Stargazing

There is nothing quite as humbling as looking up at the stars.

I find all the silly worries and anxiety of the day melt away when I consider I’m one of the seven billion humans hurrying about our lives on a giant ball hurtling through space. And that ball is itself an insignificant prick vs the immense size and emptiness of the universe.

Crazy.

4hr workday > 8hr workday

The 8 hour workday comes from the factory shift.

It takes a worker 10 minutes to build a widget.

In 8 hours they build 48.

In 4 hours they only build 24.

Pretty simple.

I can understand the logic.

But what of those not making widgets? The lawyers, the consultants, the marketers, the entrepreneurs even.

These fall under what management guru Peter Drucker might have called “Knowledge Workers”- They earn a living by thinking and making good decisions.

Yet good decision making is hard to come by.

What if the answer is working less?

Here are three reasons a shorter workday could be the key:

  1. Overstimulation– 85% of people check their phone with in 15 mins of waking up. The rest of the day is a blur as we’re bombarded with content. Every idle second is filled with a trip to our phones.

    A recent survey found (source missing, you’ll have to trust me) that 36% of “Knowledge Workers” (those paid to think for a living!) spent zero minutes just thinking each day. Zero!

    We just do not give ourselves the space.

    By cutting the workday to 4 hours we give ourselves the time to think and pursue other interests. Will some people use the extra 4 hours to watch Netflix? Sure. But some won’t and the emphasis will be taken off a constant need to be busy.

  2. Parkinson’s Law– Work expands to fill the time available.

    C. Northcote Parkinson proposed this law in his brilliant book by the same name.

    If we have 8 hours to fill in a day, we will fill it! If we don’t feel like doing the important work we’ll busy ourselves with non important work.

    What does everyone do all day? They email! (again, no data… I’m sorry)

    Every email that gets sent sends the recipients into a frenzy to respond, all the while procrastinating Knowledge Workers are churning new emails into the mix.

    By capping the day at 4 hour, people would just get the work done and go home. Why waste time sending emails?

    Much of the work we do doesn’t matter. We could not do it and be no worse off.

  3. Creativity– AI is coming. Automation is here. Repetitive work that requires no thinking will be replaced by machines- it’s happening already.

    It’s no longer about finding answer (the machines can do that) but asking the right questions. The final frontier vs the machines is human creativity.

    To cultivate creativity we need changes of scenery. We need a clear mind. We need different perspectives.

    Who do you think would be more prone to creative thinking:

    The worker sat at their computer ping off emails for 8 hours.

    Or the worker who worked for 4 hours and spent the afternoon taking a stroll, reading widely, and pursuing a whole host of other interests?

We’re so afraid of change that we rarely stop to ask- “Is there a better way?”.

Just maybe- there is.

Notes from a meditator

Meditation is strange.

Why would humans need to block out time to sit and do nothing? Seems silly.

Yet I’m slowly understanding- it’s not a natural thing for us to do BUT we’re not living in our natural environment.

We are simply not built for the overstimulation of life today.

Meditation then, is a tool to handle life in 2020.

It really does work! One of the many “best kept secrets” hiding in plain sight.

The AI revolution

Robots are coming.

Are we doomed?

The stage is set. Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo vs Ke Jie, the world’s number one go player.

It’s May 2017, 20 years after IBM’s Deep Blue bested World Champion Garry Kasparov on a chess board.

Go presented a much more difficult challenge for AI to crack due to the sheer volume of possibilities.

After the first two moves of a Chess game, there are 400 possible next moves. In Go, there are close to 130,000.

Therefore the “brute force” learning of possible moves that had bested Kasparov could not be replicated here.

AlphaGo didn’t just win, it decimated Jie.

To many, this was too much to bear.

There goes humanities final stance!

Google had started AlphaGo off by feeding it 30 million human moves. But after this it progressed to teaching itself new strategies.

But there is good news. Whilst it seems AI is on the rapid ascent to general intelligence that is a different ballgame all together. Alphago was still just data crunching, simulating possible outcomes. The real world is far too complex to achieve this.

We do then have one ace up our sleeve. Human creativity.

Making a splash

Our best ideas come in the shower. Or so the saying goes.

Well, this is certainly true for James H. Crocker.

Back in 1993 James Crocker worked as an engineer for NASA.

He was a member of the team tasked with fixing a faulty mirror on the Hubble Telescope, as it sped through space. Not a straightforward task.

The challenge was not only getting a fix up there, but how exactly it should work.

Many months and millions of dollars were spent, before the solution came from the most unlikely of places.

James Crocker’s shower.

Whilst in the shower he was hit with a eureka moment when he noticed the straight forward mechanism used to adjust the heads position. Crocker realised this was exactly the solution to Nasa’s mirror issue.

A few months and a rather high tech version of Crocker’s shower later, and the Hubble was back in business.

So what’s happened here?

This is a classic example of divergent thinking, or an idea taken from one domain solving an issue in another.

It is amazing what can happen when we step away from our desk.

Friction

I dread to think how many hours I’ve wasted scrolling through social media in my lifetime.

Why do we waste so much time?

Because it’s easy!

Every idle moment our brain craves a soothing scroll through our facebook/IG/Twitter feed.

These social media platforms are literally designed to consume our attention.

Earlier this year I had enough, and deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The result?

I turned my scrolling to Linkedin!

The problem here is a lack of friction. It’s was too easy for me to do.

I have now found a solution. Last week, I turned my Linkedin account over to my younger sister, Freya.

Freya has changed the password and I no longer have access.

Every time I want to check Linkedin or post, I now have to message Freya and setup a zoom call on which she shares her screen and we run through any actions.

Ridiculous. Right?

But it works!

Amazing what a little friction can do.