Daily, snackable writings and podcasts to spur changes in thinking.
Building a blueprint for a better brain by tinkering with the code.
July 27th, 2020
We are so busy. The underlying reason why is excellent: nothing gets done otherwise, and we have a lot of work to do. The question of course arises as to whether or not the work we are doing is actually getting good things done. Enormous strains of society consist of fairly useless work - i.e. Bullshit Jobs. But all this busyness is itself a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, a vicious cycle that reinforces itself in order to grow.
Not doing anything, is a pretty nervous statement to utter, especially in productive circles. Of course there’s cause for relaxing, unwinding, and enjoying life a little, but this is often just another way to fill the time. And this is really at the core of much busyness - to fill time. The logic of busyness in this way, if we apply it to money sounds like this: well the point of money is that it can buy things, so I should spend every last penny I have, because that’s the whole point..
That’s exactly how time is regarded across much of modern western culture. But it is a resource far more precious than money. It is money that spends itself no matter what. Our only involvement is that we get a say in what that dwindling resource gets fed into. The mortality-fuelled anxiety behind this task creates a situation that seems fairly understandable: do as much as you can with your time because it’ll run out!
Unfortunately or fortunately, a counter-intuitive approach yields benefits that are simply not achieved through a mind chock-full of busyness. Creating space in time in order to do nothing refreshes the perspective. Now to be clear, this doesn’t mean getting around to that book on the night table, or finally pressing a hand to that crafty project. Those are just other things to stay busy with. What’s meant here is doing nothing, actually nothing. What many productivity die-hards would call wasting time.
Here’s a personal example: Tinkered Thinking is on the verge of releasing a beautiful, illustrated book. The book, along with the brand new online store that will be a part of Tinkered Thinking have been effectively complete for a couple weeks. The reason it hasn’t been launched has to do with a particular business credit card that has met delay after delay due to an amount of ineptitude on the part of a bank that is so astonishing it’s become a form of entertainment.
This created an interesting and unexpected space. There are a number of other projects on the chopping block to get started on, but the perpetual tease of this Credit Card which was dragged out by “accident” created a space where there wasn’t too much to do. As a result the new GPT-3 technology from OpenAI found it’s way into my attention with no searching on my behalf. There was time to play around with it and waste time musing over the implications of the technology. Naturally a few episodes arose from it. But the time available created a space that allowed for a few key insights. If the card had showed up a week earlier, then the book would have been launched by now. But instead, due to the whimsical and unfettered allowance of curiosity, Tinkered Thinking is now in the final stages of developing an app with this new technology that will undergo security review with OpenAI and ideally be available for all quite soon. Now the retrospective question arises: if that credit card had shown up earlier, would The Tinkered Question app exist?
Perhaps the bank should be thanked for their ineptitude: they inadvertently created space for the mind to truly wander in directions that have proved quite…productive.
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