Treadmill for the mind

This quote from Steve Jobs has always struck me as extremely inspiring and angelic:

“When we invented the personal computer, we created a new kind of bicycle…a new man-machine partnership…a new generation of entrepreneurs.”

Steve Jobs, c. 1980

A bicycle for the mind is a truly beautiful concept.

The current state of technology is more accurately a treadmill for the mind.

A treadmill that is accelerating faster and faster. A treadmill that is alternating between inclining and declining. A treadmill that is facing a wall that you are staring at for eternity.

This motion can make life feel like a rollercoaster, both because there are ups and downs but perhaps more importantly (and similarly) because YOU END WHERE YOU START.

You look back on the last run you did and you realize you got nowhere. You were in the same spot as where you started. This does not feel like progress (at least to me). 

One way to escape this trap is to fall off the back of the treadmill.

Easier said than done surely. Show not tell.

This falling—off an object that is moving SUPER FAST—is emotionally scary (especially when the treadmill is moving SO fast) but effective and largely involves accepting reality (for all the good and also the things the west currently labels as bad: loneliness, sadness, etc.).

Once you fall off the back of the treadmill—once you accept ZEN OR NIRVANA OR WHATEVER PURSUIT—you can then take steps on your own accord. There will be casinos and billboards advertising the treadmill.

They will tempt you. But they are traps! You know they are traps. You know they are bad for you. You know they will not bring you long term fulfillment or happiness. You know this so well! Yet you are still baited into them. They are junk food. They are sodas. They are candy and you are the baby.

We will look back on them—these addictive substances of greed and validation—as TOXIC EVIL THINGS THAT RUIN PRESENCE.

> Exposure therapy can sometimes be useful. Small reminders of _why_ e.g. falling victim to the casino game is not the right pursuit for you can remind you to not be tempted in the future. FOMO is a powerful force that will naturally lure you in but reminder that _you have the power_.

Regardless of the treadmill existing, we modern humans still have core challenges and cravings.

Many of those cravings, for many people, involve words like LONELINESS and VALIDATION. 

Relevant aside: I think humans have a loneliness problem (question of whether this is a persistent problem or something unique to our times, for another essay) and today technology addresses that with DISTRACTION instead of confrontation.

Current technology sells short-term bandaids that are depressants over the medium term and killers of your soul over the longer term. Killers of soul is a strong phrase but I believe is accurate. Another aside commentary from me is that I think the world needs more soul. We need more craft. We need people who CARE ABOUT DOING GREAT WORK. (We are losing this in troves as schools manufacture conformity rather than uniqueness).

But right now – we carry around these mobile casinos and fall victim to notification overload. Because again, the treadmill and the bandaids are inviting. They look like they can help.

But my belief is that I really really hope this does not last. This cannot be the future of civilization (that’s my begging/anxious voice talking). I believe that there must be something better out there.

More is written about what would happen if you went to a casino every day for a year. Who would do that? Some is written about the medium term but I don’t think we quite yet understand what DECADES OF TAKING SOCIAL MEDIA DRUGS does to your ego, mental state, and ability to feel present. I think we will look back on this—this CRIPPLING OF HUMAN’S ABILITY TO FOCUS as a HOLY SH@#%@#%T MOMENT.

Could there be something better? What would that look like?

Take Jobs’ start with the customer and work backwards. Forget about the technology for a moment. Forget about the status quo.

You wake up. How would you want your life to work? What would the best version of life look like? You have no constraints? What would you want? What would you not want?

Is it getting on the treadmill? Is it opening your phone as soon as your eyes open? Or is there something better out there?

What does it look like? What shape is it?

  • Is it a newsfeed filled with a bunch of people and things you don’t really care about?
  • Is it a device that can ping you at any time and interrupt your flow state?

THE ANSWERS, to me, FEEL LIKE NO. Not even close.

So then what is it? What does it FEEL LIKE to use?

It’s likely a stack of things. It’s likely hyperpersonalized to your tastes and preferences. It likely uses AI. It likely has a hardware component.

https://hu.ma.ne/ is trying to do something here. I bet they have a decent shot. But I wonder if there’s another approach worth trying or at least thinking about.

A few ideas that come to mind that are ~interesting:

  • Build a retreat bootcamp that helps people get off the treadmill
  • Create a service that includes having an assistant who effectively filters out your life so you can live presently

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