Saturday, August 16, 2014

How to Organize Your Brain

At WSJ, Christopher Chabris discusses Daniel J. Levitin's new book, The Organized Mind. It seems the best solution is to travel like the President with a body man and other gophers.

Chabris writes:
Mr. Levitin stresses the many ways in which evolution designed our minds to succeed in an environment that was utterly unlike the world of information overload we now face. And he aims to help us cope by providing concrete suggestions for solving the daily problems of modern existence.
Mr. Levitin begins by explaining why we are in the mess we are in. The capacities of our brains grew out of solutions to the problems that our ancestor species confronted when living in the natural world. We have very good memories for routes we walk and for places where things are located because those are the most important things for primates and mammals to be keep track of. And our tendency to be attracted by anything new had great value when new things were likely to be important threats or opportunities. But these capacities may be maladapted to the challenges of current life, especially the man-made parts of it.

Memories tuned for routes and places are simply not designed to store the near-infinity of unique passwords (random strings of letters, numbers and punctuation) that Internet security demands...

A good way to deal with overload, Mr. Levitin suggests, is to offload the responsibilities of "personal management," tasks like being on time and staying in touch with friends or associates. This strategy is routinely adopted by members of a category that Mr. Levitin calls HSPs—Highly Successful Persons...

Mr. Levitin tells us that he met Jimmy Carter back in the mid-1970s, when he was first running for president, and Mr. Carter spoke "as though we had all the time in the world." He could focus on the task at hand, Mr. Levitin notes, because his aides were worrying about where he needed to be and when, freeing him to "let go of those inner nagging voices and be there."
If you aren't living off of taxpayer money and, thus, are unlikely to have a gopher entourage, there are other options:
Mr. Levitin isn't recommending that we all hire personal assistants, an unrealistic approach unless you happen to be an HSP or a Real Housewife. We don't need human helpers because computational ones become better all the time. A calendar app that buzzes quietly 15 minutes before each appointment is better and cheaper than a human who has to knock on your door and interrupt your conversation or train of thought. Sites like Orbitz and Kayak are faster and more flexible for booking almost any trip than human travel agents ever were. A well-curated Twitter feed will keep you up on news about your work and hobbies in a way that no personal assistant ever could...
The full review is here.

No comments:

Post a Comment