Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Why thinking on paper is a fast way to focus

Writing by hand is the original concentration hack.

RYDER CARROLL: For the last ten years, I've been a digital product designer and I noticed that my journaling actually allowed me to think in a completely different way. So even when I would be designing different kinds of software applications from watch interfaces to video game interfaces it always started out on paper. And over time I realized that the more I could actually take my thoughts offline, the clearer they would become and the more I could focus. Because you could sit down and start typing out—you can journal in an app but I notice I'd be journaling in an app and the next thing I know I'm ordering shoes online and you have no idea how you got from one point to the other. But when you sit down with a notebook and as soon as you engage with the page you are unplugged. So it forces you to really engage with your thoughts in a way that I feel has not been accurately replicated in the digital space. So for me, the act of bullet journaling is an act of thinking. It's an act of unplugging and actually processing the information. And in my community, I've found that that's also provided significant value to people who get caught up in the rush of everyday life. It's a moment that you can take back. It's a moment where you can really have the luxury of sitting down and starting to digest the things that you otherwise can easily be overwhelmed by.

I think one thing that we often forget is just because something is convenient does not make it efficient. So a lot of times with data entry, if you type, for example, it happens a lot faster but in that process a lot gets lost because you're just kind of parroting the source, and I think that it's really important to actually hear what's being said than just simply kind of spitting it back out onto paper. So when you're writing a lot of the time what you want to do is reduce the amount of information that you're capturing only down to what truly matters. So you're distilling information in real time. And in order to do that, you have to think about what truly matters. And I feel like writing by hand allows us to think significantly more about the information that we are writing down.

I mean the actual act of writing activates very many different parts of our brain simultaneously. From the science that I've seen, it doesn't happen when you're typing. So, for example, students that were separated into two separate groups—one was allowed to take notes via handwriting and the other via typing, and the group that wrote by hand retained the information significantly longer and significantly more accurately.

So I think that when you concentrate and you focus on writing you are engaging with content significantly more. You have to. The weight of the pen, the ideas, the concepts that you're trying to distill down to what matters, how your handwriting looks, how quickly you're writing and all those things immediately focus your attention, more so than I would say typing would.

So decision fatigue is when you find yourself literally exhausted by the amount of decisions that you have to make, because we're constantly inundated by so many different things from so many different channels. All that information requires our attention, and a lot of that information actually requires us to act. And acting on information is essentially making a decision. So do you want to go watch this movie? Do you want to go on this trip? Do you want to respond to this email? Do you? Do you? Do you? Do you? You have to constantly keep asking yourself and you're making decisions.

And over time, the more you allow yourself to be inundated by, without taking a step back, the more exhausted you get. It might not be physically, right? You can make decisions all day long and you can still run a marathon but our mind also has a limited amount of energy. Your ability to make decisions becomes worse. It can really quickly degrade when you're constantly making decisions. And again, for me, journaling is a big part of that because a lot of these decisions don't add value to our lives. We're thinking about things just because they're there, not because they actually mean something to us. And a lot of the time I think we forget that just because something could be done doesn't mean that it needs to be done. And it certainly shouldn't be taking up our time and our energy and our focus.

We live in an age of unlimited possibility and possibilities all require us to make a decision. And I think it's really important to realize that we are very limited: our attention is limited, our time is very limited. If we start to structure our days around that concept then we can start to protect the time that we do have and start trying to make decisions based on things that do matter to us. I think before we make the decision we have to make the decision to be very careful about what we let into our lives. And if we don't, we suffer from decision fatigue.

  • Writing by hand activates different parts of the brain simultaneously. Studies have shown students who hand-write notes versus typing them retain information for longer and with greater accuracy.
  • Our digital feeds are causing decision fatigue, says Ryder Carroll. Every push alert, notification, and email is asking us to make a decision, which saps our time, energy, and focus. Journaling is a way to steal a moment back from the everyday rush.
  • Be more selective and intentional about what you let into your life. "It's really important to realize that we are very limited: our attention is limited, our time is very limited. If we start to structure our days around that concept then we can start to protect the time that we do have and start trying to make decisions based on things that do matter to us," he says.

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

Videos
  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Keep reading Show less

Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

Keep reading Show less

Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

Quantcast