I have just started reading “Triggers” by Marshall Goldsmith and I recently read this article; “The Binge Breaker” written by Bianca Bosker for The Atlantic. I am very interested in how the smart technology we use in our daily lives can and does effect our daily living. I am curious to understand how we as a species adapt to the evolution of artificial intelligence. I am also in a an extended “soft” research phase for a habit building app. So I am spending a fair amount of energy in and around this topic and I am starting to realise that I have always given the AI more credit than most. SO I thought I would write it out, the way I think about things, especially related to my phone, maybe you can pick up a quick tip or two but really it will help me unmuddle some thoughts in my head.
I thing of it as if I am training my phone to my needs – not letting my phone train me. Goldsmith very early in his (quite enjoyably written; clear and with a certain charm) book about the way our environments trigger and influence our behaviours. I have always tried to define the environment on my devices and specifically my phone to encourage the behaviour in me that I think that device is for. Communication on phone – work on laptop – relax on ipad.
The Atlantic article has a little nasty edge about the fact that we respond to our devices because of the way developers are designing – not necessarily for good but rather to win. I certainly can relate to the sentiment but I also have perhaps taken a more active approach to protecting myself. Tristan Harris speaks a little bit too much as if he got burnt and now wants to make sure that all fires everywhere are kept under a specific amount of control. He also speaks as someone who has seen the harsh reality of unkind human nature. My sympathy is with him, I wish him well but his approach is too extreme for me. I train my phone for me remember 😉
I, like Harris only have one screen on my phone and use the search bar to find most things. Unlike the Harris I do not only leave functional applications on the homepage, I have the ones I use most, including the enemies of Snapchat and Facebook. When I started doing this a while ago, it wasn’t because I wanted to control my engagement with the time on my phone (#ilovephone) it was because it was merely better digital feng shui. All the apps are colour-coded as well, so when I look at my phone it is a beautiful experience. Clear phone – clear mind. #OhmToThat
I use to be really bothered by the little red number badge telling me how behind I was in my app life but I then made an agreement with my phone, apps that weren’t allowed push notification would be allowed a number badge. Only some of them though, the ones I truly don’t care about don’t even get that. The point is here – I decided. I decided that I love snapchatting with my cousins across the world but it didn’t have to happen immediately. They weren’t sending me emergencies on snapchat, so they don’t need a notification. People know I am not very big on Facebook as a communication tool – I use it but not with consistency. It doesnt get notifications. Even my email doesnt get a push notification. Emails are for when I decide emails are. Basically application designed for communication get notification because (for me) that is the primary purpose of my phone. Calls, Messages, Whatsapp, Telegram & Slack. Nothing else gets a notification. I have also made sure that they sound nice when they make a noise. Because I don’t like ugly sounds – its grating and deeply upsetting. Anything to loud or brash is unsettling for me and because I know this about myself I must make sure that my tech fits the bill.
These are not blanket rules by the way. On my computer, applications designed for business take precedent. So here email gets a noise, as well as certain dropbox actions and Slack amongst some. On the ipad – which i generally use to read and social – social gets to make a noise, all my social notification are on on the ipad because I socalise when I’m on there. The key for me here is that the devices do not make a noise, unless i am engaging with them. My default setting on all my devices is silent mode. When I am using the device they normally get to be able to make a noise – sometimes. Again my decision was not guided by the need for controlling my sensory life but rather that I think it is a more dignified and elegant representation of ones self to not be surrounded by constant beeping. Also I don’t like unnecessary noise. (Remember the noise thing) I am a lady, I am not hailed or summoned by my technology with an ugly, brash noise but rather, I gracefully engage when the moment is correct. (Ok so thats probably all in my mind but thats the story I’m telling folks)
Another thing I use is the Night mode or do not disturb mode or flight mode or whatever it is mode that you want it to be. I don’t need to switch my device off (which is a deeply unsettling feeling of being disconnected) to get a little peace and quiet. I switch to night mode and nothing beeps at me. I sometimes find when Im in a flow that theres a beep and its annoying and then I immediately switch to night mode. Try it – its lovely.
My point is I am taking the Harris advise here – I am limiting the effects the tech has on me but not because I don’t want it to have an effect but because I want to chose the effect it has. It’s not to eliminate it. I like that my parents can get hold of me in an instant if they want to. I like my parents – I want them to get hold of me. I also like engaging on social media – it’s fun and often genuinely interesting. For me – it’s about setting the terms of engagement. It is the same in any relationship, why should the relationship with your phone (or any device) be different. Why when we are engaging with different degrees of Artificial Intelligence everyday do we deny that AI our attention and respect? I mean what are you going to do when the machines take over?
FOOTNOTE: What about this Habit Building App then?
Habits are crucial for success and I have a few habits I just can’t hack on my own – so I want my technology to help me. I have tried pretty much every available app out there and none of them help me have more will power. I am a medium focused individual, I would say I have the average amount of willpower to accomplish something and a fair amount of passion. But we are human, to be human is to errrrr and to errrr is to hesitate and to hesitate is a habit never gained. I have now turned thirty and I realise as I look back that all the things I wanted to accomplish in my twenties were not met due to my inability into turning to daily practice. So I want to make an app that I will use and when I look back at my thirties I will think, why yes – I got some shit done.
The App will be called Next. – I think… and its all about setting into habits that will last a lifetime. I am aiming for mid 2017. Aiming she says… it’s going to take longer if I want to learn how to code it on my own… haven’t decided yet. As I said – soft research.