Use your brain, stupid!

Being a Millennial doesn’t mean that I can’t write a technophobic rant when I feel like it. Please find below a list of things that you should burden your mind with.

  • Calculating 3188 x 15
  • Memorizing the password abG77Y^42
  • Finding directions to that restaurant where you must meet your friend
  • Killing boredom while waiting for the bus
  • Waking up at 7 am every morning

These tasks all have something in common: we delegate them to machines. Smartphones are so effective and convenient that they have become everyone’s second brain. But what happens to our original brain now that we use it less and less for such jobs? My opinion is that the brain is like a muscle and in order to remain fit and healthy, we must exercise it. Here are a few things that I believe we should keep doing with our own, nature-gifted neural networks.

Calculating 3188 x 15

Of course, you cannot compute this in your head, and neither can I. We are not machines. But you can try to break it up into smaller computable chunks. Of course you’ll make mistakes when doing mental calculation. But then you can check later with your smart-something. The point is, you shouldn’t get used to resorting to your smartphone each time you need to calculate something. You should first try by yourself, use your brain as the default computing “device”, and then fallback to external help if needed.

Memorizing the password abG77Y^42

No one likes passwords. For these reasons, we have software to keep them and retrieve them for us, and we are always researching better ways of doing authentication: face recognition, gesture patterns, etc. Heck, why not DNA? I’ll tell you: passwords may suck, but they still have the advantage of not requiring you to entrust personal data to a third party (I would not entrust my fingerprints to Facebook, would you?).

So how to remember passwords? The solution is the same: use your brain. Stop relying on your browser or password keeper to remember it for you. Use your password every day. Even if you don’t need to log out of your favorite website each time you’re done with it, do the effort of logging out, and go through the hassle of typing your password each time you need to log yourself back in. If you type the same password several times a day, I can guarantee you’ll not forget it easily.

Finding your way to a place

As weird as it may sound, there was a time before Google Maps, Tencent Maps and their likes. How did people manage not to get lost back then? Surely, many people and children must have disappeared or gone missing. (<sarcasm>) And what would tourism be like without apps to tell you what to do and what to see? (</sarcasm>)

Well, here are a few tips for you to do like homo sapiens in the pre-smartphone era, when you need to find you way to a place:

  • Draw a map on paper beforehand and take it with you. Be an artist, you can even draw dragons to make it more fun!

  • Open your lips, move your tongue, and ask a stranger around you. Usually, you’ll always find people ready to help you, unless you are exploring Antarctica.

  • Just explore, walk around, look at street signs, and keep some landmarks in your mind (e.g. the big 7-11 store at the corner, that weird tree with a hole in it in front of a post office, or any noticeable place).

  • And the most important: just accept the risk of getting lost. Life is about uncertainty, deal with it.

Writing full sentences

Nowadays technology is always doing its best to assist us when it comes to expressing ourselves. Predictive text input methods let you pick between the 10 best words they think you’ll want to use. Social networks offer quick replies where you only need to select one of several pre-populated responses to save time. Text processors highlight or even automatically correct your mistakes while you’re typing. Chat apps let you choose from hundreds of smileys or stickers to avoid the effort of expressing your feelings with words.

I fear that once we start abandoning the conversation to software, we’ll only be able to produce standard, bland conversations. What’s the point of knowing grammar (or even having a grammar) if the software does it for you?

Disable spell checking. Disable word suggestion. And be creative, be crazy.

“Do you want this 100K job?” - “Not sure”

“But it’s hard!”

Hardship is a virtue. I believe that mankind evolved out of necessity: it evolved because it had to confront tough situations. But what will happen in a world where everything becomes easy as a piece of cake? Some people may say that technology empowers us, frees us from our limits and helps us tackle new, more interesting challenges. Even if I agree with this, in my opinion, technology has become so convenient that it’s also preventing us from developing and retaining our core skills, at least for lazy people like me. So, for once, let’s make our lives easier harder!

14th January 2018