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And the first 200 people to sign up
with the link in the description down below are going to get
20% off their annual premium Brilliant subscription.
The internet is an instant answer machine.
Whenever you have a question,
all you need to do to get an answer
is to bring up Google on your computer
or to poll your phone.
Or if you're feeling particularly lazy,
ask one of the many voice assistants that are,
let's be real here, definitely always listening to you.
Hey Siri, how do I stop procrastinating?
- [Siri] Have you tried not being literally
the laziest piece of crap in the world?
- But out here, on this frozen lake, there is no service.
Which means that if I run into a problem,
or if I come across something that I don't know,
the only thing I have to rely on
is the bundle of neurons up in my cranium.
Which, to be honest, contains a vastly more limited set
of answers and knowledge than I'll find on the internet.
But maybe that's a good thing.
See, when I was taking calculus in the 10th grade,
I developed a bad habit of sorts.
Calculus was really hard for me.
So I would often go to the commons area
of the math department to get help from the professors
in the mornings.
And at some point, I realized that they left
the instructor's edition of the textbook,
which had all of the answers in the back,
just out on the table in that commons area.
So naturally, I started going to the commons area
at six a.m. to do all of my homework.
And a pattern started to develop
where I would get stuck on a calculus problem,
get stuck on some part of a derivative or something,
and then I would eventually go to the back of the book
to get the answer.
I had this threshold where I became mentally lazy
and went for those answers.
And because the book was right in front of me
and I had access to those answers all the time,
over time, my threshold for giving up lowered
and lowered and lowered.
And in recent years, I've seen this pattern emerge
on a larger scale and a more general scale
with regards to that magical answer machine
that you're using to watch this video right now.
For all its benefits, the internet can encourage
the formation of habits that make us mentally lazy.
And this isn't just an anecdotal observation, either.
There is data to back this up.
For example, a study done at Harvard in 2011
found that when people are faced with difficult questions,
they're now more primed to think about computers.
And it also found that when they expect to have
future access to information,
they have lower rates of recall for the information itself
and higher recall for where they can access it.
Essentially, we start to perceive the internet
as a true extension to our brain's memory banks.
This is called cognitive offloading.
And more recent research has found that the more we use
the internet to answer questions, the more quickly
we turn to it in the future.
Cognitive offloading begets more cognitive offloading.
And this is congruent with the habits we form
around other effort-saving technologies,
like washing machines and cars.
And some people would say that's okay,
that it's no different than how we moved away
from specializing in oral memorization
when the printing press was invented.
And well, we didn't really lose much
in that transition, right?
But this time, it is different.
The problem with the internet is we don't seem to limit
our mental outsourcing to simple facts.
Our critical thinking abilities are affected as well.
Take the case of Terry Hike,
who was an English teacher who asked his students
the question how do modern novels
represent the characteristics of humanity.
And don't worry, I'm not going to quiz you
on this question later on.
But the question was meant
to challenge the students' critical thinking skills.
And instead of thinking independently about the question
like he wanted them to,
Hike found that they immediately started to Google it.
The effort-saving technology was so close at hand
that it had become the default problem solving method
for his students.
And this example is typical of our behavior as a whole.
Unless we consciously work against it,
our brains naturally want to take the path
of least resistance.
When I was in college, the closest I could park my car
was about half a mile from my dorm,
which meant that I basically never used it.
Instead, I just walked everywhere,
or sometimes grabbed my skateboard or rode my bike.
But now that it sits here in my garage,
well, I have to make a conscious, disciplined effort
not to use it.
And make no mistake, it's worth making that effort.
Every time I choose not to drive, I get exercise.
I spend more time truly connected with my surroundings.
And I don't contribute to traffic and pollution.
But at the same time, without my car,
I wouldn't be able to get to many of the places
that I really want to go.
What's up world?
The internet presents us with the exact same dilemma.
While there are very real benefits to curbing
the amount of cognitive offloading we unconsciously do,
the access to knowledge
and the ability to get instant answers
are both incredibly useful.
Alexa, how many ounces are in a pint?
- [Alexa] One pint is 16 fluid ounces.
- So how do you strike a balance?
How do you allow yourself to use this tool
while also retaining your critical thinking skills?
This is incredibly important to consider,
given the fact that sometimes,
we're going to encounter problems
where the internet simply can't help us.
And other times, we're going to be in places
where we don't have access to the internet.
So here's a simple solution to this problem.
When you're confronted with a question
that you don't know the answer to,
or you're stuck on a problem, ask yourself,
do I have even a shred of confidence
that I could solve this on my own?
If the answer to that question is yes,
then challenge yourself to work on the problem
for a few minutes on your own before running to Google.
A friend of mine works at a company
where they've actually codified a very similar idea
into something they call the 15-minute rule.
When anyone at the company finds themselves
stuck on a problem to the point
where they feel like they need help,
the first thing they have to do is spend 15 more minutes
trying to solve it,
while also documenting the things that they try.
And this documentation process is actually quite helpful,
because it causes them to think about the problem
from a different perspective,
which often helps them solve the problem on their own.
But if they're still stuck after 15 minutes,
that's when they must ask for help.
And this rule helps everyone to strike a balance.
They stay in the habit of thinking independently,
but no one wastes too much time
banging their heads against problems they're truly stuck on.
And I think that this is a great way to achieve balance
in the way that you use the internet.
Because you don't want to lose the capabilities
that it gives you.
It is incredibly powerful.
But you also want to retain your own ability
and your instinct to solve problems on your own,
to use your brain,
and to be able to put it to work.
And the only way you're going to do that
is if you frequently put it to work.
In his book "Atomic Habits,"
the author James Clear talks about
how our habits are basically how we embody our identities.
One example he gives is if you make your bed every day,
you are embodying the identity of a person
who is cleanly and organized.
And the decisions that we make,
the behavior that we exhibit on a daily basis,
stems largely from our identities.
"Every action you take is a vote
"for the type of person you wish to become.
"No single instance will transform your beliefs,
"but as the votes build up,
"so too does the evidence of your new identity."
So what identity do you want to build?
Are you okay with being the mentally lazy person
who outsources everything to machines?
Or will you be the independent problem solver
for whom the internet is simply one useful tool?
The choice is yours.
All right, I am back into civilization.
And well, now back dealing with all the problems
that come along with civilization.
Now, if you want to become a truly creative problem solver,
you do need to spend time
trying to independent solve problems
like we just talked about.
But you also need good problems to sink your teeth into.
And if you're looking for a resource
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then you should check out Brilliant.
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They even have a course on how search engines works.
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instantaneously serves you search results,
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The best thing about Brilliant, though,
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And that helps you learn more efficiently
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And in addition to that library of courses,
Brilliant also has a feature called Daily Challenges,
where every single day, you can log in
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make learning and problem solving a daily habit,
but number two, expand your horizons.
Maybe sink your teeth into something
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Now, with Brilliant's free plan,
you get access to those new Daily Challenges
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And if you want to subscribe to their premium option,
you'll get access to all of those courses
and every single Daily Challenge that has been released
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And if you're one of the first 200 people
to go over to brilliant.org/thomasfrank
and sign up, you're going to get 20% off
that annual premium subscription.
Huge thanks, as always, to Brilliant
for sponsoring this video
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I'll see you.
Go do whatever you want.
I'm not your dad.