How to Live Well in a High Tech World

July 11, 2019

Cal Newport is a computer science professor at Georgetown University and the author of 6 books, including New York Times bestseller Digital Minimalism. His writing focuses on the impact of new technology and social media on our ability to be productive and lead satisfying lives. Not surprisingly, his research suggests we’re becoming less connected and getting less done as technology permeates every moment of our day.

For this podcast, I got to sit down face to face with Cal to discuss his ideas on digital minimalism. He describes how big business has manipulated us into constantly checking our phones, and is now profiting off of our attention. We discuss the consequences of pervasive technology, and the damaging effect it can have on our drive to create and connect with others in meaningful ways.  Fortunately, Cal also has a solution for turning your attention back to the things that really matter.

Here’s the outline of this interview with Cal Newport:

[00:00:35] Cal's background.

[00:02:18] Book: So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, by Cal Newport.

[00:02:54] Book: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport.

[00:03:43] Book: Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, by Cal Newport.

[00:04:17] Joshua Fields Millburn; The Minimalists Podcast, featuring Christopher Kelly and Dr. Tommy Wood: Health Problems.

[00:04:42] Brad Stulberg; Podcast featuring Brad; Book: The Passion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.

[00:05:39] Book: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

[00:06:37] The myth of preexisting passion.

[00:07:50] We didn't sign up for this.

[00:08:32] Why we’re always looking at our phones.

[00:12:26] Social media as an arms race for your attention.

[00:13:56] Evolutionary psychology; attention engineers.

[00:14:29] BJ Fogg's Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford.

[00:14:56] Tristan Harris; Adam Alter.

[00:15:52] Effects of intermittent reinforcement on behavior and dopamine.

[00:16:47] Video: Dopamine Jackpot! Sapolsky on the Science of Pleasure.

[00:17:19] Minimalism; Marcus Aurelius; Henry David Thoreau (author of Walden); Voluntary Simplicity; Marie Kondo.

[00:19:01] Digital hoarding.

[00:24:17] Digital decluttering: Stepping away from optional personal technology for 30 days.

[00:26:29] Book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

[00:28:27] Boredom as a drive that gets us to do things that have meaning and value.

[00:32:24] Book: Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, by John Cacioppo.

[00:33:11] Book: Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude, by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin.

[00:38:58] Connection vs communication.

[00:44:56] Josh Turknett’s Intelligence Unshackled Podcast; Podcast with Josh: The Migraine Miracle.

[00:46:30] The effects of technology on biology.

[00:48:55] Digital Declutter Experiment for 30 days: step away, you get back in touch with what matters, use that as the foundation for very carefully rebuilding your digital life.

[00:53:44] Conversation office hours.

[00:57:46] Craftsman's approach to deciding whether or not to use a tool.

[01:02:18] Article: Neuroscientists can predict decisions 11 seconds before we make them, based on this study: Koenig-Robert, Roger, and Joel Pearson. "Decoding the contents and strength of imagery before volitional engagement." Scientific reports9.1 (2019): 3504.

[01:02:45] Will this have any impact? What's next?

[01:05:31] Apple Screen Time reports.

[01:08:30] Upcoming book: A World Without Email (tentative title).

[01:15:15] Cal's website.

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