube, but I do it when I decide to, which is usually from 9 to 11pm where I have blocked out relaxation time.

If you want to write more, have your computer open up Word automatically on boot.

Want to play more guitar? Take that guitar out of its case and place it in the chair you sit in the most. So it is as easy as ever to grab it and play it, and you also have to physically move it out of the way to deny doing it.

Having trouble drinking more water and less soda? Place water bottles near or on your desk, and keep soda on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Or better yet, just don’t buy it.

TL;DR Make the things you actually want to do as convenient as ever to do, and the things you want to abstain from as complicated to get to as you can.

Life is short and is full of so many wonderful crafts and hobbies that you can do. In the end, you may find that “productive” and “unproductive” activities are just an abstract concept, and that humans just like to have something to do, even if it is sometimes “hard.”

Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps.