Be Encouraged By The Shortness Of Life (The Sub 4 Minute Extra Mile Book 8)

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This odd human habit has even spilled into our streets and other public places. How many times have you had to listen to someone nonchalantly blare out their problems on cell phones while you sat on a train or bus. Yet for millions of years our forebears had almost no privacy. With the Internet, we are returning to this practice of shared community.

Sure, with "the Net," I more easily and rapidly acquire information than in the old days. I can more easily sustain connections with colleagues, friends and family. I no longer take long walks to the post office to mail manuscripts. I don't pound on typewriter keys all day, or use "white-out.

And sometimes I find it easier to express complex or difficult feelings via email than in person or on the phone.


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My values haven't altered. I have just as much data to organize. My energy level is just the same. My workload has probably increased. And colleagues want what they want from me even faster. But the way I think? I don't think any harder, faster, longer, or more effectively than I did before I bought my first computer in In fact, the rise of the Internet only reminds me of how little any of us have changed since the modern human brain evolved more than 35, years ago.

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With the Internet, we just have a much louder megaphone with which to scream who we really are. Before the Internet, I made more trips to the library and more phone calls. I read more books and my point of view was narrower and less informed. I walked more, biked more, hiked more, and played more. I made love more often. The seductive online sages, scholars, and muses that joyfully take my curious mind where ever it needs to go, where ever it can imagine going, whenever it wants, are beguiling. All my beloved screens offer infinite, charming, playful, powerful, informative, social windows into global human experience.

The Internet, the online virtual universe, is my jungle gym and I swing from bar to bar: learning about: how writing can be either isolating or social; DIY Drones unmanned aerial vehicles at a Maker Faire; where to find a quantified self meetup; or how to make Sach moan sngo num pachok. I can use image search to look up hope or success or play. I can find a video on virtually anything; I learned how to safely open a young Thai coconut from this Internet of wonder. As I stare out my window, at the unusually beautiful Seattle weather, I realize, I haven't been out to walk yet today — sweet Internet juices still dripping down my chin.

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I'll mind the clock now, so I can emerge back into the physical world. The Internet supports my thinking and the physical world supports that, as well as, rich sensing and feeling experiences. It's no accident we're a culture increasingly obsessed with the Food Network and Farmer's Markets — they engage our senses and bring us together with others.

How has the Internet changed my thinking? The more I've loved and known it, the clearer the contrast, the more intense the tension between a physical life and a virtual life. The Internet stole my body, now a lifeless form hunched in front of a glowing screen. My senses dulled as my greedy mind became one with the global brain we call the Internet. I am confident that I can find out about nearly anything online and also confident that in my time offline, I can be more fully alive.

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The only tool I've found for this balancing act is intention. The sense of contrast between my online and offline lives has turned me back toward prizing the pleasures of the physical world.

I now move with more resolve between each of these worlds, choosing one, then the other — surrendering neither. What struck me was the complete absence of technology. No telephone, e-mail, or other communication facilitators. Nothing could interrupt my thoughts. Technology could be accessed outside the offices whenever one wished, but it was not allowed to enter through the door at its own will.

This protective belt was deliberately designed to make sure that scholars had time to think, and to think deeply. In the meantime, the Center, like other institutions, has surrendered to technology. Today, people's minds are in a state of constant alert, waiting for the next e-mail, the next SMS, as if these will deliver the final, earth-shattering insight. I find it surprising that scholars in the "thinking profession" would so easily let their attention be controlled from the outside, minute by minute, just like letting a cell phone interrupt a good conversation.

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Were messages to pop up on my screen every second, I would not be able to think straight. Maintaining the Center's spirit, I check my email only once a day, and keep my cell phone switched off unless I make a call. An hour or two without interruption are heaven for me. But the Internet can be used in an active rather than a reactive way, that is, not letting it determine how long we can think and when we have to stop.

The question is, does an active use of the Internet change our way of thinking? I believe so. The Internet shifts our cognitive functions from searching for information inside the mind towards searching outside the mind. It is not the first technology to do so. Consider the invention that changed human mental life more than anything else: writing, and subsequently, the printing press. Writing made analysis possible; with writing, one can compare texts, which is difficult in an oral tradition.

But writing makes long-term memory less important than it once was, and schools have largely replaced the art of memorization by training in reading and writing. Most of us can no longer memorize hour-long folktales and songs as in an oral tradition. The average modern mind has a poorly trained long-term memory, forgets rather quickly, and searches for information more in outside sources such as books instead inside memory.


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The Internet has amplified this trend of shifting knowledge from the inside to the outside, and taught us new strategies for finding what one wants using search machines. This is not to say that before writing, the printing press, and the Internet, our minds did not have the ability to retrieve information from outside sources.

But these sources were other people, and the skills were social, such as the art of persuasion and conversation. The Internet is essentially a huge storage room of information, and we are in the process of outsourcing information storage and retrieval from mind to computer, just as many of us have already outsourced the ability of doing mental arithmetic to the pocket calculator.

We may loose some skills in this process, such as the ability to concentrate over an extended period of time and storing large amounts of information in long-term memory, but the Internet is also teaching us new skills for accessing information.

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Be Encouraged By The Shortness Of Life: Vol. 8 In The Sub 4 Minute Extra Mile Series

It is important to realize that mentality and technology are one extended system. The Internet is a kind of collective memory, to which our minds will adapt until a new technology eventually replaces it. Then we will begin outsourcing other cognitive abilities, and hopefully, learn new ones. The Internet has not so much changed my thinking as it has expanded my preexisting artistic sensibility. Like many collagist, I cobble together quilts of disparate information that rely on uncanny juxtapositions to create new meaning. Cut and paste has always been the way I think.

I used to spend days in bookstores and libraries searching for raw images and information to be reorganized and repurposed into my pictures.