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The Tinkered Mind
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February 7th, 2019
We’ve all had the experience of suddenly realizing that we’ve been mindlessly snacking on something for a few minutes, taking one last potato chip or pistachio or M&M and pushing the rest away, saying “get this away from me.”
It’s almost as though there are two animals at work in this instance. The one that only sees food and understands it only as something to consume, and the more mindful executive animal that thinks along the lines of “I remember what happens when I eat too much of this and it’s not good. I don’t want to end up back there.”
The solution is an alteration of the environment. Pushing a carton of Oreo’s out of reach is essentially a resource allocation. Making it less readily available to ourselves, and often trying to make it more available to someone else who will exhaust the trap and eat the rest of the Oreo’s and therefore eliminate the nagging temptation to just dive in more.
The Oreos exist in the first place for the exact same reason. Tens of thousands of years ago there were no Oreo’s or M&Ms or Potato Chips. But if you’d been able to somehow snack from a secret source of such pseudo-foods, it would have been a benefit. Such tempting foods are very energy dense and therefore less time would need to be spent finding that energy elsewhere, leaving more time to do other things such as invent culture. We kept tinkering with the way that we process different parts of our environment until we were able to unleash a chemical synthetic jui jitsu move on raw ingredients and create all sorts of super-charged high-fructose corn syrup foods tasting like all manner and variety of things.
Tens of Thousands of years ago, the concept of being obese would have seemed like a kind of fantastical heaven, and yet since we’ve figured out how to make this a reality, it’s only lead to a hellish kind of health crisis in the eyes and experience of many. Many diets try to mimic and kind of return to a system of food that is more akin to the biological adaptations of our body, whether this be paleo or keto or any nuance, variety and variation between the different systems gurus have devised, many of these dial down to a careful curation of ‘get this away from me’, and leaving only the essential, healthier option available.
We might wonder how such a strategy might extend beyond food. The word ‘diet’ has shifted to mean something more transient, something that only lasts for a week or a month. When in fact diet is simply everything you intake over the course of time. Diet may change but when someone talks about a specific diet, they are really talking about a particular curation of their diet. We might even broaden the term diet beyond food and think about our information diet, or our diet of human interaction, our entertainment diet, even perhaps a social media diet. All of these in some way or another are things that we intake and have an effect on us.
A particularly toxic relationship might be akin in some stretched way to a habit of eating ice cream every single day. Social Media is an example all too ripe for this kind of addictive and unbeneficial behavior. And when it comes to good information, like reading a business book, we might perhaps be inclined to describe ourselves as nutrient poor. Perhaps time would be better spent reading such a book instead of briefly checking how many ‘likes’ a post has and then scrolling for endless minutes, consuming nothing of value except the wasted time.
We might be more likely to think ‘get this away from me’ when we realize just how insidious and unhelpful a particular social media avenue is in our life. There’s actually a fairly interesting and somewhat effective app for this process. It’s called “Space” and what it does is mask any of your social media apps with a proxy that when clicked routes you to a screen that instructs you to breathe deeply a couple of times before actually opening the target social media app. In an oversimplified way, these deep breathes help weaken the addictive neural pathways that make opening a social media app a compulsion that our thumbs dance into just as effortlessly and fluidly as when we find our hand feeding our face with some kind of nearby junk food.
It might not be too much of a stretch to say that success and fulfillment boil down to a careful curation of our environment. What we allow ourselves to see, hear and eat, and what conditions we construct in order to make the situation most conducive to productivity on tasks that lead to the accomplishment of our goals. This extends to a curation of our relationships and the time we spend with people or even simply the space we have available. How many projects have benefited wildly from merely having a room where only that project exits? Where everything else is essentially locked out of consciousness by the walls and door.
Our entire constructed environment of buildings with walls and entrances, with times when locked are all a curation of our environment. Perhaps our phones could even benefit from a ‘closed for business’ concept when the device is simply off.
Clearly we are very far from having all of this curation optimized as we squabble over untested details and blindly steer by emotional dictates as opposed to a studied analysis of the larger picture. In the meantime we need to somewhat rebel against the baser automatic instincts built into our brains and do our best to curate our own experience. In a world of increasing abundance, this will often take the form of get this away from me!