Monday, October 17, 2005


Another sign of the downfall of American culture, courtesy of

Meet the Life Hackers – even the title is annoying, recalling the glib, baby-boom style of “zany” of “Meet the Fockers,” a wallet-padder for Hoffman, Steisand and DeNiro, and more of the same from Ben Stiller. The article purports to show how Microsoft “geeks” are developing software to “help” computer users bring “sanity” and order to their working life by finding ways to anticipate when the user is in the mood to read email, whether the overworked user is in crisis mode (and should not be bothered), and apparently, how many screens or different applications the user has open. Maybe I’m only puttering along the access road to the information superhighway, but come on. You don’t know how many apps you have open? Try cutting back on the Starbucks visits.

Disdainful of many cubicle-dwellers’ habit of scribbling “important” notes on a Post-It and sticking it on the side of their screen, the geeks feel that they need to invent a software program to do that for you, monitoring time-sensitive tasks and upcoming meetings, for instance. (My college-senior daughter has already downloaded a shareware program that actually creates electronic Post-Its that work just like the original paper variety – a novelty, but not a big “improvement.” And what if your computer dies, stalls, or is turned off?)

The central danger of interruptions, Czerwinski realized, is not really the interruption at all. It is the havoc they wreak with our short-term memory: What the heck was I just doing?

According to studies by the geeks in the article, the primary force working against us, apparently, is our infantile inability to remain focused on a task. Why is the solution “write a software program” and not “try improving your memory or organizing your desk or work or life”?

More studies and experiments show that another solution to our current computer and monitor’s inability to cure what ails us is a 42-inch monitor screen – of course! the typical American answer to everything.

Some of the volunteers were so enthralled with the huge screen that they begged to take it home.

That’s just sad.

Half way through the article, the “solution” to this “problem” is realized, but quickly brushed past by the author: Low-tech answers:

It turns out that a certain amount of life-hacking is simply cultivating a monklike ability to say no.

Monklike? How about simply being a cognizant, reasonably well-organized adult, not giving in to our short-term, short-circuited 5-second attention span?

("Unless you're working in a Korean missile silo, you don't need to check e-mail every two minutes," he argues.)

Amen! I think the name of the concept is SELF-CONTROL. Instead of “improving” our computers, let’s improve ourselves.


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