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The Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity (uchicago.edu)
707 points by cronjobber 86 days ago | hide | past | web | 376 comments | favorite

Bards pre-literate-times in Greece purportedly could recite Homer's Odyssey themselves after one hearing. Writing destroyed that all. (Maybe I don't have a citation right off, but I've read that on the web or heard it in some college class years ago ... in any case, ability to retain heard information has likely declined since then). But ... few people complain about how books corrupt our memory.

So we're the first generation shifting cognitive burden of some kinds of memory (all those phone numbers) elsewhere. I welcome it. My wife hates it, but she likes the books. In a couple of generations it all will be irrelevant.

> But ... few people complain about how books corrupt our memory.

Socrates absolutely did.

> for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.


I was in high school when I first read this opinion (I did not remember it was Socrates though). Also, I learned that Gaul, pre-roman France (where I lived), had a society where the priests/judges, the druids, were forbidden to write down their knowledge.

It fascinated me. The idea that books, that were more or less revered depositories of knowledge, could have been seen as anti-intellectual at one time. It pushed me into memorizing stuff. I think it had an unanticipated effect. I thought it would help my overall cognitive capabilities and make me maybe better at science and maths but instead, it gave me a taste for poetry.

If you learn poetry for the sake of it, not because you have a recitation exercise, after a while, it become easy. It is not like memorizing the digits of pi: good poetry has a flow. A flow of sounds, a flow of words, a flow of meanings and a flow of emotions. It is easy to dismiss them when you simply read it, but having to learn it makes you connect deeply to the meaning. Hearing it also has a different effect. I now understand why poems, that I used to find uninteresting when skimming over them in books were actually so highly regarded back in the time.

That was an interesting experience, but Socrates missed a trend that continues nowadays: the volume of accessible information grows. We need faster processing modes. We need written text so we can skim through a page and dismiss it in a few minutes. We can't do that with oral transmission.

That must not make us forget that deeper modes of thought exist. Once we have googled the words we did not know, wikipediaed the summary of the knowledge we lacked, we must fight the urge to keep the flow of information going, reach out to the off button, and dare to stay an hour or two with our mind. Thinking.

We memorize things by exerting recalls. We understand things by banging our heads over what we don't understand about them. Acquiring the knowledge is just the first step of acquiring understanding.

In this day and age meditation becomes popular amongst intellectuals for a reason, but even if you are not into meditation, do yourself a favor when you learn new things: think about them with only your brain for an hour or two. Thinking does take time but without it information gathering is useless.

This really speaks to me. I have trouble remembering things, even important things that I know I will want to remember in the future. I forget or it gets fuzzy. Sometimes I can remember better once my memory is jogged, but I can't recall it on demand. That means that things that I should be able to associate pretty easily are never put together unless it's made painfully obvious and explicit.

It's a been a point of frustration for me and the people I'm closest with for several years now. It doesn't seem to affect work nearly as much.

I've had a feeling that it's because I don't let myself just think. Your comment makes me even more sure of this. I've developed habits since I was a teenager to keep my brain constantly busy, always either consuming or producing something. But never integrating or just thinking. It seems I need to replace some habits.

Or ADHD. What you describe is one of the symptoms in the cluster of ADHD. Attention deficit is real. A part of your brain may not be developed quite fully.

> I've had a feeling that it's because I don't let myself just think.

I feel your frustration here. The best way I can describe what prescription stimulants do for me is give me just enough space and perception of time that I can pause and think. Otherwise my mind just keeps going on cruise control with shallow cognitive load chores.

Deep in a programming bug or reversing project my mind is stimulated and dopamine is being released. In the zone my brain feels fully alive and attentive (without meds). Outside of things that deeply stimulate me it is always a challenge.

Meditation, exercise, nutrtion, and CBT all help. They chip away at the undesirable behavior. For many it is enough.

You could try meditation/CBT etc.

But at the same time, basics like exercise, good sleep(+), low stress, healthy eating (fewer stimulants) etc can all affect memory - It's hard to diagnose any particular cause of poor memory with all these variables.

(+) As an aside, I've sometimes found too much sleep can cause me to be less alert!? Maybe it's related to "mind-busyness"? Like how the "Balmer-peak" seems to operate on reducing overthinking via the confidence/fuzz-increasing effect of alcohol.

Yes, give your brain some rest. You can try meditation. It really costs nothing save a bit of time. Put a timer on 15 minutes, sit straight (in a position that requires a little bit of effort so you don't fall asleep) and do nothing. No mails, no internet, phone out of reach, concentrate on yourself, your body, your breath. Forbid yourself to do anything else before the 15 minutes are over. That really helped me.

Memorizing happens when you try to recall. If you want to learn a list of things, spend half of your time trying to remember them. Let your brain push as much as it can to reach the memory before giving it the answer. This helps memorization a lot.

You are right. Consolidating and ruminating are essential. Feeling bored is important. Having the patience to tolerate it is a very important skill.

Thank you for one of the more beautiful comments I've read here on HN recently (or quite frankly for a long time).

Thanks, I am really surprised by the score it reached!

I feel that you would adore Dan Simmons first two "Hyperion" books. They're predominantly about poetry and how it's affected the human race, far into the future.

I second the opinion, although I loved the second two, the Endymion books best.

Interesting! I was told to avoid them when I was introduced to Hyperion. I'll check those two out...

Avoid the sequels, for sure. The original diptych is wonderful.

The Hyperion books also have some interesting (and prescient) things to say about humans relying on a vast network of information instead of their own memories. They are some of my favorites.

I think your balance (incorporating a deeper mode of thought and appreciation of memorization without abandoning modern information processing) is unusual and extremely admirable. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Recommendations on intro texts for poetry?

I'd love to weigh in here.

When I was young I took part in a lot of weekday groups in a Christian church (rural Ontario, pretty much the mode out there at that time). One of our regular practices was being rewarded for perfectly memorizing passages. I recall being able to recite entire chapters, and soon entire books after practice. I ended up doing some acting as a kid and had no difficult time memorizing scripts after all of that.

But later in my high school years and into university I loved poetry, and tried to keep a few favourites in memory (and still do) because they inevitably become relevant at some point, and I find it a comfort.

Just find something you enjoy reading first off. The technicals of craft are arbitrary if you enjoy it. If you don't read much poetry and ever want suggestions, I'd love to contribute!

edit: fixed a typo

Do like most people these days: learn song lyrics! Songs are really poetry. Some have very deep meaning and good flow. Some will probably resonate with your own feelings.

Otherwise I have only bad recommendations in French, but I learned almost all of Cyrano de Bergerac's play and still remember maybe a third of it. In it, "La ballade du duel" flows very well and "la tirade des nez" is a classic that is a very good exercise.

I have no clue about English poetry. Despite having a decent written English level, I could never get into poetry in English. I think my pronunciation is not good enough and I have a hard time knowing how some more rare words, common in poetry, are actually pronounced. I would love to have the courage to get into Paradise Lost at one point.

walt whitman

    I celebrate myself,
    And what I assume you shall assume,
    For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
whitman essentially only wrote one book: leaves of grass; with one poem: song of myself; but revised, reordered, and rewrote the book multiple times from 1855 to 1892


    WHO has gone farthest? for I would go farther,
    And who has been just? for I would be the most just person of
    the earth,
    And who most cautious? for I would be more cautious,
    And who has been happiest? O I think it is I—I think no one
    was ever happier than I,
    And who has lavish'd all? for I lavish constantly the best I have,
    And who proudest? for I think I have reason to be the proudest
    son alive—for I am the son of the brawny and tall-topt
    And who has been bold and true? for I would be the boldest and
    truest being of the universe,
    And who benevolent? for I would show more benevolence than    
    all the rest,
    And who has receiv'd the love of the most friends? for I know
    what it is to receive the passionate love of many friends,
    And who possesses a perfect and enamour'd body? for I do not
    believe any one possesses a more perfect or enamour'd
    body than mine,
    And who thinks the amplest thoughts? for I would surround those
    And who has made hymns fit for the earth? for I am mad with de-
    vouring ecstasy to make joyous hymns for the whole earth.

Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry

You can also try starting with an author whose themes or circumstances evoke a strong emotional response in your mind. This is likely to be more effective at getting you hooked in comparison to a text that provides a general introduction. In my case, it was Wilfred Owen who provided the initial spark.

By Heart, Ted Hughes

Yes, this is a good book.



> What has happened to the lost art of memorising poems? Why do we no longer feel that it is necessary to know the most enduring, beautiful poems in the English language 'by heart'? In his introduction Ted Hughes explains how we can overcome the problem by using a memory system that becomes easier the more frequently it is practised. The collected 101 poems are both personal favourites and particularly well-suited to the method Hughes demonstrates. Spanning four centuries, ranging from Shakespeare and Keats through to Thomas Hardy and Seamus Heaney, By Heart offers the reader a 'mental gymnasium' in which the memory can be exercised and trained in the most pleasurable way. Some poems will be more of a challenge than others, but all will be treasured once they have become part of the memory bank.

I'd add that if you want to understand what's going on within a poem you might find The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry useful.


Writing is the spatialization of time. Speaking is the temporalization of space.

The insights and characterisations of human behaviour found in ancient records sometime shock me with their accuracy and depth. Human nature has not changed and it was well, if not better understood, Millenia ago.

Wouldn't that mean, then, that most all "doom and gloom" we get today is as irrelevant as those of old?

They didn't have nukes or climate change back then.

Human nature + escalating technology is the scary formula we are exploring today.

The plague killed way more people than nukes ever did, and there was no way to stop it until people understood what spread it. Of course technology has bright sides as well. Without medicine and many other discoveries we would not be where we are today.

> The plague killed way more people than nukes ever did

No one is worried about the number of people who have ALREADY been killed by nukes, they are worried about the number of people who might be in the future. But I suppose I fundamentally agree with you. I think we may have more to fear from scientifically engineered diseases than we do from nuclear weapons.

Exactly. Every people in their own time considers their time as the most important, crucial and urgent. they consider past times as less important.

If you observe this then you can see that in the future people will look back at now and think the same. history tells us the same thing. it's human nature to think that doom and gloom now is much worse than before, simply because we are in this moment and without perspective.

But that's not what GP was saying.

We, today, have the ability to dictate what others tomorrow over- or under-appreciate as doom and gloom. Whether there is a cognitive dissonance is irrelevant, but what actually happens is very much only avoidable going forward, not looking back.

In the same context, The debate between Malcolm Gladwell and Matt Riddley is an interesting one http://www.munkdebates.com/debates/progress

The problem would be even higher by a seemingly dormant disease agent, which first infects nearly all of humanity and then wents time delayed into action.

Nobody suspects the flue.

The variance of the fat-tailed distribution of casualties of nuclear warfare post-M.A.D. is much higher than during WW2, and is may be more prone to inadvertent unintended catastrophe than an epidemic now that we can research them, but that's also unforeseeably variable.

> The plague killed way more people than nukes ever did

Yeah, but without bacteria we wouldn't be where we are today. Whatever that means.

I would not identify rather specific technologies accelerating the reach of the dysfunctional into "technology in general", just like I wouldn't lump together the bacteria that caused the plague and those that live in my stomach.

Yesterday's risks were exogenous. Few were existential.

Today's are engogenous. Several are existential.

Erm, endogenous.

Edit window expired.

They had climate change, and it was one of the main reasons "barbarians" migrated, and Rome had fallen.


I think if anything, the talk about moral decline can be ignored completely. It seems people have been complaining about moral decline since earliest written records.

Alternatively, it does decline and raise, in cycles, and the complaining may be what helps it raise.

I don't think so, but a regular decline isn't impossible.

Didn't consider that, thanks. Yeah, it works as a possible explanation, though I don't buy into it either.

Even the talk on moral decline has declined. I remember in my youth we where mor meta..

Were they irrelevant? -- I see plenty doom and gloom in my history books and, hell, twitter feed.

It was just a few decades ago that 80 million people died in a single war.

yet the world did not end. Countless prophecies aboutvthe absolute apocalypse have gone and passed. So yeah it is by large irrelevant.

Their world did end for those 80 million people.

If most of society dies in pain and hunger to climate change, would the survivors say "bah, just more fear mongering"?

For me, humanity is the sum of human experiences, not the mere presence of the species. The end of the world being relative and analog.

> Their world did end for those 80 million people.

The world did not end for the other billion on Earth living at the same time. You can't just throw figures like that without putting them in perspective.

This sum is already negative, btw. And it is hard to tell whether it is still negative or just negative. Few happy areas may put you into "it's everywhere like that" dream. But it's not, most species are simply present to supply to someone.

9 million already due of hunger every year, what is the world doing about that presently?

A lot. Billions of dollars are spent to combat it and research on food and agriculture to solve hunger has been going for years.

>The vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions, which saw a 42 percent reduction in the prevalence of undernourished people between 1990–92 and 2012–14.


> 9 million already due of hunger every year, what is the world doing about that presently?

Most of it is because of conflicts. Poverty is decreasing fast across the globe and there were relatively a lot more people dying from hunger in the 80s.

It's not a given that it did not end... think to yourself what would happen if Nazi Germany had developed a nuclear bomb ahead of the Americans?

If even the US government couldn't resist obliterating 2 cities in Japan with Nukes can you imagine what the Nazis would have done? There would have been zero consideration for the loss of human life, possibly large areas of continental Europe and the US would have been bombed.

I think "the world did not end" meaning "it never will despite what's been said and done in the past" is a really dangerous miopic notion

I don't think there was economic in massive nuclear bombing, NWs were and are mostly psychological. E.g. the absense of nuclear bombs didn't stop "even" US from grilling Tokyo urban areas with incendiaries with total death toll equal to those in Hiroshima + Nagasaki. Yeah, it could be done much faster with modern delivery systems, but we also have lots of effective non-nuclear mass- and precise-destruction weapons today.

In the end, though nazis didn't value non-arial lives, they were no idiots. Why would they destroy cities and pollute areas supposed to be the part of Reich? The end of the world is both hard and unprofitable. "Nazis would" is a scary tale nicely covering the actual face of war that always remained the same.

What is really scary today is that some countries develop supreme air/space control systems, so those in the club become immune to any sort of dialog.

> I don't think there was economic in massive nuclear bombing

There was no economic in V1 and V2, yet they did it, harming themselves economicaly more than they harmed the targets.

Additionally they knew losing WW2 is existential threat for most of them. If they could destroy London with one push of a button - they would.

> It's not a given that it did not end... think to yourself what would happen if Nazi Germany had developed a nuclear bomb ahead of the Americans?

Nukes at the time were still weak weapons. You could inflict a lot more damage (and a lot more damage happened on Tokyo and many other Japanese cities) by regular firebombing. You did not need nuclear bombs to inflict catastrophic loss of life.

Now when it came to thermonuclear weapons, the magnitude is entirely different, but that only occurred many years later. It would never have occurred at the time of WW2.

You just made me realized that this sentiment of pending apocalypse is maybe exactly what drove humankind forward along the past.

It just look like the notion is always morphing from generations to generations : the flood, the plague, the apocalypse, the nuclear winter and now climat change.

From biblical hazards to scientific hazards, maybe humankind is finally like the high school student who only work great when under heavy pressure for it's exams.

And maybe just maybe this is how you can best reconcile science with religion because no matter your beliefs, this is a test for all of us... Are we making enough "good" around to deserve joy for us, our children and all they children after them?

of course the world ended at the time. but the end of something is the beginning of another.

For anyone who wishes to delve deeper into Socrates' arguments and the effects technologies have on our attention spans/memories, I recommend "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains" by Nicholas Carr. I read it for a book report in a computer ethics course, and it does a great job at laying out the pros and cons of our constantly connected society.

It was written 7 years ago, but it's still relevant as Android and 4G were rapidly rising in usage around then.

Right but there is so much more information of every kind today than what used to exist at the time of Socrates. Attempting to remember all that information would probably be infeasible.

"More and more information, less and less meaning." - Jean Baudrillard

"The more words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?" - Ecclesiastes 6:11

"Let's start from the premise that more information, more empowerment, is fundamentally the correct answer" - Eric Schmidt

One of these two quotes is not like the others...

“I never commit to memory anything that can easily be looked up in a book.”

-Albert Einstein

Which is clearly false: the meaning of words being readily looked up, for example, or common multiplications.

Probably he meant "I never make effort to ...".

Which IMO is foolish - for most people - but probably reflects more that he easily memorised facts without effort (something I was fortunate to experience in my youth and which is now sorely missed).

He made that comment in reference to not knowing the speed of sound off hand, and it is not remotely foolish. It is a very bad student that wastes his time memorizing endless reams of facts, rather than trying to understand the deeper meaning of what they are reading.

>Education Is Not the Learning of Facts, But the Training of the Mind To Think

-Also Einstein

Information is only useful insofar as it furthers understanding. It has no value outside that beyond parlor tricks or game shows, especially in the modern internet age.

If you work on subject matter you commit it to memory simply through familiarity, this is a great boon as it simplifies many analyses to recall facts.

What good knowing how to think without having the standard inputs; this enables focus on the wider problem rather than interrupting to feed in necessary facts.

E=hf ... but hang on, does that make sense, the trained mind can analyse it. Sure you can look up energies, and Planck and frequencies but having any of those to hand makes your work more efficient. It doesn't just have to make theoretical sense except for v. v. few ... and I say that as an erstwhile theoretician.

Don't get me wrong. Learning facts as a goal is inherently misdirected. But facts are the atoms on which the trained mind works.

Moreover axioms are facts that can't be intuited or derived, they must be learnt of existing systems or defined of new ones.

I think the position espoused in those quotes is hyperbolic.

Case in point: Tycho Brahe's exceptionally detailed and accurate astronomical observations. His recorded work on the position of Mars allowed Kepler to establish the laws of planetary motion using elliptical orbits around the sun. Without that data (and logarithm tables and trigonometry), it may have been impossible to test theories of celestial mechanics and physics that kick-started the scientific revolution.

In the same way that reciting Homer's Odyssey themselves after one hearing is infeasible, right?

(poking fun, but only a bit)

That's feasible. Barely, but feasible.

Now try reciting the Library of Congress after one hearing. Or Wikipedia. That's a whole nother level of problem.

I really doubt it's feasible to memorize it in a single hearing without paraphrasing. The human brain couldn't have been different a few millennia ago, and we know that the greeks used the same memorization techniques we use today (e.g., the memory palace, chunking, ...).

We also see in history specific people tasked with recitation, and high status coming through that ability. Suggesting it's a rare and learned characteristic.

Nitpick: That only suggests that this ability is rare, not that it is learned. (Not saying it is purely talent; everything I know about the brain suggests otherwise. But not just the historical evidence.)

Only a small fraction of that information is actually useful in improving our lives or giving meaning to them.

I think you'd be surprised. It's kind of like your house. The only necessary things there are the bed and the ceiling. And yet life would be much more miserable without all the random stuff you probably store in various cupboards.

These days I think of it in terms of cost to benefit ratios. I've for instance spent countless hours on Reddit, and while I got some benefit from it it is clear that the overall cost was negative even if it is impossible to know the exact figures.

It's still unclear to me which parts of the Internet provide a good ratio.

I guess for most sites, the cost-benefit ratio is a function of the time spent, following a steep downward slope. When I spend 15 minutes on HN every workday, it provides me with interesting stories and insights. When I spend two hours, it ends up draining more energy than it replenishes.

Sure, but to get that tiny, useful portion you have to dig through mountains of information.

The amount of information in existence today is so absolutely mindblowing it's not even funny. No meaningful comparison can be made with Socrates.

I have a terrible memory for arbitrary detail, so studying it is a waste of time for me. Instead I try to learn principles. Hopefully, Socrates would approve of this as learning "truth".

Socrates would not have approved, but I do not see why we should care. He was a very important philosopher, but he wasn't flawless. His refusal to see the value in a permanent written record was a mistake, as was his over-valuing of memory.

Heck, Socrates' own students ignored his teachings on this subject and wrote extensively. That they are what we know him from, and not some oral or memorized tradition, is pretty damning for his opinions on the subject IMO.

You seem to be defending against a claim the study does not make. They're not saying "smartphones make us stupid because Google's in your pocket!" Rather, the study is saying that by having your phone on the desk or even in your pocket, you will exhibit decreased mental capacity because your brain is using some cognitive resources to monitor for notifications etc.

This may be over-simplified but appears to be backed up by the general discussion on pages 10-11.

I keep my phone on silent and turn off all vibrations. There's no way to notify me of anything until I look at it, but that's a feature.

I think there's a subtle difference between "monitoring for notifications" and actual notifications. Your phone might be on do-not-disturb mode, but that doesn't mean your brain isn't distracted wondering whether someone replied to your last message or returned your call from yesterday. Taking it out of your pocket and leaving it in another room or your car or wherever lessens the compulsion to frequently pull it out and check.

I noticed something similar during meditation: I had set up the stopwatch on my phone so that I did not have to wonder how many time had passed. It would just ring when 30 minutes had passed. However, when the phone was just lying next to me, I would compulsively check the time on the phone every few minutes. Only when I moved the phone to the other side of the room did I stop caring about the time passed (at least for the most part).

I realize that I am not typical, but I seldom even have my phone turned on, and don't even take it with me very often.

I was tethered to a phone for years. I am retired. I only take it if I am expecting to be idle. Then, I take it so I can browse while waiting.

It feels kinda nice, frankly. I am not a technophobe. It's just nice to not be beholden to my phone.

This reminds me of my experience giving up my wristwatch. I would glance at it frequently, but then didn't know the time because the behavior was strictly reflex. Finally, someone asked me for the time right after I did this and I had to look again because I hadn't internalized it. That was the day I removed my watch forever.

Your comment about being beholden to your phone reminds me a a great quote that I recalled on that day: "Wearing a watch is like being handcuffed to time."

I gave up wrist watches back in the late 90's when carrying a cellphone with automatic carrier time became a new sort of norm. I just wanted to shed accessories and check pockets for one less thing before heading out the door.

Later on, maybe by 2010, I had noticed that as my aversion to blackberry vibrations emerged, and I avoided my work-related cellphone more and more, I got really good at ballparking the time to within a margin of maybe two minutes, give or take.

Basically by now, somehow, I'm able to glance at a known clock with an accurate reading (or with a known offset to the accurate time), catch the time once, and usually remain pretty accurate for the next handful of hours, until I get stuck in a sufficiently distracting situation that demands concentration. Up until that point, I try to guess the time to the minute before looking, then look, and often, I'm right on.

I don't have any special method beyond that though. It's just a gut feeling I've accidentally developed. I think it started when I disabled rings and vibrations for email alerts and I'd (with an amount of dread) try to guestimate how many emails would drop before the next time I checked my phone, and the minutes since my last look.

I think the next level up, beyond this skill is memorizing relevant time zones and major cities in each, but I haven't been pushed into caring about something like that quite yet.

> "Wearing a watch is like being handcuffed to time."

I like the quote because that's how I feel when I look at any digital clock or watch. The millisecond accuracy of any NTP-aware device produces anxiety and is unnecessary.

An analog watch, especially if it's a wind-up mechanical watch, which is by its nature slightly inaccurate, is much more comforting. I feel like an observer of time, and not a slave of it.

A reliable clock produces anxiety over an unreliable one? Citation needed!

n=1, FWIW.

You should get a fuzzy clock. A cute version of those are the Word Clocks.

Just because you don't do something all the time doesn't mean you're a -phobe. Someone who is a car lover isn't sitting in a stationary Honda Accord all day just because they love cars. Someone who loves food isn't eating junk food 24-7. That's called addiction.

A car lover seeks out beautiful cars, and maybe owns one or two that they take out enjoy when they have time.

A technophile is the same. What this discussion is about is addicts, not technophiles or technophobes.

That was what they had participants do in this study, and they still observed the effect.

When you are used to notifications, you look for them even if you don't have your phone with you. It takes a while to detoxify yourself, and lose your "check reflex".

I suspect that actually having loud and obnoxious alerts would probably reduce the burden, because then you'd never worry you missed one.

Perhaps there is a second side to it in that you'll be thinking about what the best time is to next check your phone. Granted it's a little far removed, but it's plausible. It stands for other commitments that run all the time too, though.

Are you not married, or do not have children or old parents? I would not forgive myself for missing an emergency call because I was hoping to be more productive.

Before ubiquitous mobile phones, most of those calls weren't considered emergencies.

Totally this. The reduced costs to instant communication makes some people feel entitled to your attention at any random moment. It requires a strong and active pushback.

The iOS Do Not Disturb feature allows you to set an exclusion for a chosen group of contacts, so you could allow calls from your spouse or parents while blocking everything else.

I have it scheduled to turn on every night so I'm not disturbed by spam calls at 3AM, with a few family members excluded.

same - except my DND is set for midnight until 4pm. i still check the phone at lunch or when i get to work but i otherwise wont notice it unless it actually rings.

I do the same, although I spend far too much time on it despite such efforts. Totally blocking notifications from 90% of applications helps too.

I do the same, though I wonder if a part of my brain is still itching to check if I have any notifications.

As a manager in IT I have to have my phone on 24x7 for escalations and I hate it. On the occurrences that I take a real vacation and can turn my phone off, something in my head flips and I can truly forget about it. When it is on, there is something subconscious that will not quite let go and I can feel it.

I feel I would benefit greatly from being able to truly turn my phone off one day a week.

Are you really the only person it can be escalated to? What happens if you're sick, or your phone breaks, or whatever?

Would go up to the senior manager, or whoever else my team can get ahold of. During vacations I have another manager cover for me. There's always options, but it's expected that I be first point of contact.

I hope you get compensated well for this. I would not put up with those conditions.

In all seriousness, find some way out of this.

The stress may well be cumulative, and it's insidious.

It kinda reminds me of learned helplessness; just knowing that you're capable of changing the situation makes people perform better, even if they actually don't use that capability. It seems that there's something opposite happening here; just knowing that there's power keeps you thinking of using it.

Apparently you're right, but I did hit a nerve and prompted some interesting discussion, and got by far the highest point-count for any HN comment I've made. Count me cynical, but my first and kind of unintentional foray into fake-news-land worked out well.

This is why smart watches are actually pretty great.

So then the title is misleading. It is not the presence of a smartphone, but over using the notification feature of the phone that causes the issue.

Whether or not the title is misleading you read a headline and decided to drop your 2 cents without actually reading the article. The title isnt at fault here

And yet it is. Writing inaccurate headlines is equivalent to intentionally lying to people - because most people who see a headline will not bother to click through, and will instead remember just the assertion from the headline.

What about that comment lead you to believe I didn't read the article.

Your summary of the paper is incorrect.

> Bards pre-literate-times in Greece purportedly could recite Homer's Odyssey themselves after one hearing. Writing destroyed that all.

They had amazing memories, but they couldn't memorize large works like that after just one hearing. There are techniques that allow one to remember information like that, but it still requires effort.

Here are two great books on that subject:

- The Art of Memory by Frances Yates (covers Greece, Rome, and Europe)

- The Memory Code by Lynne Kelly (goes back further into prehistory)

And two quick articles about memory feats in ancient Greece[1] and Rome[2].

[1] http://blog.artofmemory.com/simonides-of-ceos-81.html

[2] http://blog.artofmemory.com/pliny-the-elder-on-memory-5824.h...

Haven't read the other one, but the Yates is great. Another indispensable book for historical context about the Classical transition from oral to literate culture (and its implications for memory, education, and Greek thought) is:

- Preface to Plato, by Eric Havelock

Thanks, I'll check that one out. The Memory Code is one of the best books I've read. Highly recommended.

> Bards pre-literate-times in Greece purportedly could recite Homer's Odyssey themselves after one hearing

Is this a true fact, or just a story people keep repeating because it sounds interesting?

If it were true... how would we know? Presumably you would cite sources from Ancient Greece where people reported that they knew bards who could memorize a whole story with one listen, but like, there are sources from Ancient Greece claiming to know of a woman who was so ugly that looking at her could turn a man to stone.

We can kind of sanity check the claim by looking at modern peoples. Anthropologists have extensive experience with pre-literate peoples, and they do have fine memories --but not magical ones [1].

1. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/in...

> If it were true... how would we know?

If it were true, how would they know?!?

It's like if my nephew came to my house and saw Star Wars, and then on the drive home with his mom, he told her the story and she (who never saw the movie) said "He recited the entire movie after one hearing!"

No, what he did was remember most of the plot outline (imperfectly), and describe several scenes (imperfectly), and reproduce the gist, more or less, of some of the dialogue... He's not some incredible savant, he's just a normal person who paid attention to a story. I mean, sure, he "can recite the whole thing after one hearing", but in a pre-literate society, how would you even double-check? It would take someone else with total recall to verify that the bard had total recall. So you have to assume storytellers have perfect memory in order to demonstrate that a storyteller has perfect memory.

No. It would take one person who had memorized the story, over however much repetition, to tell the story and then listen to the other person repeat it back. It's more like, if your nephew came to your house and saw Star Wars and then told you the story, and you, having seen the movie multiple times, said "well, that's actually not a perfect retelling".

> It would take one person who had memorized the story, over however much repetition

From whom did this person hear it repeated over and over, perfectly, without variation? And who did THAT person find, capable of reciting a quarter million words in a specific order, multiple times without mistake? And so on.

At some point in the chain, you either have a person with an unverifiable claim of single-hearing perfect superhuman memory, OR you have a story repeated imperfectly which no one is capable of validating.

In your Star Wars analogy, remember that there's no DVD copy, and no way for me to have "seen the movie multiple times" without just pushing the whole "perfect memory" claim back one generation.

Maybe 250 people perfectly memorized 1000 words each. Maybe your nephew is attempting to retell the story to a theater full of obsessive nerds who had also just seen the film and had each had a five minute slot assigned for memorization.

I don't know which story you guys are telling at this point, but I think you both have lost the plot.

There's also a huge difference between telling a formulaic story with traditional style and some sort of sermon like moral statement, vs photographic memory of a "where's waldo" book.

For example, look at formulaic rebooted sequel Hollywood movies. Given less than a paragraph outline, you can recite the details of most movies pretty well. Consider the first Star Trek Reboot movie, doesn't that compress down to only a couple lines, even if you talk for hours about lens flare and pew-pew sound effects? The second reboot movie compresses down to perhaps one or two complete paragraphs worth of raw data, its at least twice as complicated as the first movie.

Something like the iconic original Star Wars was tight because it provided a new formula, a pretty cool formula, but within that formula which admittedly is difficult to learn, the story is also not terribly long.

I guess I'm getting at teach a Bard about Hollywood Star Wars films for awhile, then learning specific movies only takes one viewing and is easy to memorize.

If you know the Adventure Time world and in-jokes, each episode is like two lines of text to memorize, maybe.

You could stripe the memory across multiple different people who are responsible for smaller fragments. Each person can be responsible for some number of shared fragments. See your issued handbook, subsection "Surviving information storage in ancient times". (They could also just write it down, they had that.)

I take it you're joking, but some vedas have features that work like error correcting codes that help them survive oral transmission unchanged.


Not joking at all. Thank you for the link.

I recently proposed error correction codes for an entirely separate purpose: https://groups.google.com/d/msg/enzymaticsynthesis/WvDidIldm...

I would like to also add my support for some of the ideas expressed earlier in the thread regarding the questions around whether literacy negatively impacts human memory, especially in children or in studied aboriginal populations. There are even studies that show that the vividness of mental imagery is reduced in people who wear eyeglasses: http://diyhpl.us/~bryan/papers2/neuro/imagery/Refractive%20e...

> They could also just write it down, they had that.

Of course. That's why I stipulated a pre-literate society.

"In the ancient times, when writing was scarcely used, memory and oral transmission was exercised and strengthened to a degree now almost unknown" [1]

1. https://books.google.com/books?id=8fYNAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22The+ora...

?!? Yes, that was the original claim. I challenged how we would prove such a thing, and so you quote a different random person making the same claim? That doesn't answer my question.

It wasn't rote memorization IIRC but a highly structured retelling that used all kinds of tricks to keep it poetic (epithets for characters that took up one, two, or three syllables for instance, used without fail in those situations) but still retained flexibility. Poets would tell the story of the Iliad differently depending on the audience, and I mean they're not going to tell the whole thing every night. But there would be epic competitions where they would.

This is correct -

there are many mnemonic devices strewn throughout the text of the Illiad and the Odyssey, for example, 'rose-fingered dawn' shows up many, many times as a 'stopping point' for remembering.

There are many, many different manuscripts of the Homer's works which all had minor or major differences, depending on who wrote them down - there's one project that tries to pull them all together: http://www.homermultitext.org/about.html

Only relatively recently has there been 'one' Iliad, before that it was whatever the orator remembered, and memory isn't perfect

I'm curious if it's true too. A current living source of folks memorizing stuff is the crowd of Hafiz https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hafiz_(Quran)

I wonder how that subset of the population would rank on their evaluation.

I had heard that recitations of the Odyssey were more improvisational. If I remember the gist correctly, someone proposed that adjectives, for instance, were chosen to match the meter of a particular line.


Those bards trained to do that, though, right? You couldn't pull a random Greek in off the agora and have him memorize an epic poem at will.

I can't find the quote, but I remember Mark Twain describing his training as a Mississippi River pilot. The master pilot training him said something like "What was the water depth at So and So crossing at mid day three trips back?" When Twain said he didn't remember, the master said "You would, if you didn't read all the time."

The medium of communication profoundly shapes our minds and thought patterns:

- Oral communication priorotizes memory (as mentioned) but also personal trust, since knowledge is always obtained directly from another person. Hence oral cultures tend to place high value on communal social structures.

- written communication priorotizes rationality since all communication can be scrutinzed before and during reading. It also prioritizes individual assessment and independence. You could argue that the broad adoption of print as a medium of communication lead to individualism, the scientific revolution, the Renaissance, and the Reformation (i.e. the fundamental contributors to modern Western Civilization).

There are obvious merits to digit communication, but the full effects on our minds and culture are not known. A blind belief in some salvific and inevitable march of progress is unwise. We may be trading immediacy, emotivism, and impulsivity for rationality and that should give us pause.

The Greeks would make performances designed to be performed in front of a live audience.

The comparison to today is not whether you can find someone who can recite a book on first reading, but someone who can recite a song the first time they hear it, or parts of a stand-up routine.

I'm kind of curious how one would measure whether you recited the odyssey in it's entirety after one hearing if you don't have a written reference and only have fallible human memory to rely on...

> Bards pre-literate-times in Greece purportedly could recite Homer's Odyssey themselves after one hearing.

Epic recitation was probably not fixed until someone wrote it down. Different recitations of the same plot varied (and were expected to).

To be fair, if you remember only the main events of any story, it's not difficult to recite it from memory. For instance, I've read the Lord of the Rings trilogy many times. I had no problem reciting the entirety of it to my grandmother after my first read through. You may think that a story recited this way would be shorter, but it's not difficult to improvise or embellish. The Odyssey has an extremely simple plot by today's standards. It's been quite a while since I've read the book, but I'm pretty sure I could skim through the cliff notes and tell a pretty compelling version of it.

> Bards pre-literate-times in Greece purportedly could recite Homer's Odyssey themselves after one hearing

That sounds highly unlikely. Do you have a legitimate sources to back this up? Certainly bards had great memory and were able to recite whole epics (perhaps with a level of improvisation akin to "freestyling" in rap), but under what circumstances would they only hear an epic once?

You probably did not read the article, as it does not talk about smartphones being a substitute tool for some tasks we used to do using our brains. The study is about the attention efforts required by our need to always check our phones for new information, you can view it like our attention being prisonnier of our phones with no extra resources left for other activities.

>"Bards pre-literate-times in Greece purportedly could recite Homer's Odyssey themselves after one hearing."

This is extremely unlikely. What the Bards could do was improvise on themes. And often that theme was ancient Troy. They would actually improvise to music in a well-known meter, not unlike a Jazz musician would.

"Yet if Homer was strictly an oral poet, how could he keep such long works as the Iliad in his head? It would take days to recite all of the Iliad or the Odyssey! It is now thought that Homer worked some time between 725 and 675 B.C., when the alphabet borrowed from the Phoenicians was just coming into use among the Greeks. It seems likely that writing helped Homer in collecting and composing."[1]

[1] http://cerhas.uc.edu/troy/q402.html

Without any sort of recording or script, how would one verify that the retelling was accurate to the original?

You can still train yourself to be better at remembering things today, and supplement your digital memory (in your phone or online or whatnot) with better meat memory. It just comes down to recognizing how your brain works and applying that understanding to specific memorization tasks.

Apply stories and mnomics to information you want to remember. Leverage your spatial memory by associating particular locations in a familiar place with a memory. Get into the habit of reviewing your situation at opportune times, i.e. when you get home or enter your car, and remember things you wanted to do there.

A good approach to this makes it a lot easier to effectively apply your digital memory, and is also useful in situations where electronics are inappropriate (i.e. recognizing someone IRL).

I wonder if there is a link between life originating from the sea and the ability of using our hearing as the main sensory organ to detect other objects.

And maybe we over relied on some senses and made an education system which relied on certain sense organs more than other senses. But talking about Smartphones,we may be coming to a full circle with Voice assisted AI is gaining ground.


I would suggest you to read The book 'A brave new world' By Aldous Huxley which predicted how the information overloaded numbness works in a beautiful way

People (mostly) don't complain about books because we fail to recognize the trade off, or else we accept it, but there are certainly useful places for memorization of large amounts of information. Not only is it more easily summoned when you need it, but it's more fully internalized. By comparison, I know almost nothing about the books on my bookshelf, despite having spent significant amounts of time reading each of them.

"[Mozart] heard Gregorio Allegri's Miserere twice in performance, in the Sistine Chapel, and wrote it out from memory, thus producing the first unauthorized copy of this closely guarded property of the Vatican" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miserere_(Allegri)

How can anyone remember 10+ mins music piece for 9 voices is beyond me. Granted, Mozart had some music superpowers, but still...

I would guess that if you're world class at some creative process you massively compress the amount of "raw" data you need to recreate something, just due to the sheer number of patterns you are aware of.

For example, if I asked an advanced programmer to read a professional implementation of some basic data structures and algorithms, they could likely later recreate the exact same thing. Obviously they didn't memorize the file character by character, but a sensibly written implementation is going to have the same shape and form as something the expert has done hundreds of times.

> shifting cognitive burden of some kinds of memory (all those phone numbers) elsewhere

I recognized that my mind started to become a mental index of information at some point. This is to say that I hold memories of compressed information that I can expand with key search terms to hook onto the information I am actually seeking. One recent example was searching for "Milton Friedman Thalidamide FDA" because I knew it would snag an Uncommon Knowledge discussion I shared with a developers group recently.

I seem to recall someone referring to this as "transactional memory" in that now more focus is spent on teaching ourselves the process to learn something, rather than memorizing the information itself. For example, I can Google a complex formula or obscure fact, rather than commit it to memory. Arguably this allows us to focus on other things, but I do agree it seems like it has dumbed down the average level of discourse.

I just experienced a great boost in capacity for remembering because of massive piano playing / practicing by heart. It is a massive improvement of quality of live to remember things easily without dependency of external tools. I was surprised to remember the train, wagon and seat number by looking on the reservation just once without the training for example. This was never possible in the past, and I hated it.

The bulk of the Old Testament was transmitted orally prior to being written down. It was a time of oral literature.


If one is up for reading a book written by a Christian, this book describes the world well.

Writing made it possible to check if somebody recited something accurately.

Reciting a story accurately pre writing had a different meaning (not word for word)

I think knowledge you delegate is not as much important as the attention the device is stealing from you.

Attention is precious, and our society gives it away like free candy. Anything with a screen magnify this, and this has important consequence on learning, social interactions, self growth, mood, hapiness and health.

The podcast "Stuff To Blow Your Mind" just had an episode about "Extended Cognition"


Maybe I'm being simple but, if it's in pre-literate times, how do you know someone is telling exactly the same story? Couldn't they just tell a story with the same major plot points and fill in the details as they go?

Books serve the same function as memory, but they did it better. Smart phones don't serve (much less improve on) the function of "attention", so I'm confused by your analogy.

Its still about memory. Attention span is a measure of memory. Writing stands for the absence of something (a voice or community). Smartphones compensate for so many kinds of absence at once.

Attention is not a measure of memory, on the contrary. Memories are a a measure of attention as if you don't pay attention you will hardly form a memory.

smartphones are not what you say they are, without internet smartphones are close to tracking, privacy invasive, useless bricks. Something like computers with no arms and both knees broken.

Seems like you're mixing very-short-term memory (moment to moment) with very long-term memory. I'm not a neuroscientist, but my experience as a human suggests these are very different capabilities.

You can have good memory and low attention span. Other way round too.

I agree, however, the introspection may be useful. Knowing about this effect may help those who have had a nagging suspicion this was the case.

> Bards pre-literate-times in Greece purportedly could recite Homer's Odyssey themselves after one hearing.

[citation needed]

I want to learn Japanese.

3 months ago I changed my phone's language to Japanese. Everything is Japanese - maps, services, apps that read from the default phone language.

Oddly enough, instead of learning Japanese, I just use my phone less.

That's kind of funny.

Similarly, I stopped listening to any music on my iPhone once I got an iPhone 7. Unexpected side effect of having no headphone jack, but I always forget the dongle somewhere. So, no more music from the iPhone. I listen to old am/fm talk radio again instead.

For a second I thought you were implying that not listening to music is a good thing. Glad to hear that's not what you believe.

Oh no I think it's a very bad thing. My implication is that I either shouldn't have bought an iPhone 7, or maybe that Apple pulled the headphone jack a decade too early.

I always leave the dongle on in-ear headphones, that way I never forget them. Sure, the problem still exists for listening in a new environment (a friend's car, as someone here gave as example), but not with your own headphones.

(mind you, I do not listen with in-ear headphones when I actually want to enjoy music, but they sure are a lot easier to bring with me than my "real headphones")

Edit, as a bonus, as I almost always have my in-ears with me, is that I most often also have access to the dongle while in new environments as well.

I really enjoy the sound from in ear headphones, but I had an issue where wearing them too often was causing ear wax build up near my ear drum. I actually temporarily lost hearing in my left ear because because of this. Basically, the ear buds did not allow the ear wax to naturally flow out of the ear. This caused wax buildup near my ear drum and reduced the ability for my ear drum to vibrate. I had to rinse my ear with warm water every day to eventually clear it up. Just a cautionary tale.

My experience was just that the wax buildup is gross, and the popping sound from the headphone losing, regaining, and losing seal was really loud and uncomfortable. Now I just use high quality over-ear headphones, which sound better to me anyway.

well they did come out with a replacement for corded earphones, just that cost is nearly ten times as great as what they replace and there is now a market for creating an lanyard so you don't lose the individual Airpods.

I have no inherent issue with the removing the headphone jack since the included earpods do use a lightning connector. Not sure if those existed at launch

Not using headphones too often is a very good thing, unless there are at a sufficiently low volume (which is never the case).

My life changed slightly when I decided to enable the EU recommended setting for volume on the iPhone. Not sure if this feature is available outside of EU but it's great.

It is on android.

Oh, you're talking about hearing damage. I'm simply talking about listening to music in general.

Buy AirPods. Honestly.

I considered it but I'm not a big fan of headphones, I usually listen to music at home or in a car.

One of the most annoying situations was when I had a great podcast I wanted to share with someone on a long drive, pulled out the iPhone 7 to plug into their car stereo and.... new-ish car.... but AUX only.... no dongle..... never mind!

I believe Apple removed the headphone jack 5 or 10 years too early. Bluetooth is not that great, and it's also not that widespread. AUX is not a floppy or CD drive, it is everywhere and works great and allows for high quality audio, no troubleshooting, no compression, no hassle. The alternatives (dongle? Bluetooth?) is comparatively nowhere and does not work great.

Wait what? You forget the dongle but don't use headphones? How many different cars do you drive/how many aux cables do you use? Just keep the dongle on the cable.

Personally I bought Bluetooth headphones and that's it, imo people are being too dramatic about it.

Bluetooth radio transmitter for the car is like $100 (for a good one). Quality is only slightly worse than radio (for a good one).

Problem solved. Enjoy

Worse than radio? That's not what I have experienced.

I'm using a 1,5€ BK8000L module (http://www.electrodragon.com/w/BK8000L) that I soldered to my old stock autoradio, replacing the tape audio circuit, and the quality is much better than FM.

Sounds like you're connecting the device directly to the audio system. With a radio transmitter, you're broadcasting on an fm band that the car picks up via the fm tuner.

Of course if the person is willing to attach something to the car audio as you have, that's the best!

I'm not sure what you were suggesting before, then, when saying that a bluetooth transmitter is worse than radio... ah unless you were talking about some kind of device => bluetooth => fm => autoradio contraption?

I didn't think about that, yeah, but the OP said they had an AUX input, so quality should be good with a (even cheap) bluetooth adapter on that.

Parent forgets the dongle, but will somehow remember to pack the AirPods? I love mine, but I don't think they'll solve the problem described.

I've lost my dongle twice now, but only because of being in a hurry during travel or packing. Otherwise it's always attached to my headphones and I don't really have that problem. Although I've considered getting BT headphones to use so I would just stop having that problem. But then I'd never be able to play music at people's houses, so...

I am always confused about posts like these. iPhone 7 comes with lighting headphones. Why can't you use those? No dongle required.

A lot of people already own headphones that are usually more comfortable / sound better than the standard Apple earbuds.

I suppose it's not "can't", but "won't."

It's a one-device investment, you can't even use them on macbooks without a dongle converting it to 3.5mm jack let alone people who have 2 phones and the other being an Android, can't use the headphones on Android tabs or laptops. No point getting locked in.

I rather not listen to music at all, but to do it with Apple's headphones. Never been a fan of those.

Go to Japan, get a girlfriend who doesn't speak English. Takes about 6 months after that to become fluent.

Oddly enough, I just use my girlfriend less.

(On a more serious note, 6-month girlfriend fluency in Japanese is something I've observed a few times, and it's a great stepping stone but mostly just barely functional. Especially when your situational choice of e.g. verb form broadcasts so much about your educational background)

putting oneself in a position where you interact with a person whose first language is not English does tend to increase the odds you will learn a second language provided both are interested in that outcome

Maybe enable TTS so that you heard what you're reading? I once played Metro 2033 on my own "hard mode": Everything on hard, HUD on minimal, text in Russian, spoken on Russian.

When you play the game, listen to what's being said and read the subtitles, you can actually learn the alphabet while playing the game. I still can't read Russian fluently, but I can now decipher/map each individual letter to a Latin version and such at the least understand what's being written! Sadly, a lack of time made me stop playing.

Duolingo introduced japanese language recently. Here you go, now you have a reason to use your phone.

My most productive year, which included majoring in Japanese, was when I was living in an apartment without access to internet (no smartphone either by this time). Since then I wasn't able to focus so intensely on learning vocabulary or kanji.

The last few days I really feel the effect of having to check my phone every hours or so. This article motivate me to turn it off for the week. Thanks!

I did the same thing! The difficult part is looking up kanji I encounter in app UIs, you can't exactly copy+paste them and manual lookup is annoying.

I feel no shame suggesting that you get the Pleco app. It is the best Character/Kanji dictionary that exists today. You can also draw them to look them up + tons of other stuff.

I only run open source software on my phone. However, I think there are some similar FOSS apps for Japanese on F-Droid, I'll have to take another look.

I wonder about this. Can't you just lock down the app to the point where you don't have to worry about it phoning home or accessing certain information? Or is it just ideology that's stopping you?

Not to my satisfaction, no. But I can't also install it in the first place because I don't have the Play store on my phone. Ideology is a part of it too.

You don't need the Play store for Pleco. You can download the apk from their website for free.

Instead, you should set it to Netherlands (Dutch). The words are largely reminiscent of the corresponding English words but you might get a giggle out of some of them.

That's not how you learn japanese.

I imagine it's probably a decent way to practice it though, assuming you have enough working knowledge of the language to still get around your phone.

Edit: Well, except for the part where they admitted they just started to use their phone less.

It's a good method, but not for a beginner.

I have, in reality, seen 2 people do this and they were both already quite grounded in the Japanese language (several years).

I lost mine about six months ago and I haven't replaced it. First couple months I noticed I got VERY irritable when I got a momentary flash of boredom, especially waiting in line in stores, etc. Figured that might've been a budding mental issue, and decided to work on my patience and expectation-setting as a result.

This has been part of a larger life exercise in practicing general moment-to-moment mindfullness, and I think I'm going to keep this up for a while and see how long I can go without a smartphone before people start asking me questions at work. So far, so good.

It's like I've withdrawn from a drug and some of my attention is back under my control, where my mind can better keep its peace. I guess I didn't exercise proper discipline when I had the phone.

Try keeping a sketch pad for quick illustrations or perhaps a notebook for poems. The world is filled with inspiration! Not only will you be more present, but you'll be turning your seemingly humdrum life into a work of art!

Great suggestion. A notebook is primarily used for creating, a phone is primarily used for consuming and distracting ourselves.

I love that interpretation of jotting down information as creating a mindfulness work of art. What a thought! I used to do the cliche "note to self" with a voice recorder, that I've recently been desiring again. My cell phone is too slow to respond to my inspirations having to log in past the keycode, launch the app, dump mental information. Stepping through those hoops seems to decay my inspiration. You make me think about reverting back to old technology like the pen and paper. Come to think of it I get the sense that the mental decay from fishing for those materials in my pocket is less than futzing with a cell phone.

I just installed Microsoft OneNote to my Android phone and it added a quick launch app to my lockscreen much like how the camera can be launched while the phone is locked. I'll see how much mileage I get with this solution.

I actually carry a cheap USB wacom tablet around with my laptop for such purposes... I swear by it, it gives you almost the full freedom of paper without the restrictions of manual media (undo, scaling, duplication, restyling, etc.)

Have you ever tried a boogie board? https://www.myboogieboard.com/

Writing on it is very natural/paper feeling, there's no erasing or anything. With the more expensive models, it can sync the notes to a computer/cloud service.

wow, it's pretty affordable. How do you write multiple pages on it?

The way the screen works, it can only erase the whole screen in one go. I think with the cloud-connected ones, you can save the page off before erasing it and then view them later.

What a beautiful attitude :)

I did – I love it!!!! And a great suggestion.

I already have three pocket-sized notebooks filled up already with tons of art and ideas from my fountain pen!

(Love that pen. Now I write in a crude Spencerian script for extra fun points.)

I've often thought of going back to a dumb phone. The thing is, I want easy to use texting (only to reply with, I abhor texting but the rest of the world loves it), a phone, and this is the killer - good GPS. None of the dedicated GPS devices can hold a candle to what google maps has. I travel to new places too much not to have one.

I'm using a Nokia Asha 210 at the moment, its got a proper keyboard, GPRS, Wifi but no GPS.

Opera Mini is enough to browse most websites, and the lack of javascript support is a serious plus.

Half the features on the phone are dead though, the Nokia servers are gone.

I don't have a 4G contract. It's much better than a dumb phone because I can actually see the messages I'm replying to, and many other features also come in handy, but there's no constant distraction.

Mine simply died and I also skipped buying a new one, this was in last September. I didn't even have a cell phone for months :) Now I just use my dumbphone. I lasts a week on one charge.

I didn't miss the calls, or anything. Only the possibility to take pictures on the spot.

I always struggle with the photo thing.

It's fun to review old photos, so I enjoy taking lots of them. But anytime I put my camera between myself and whatever I'm photographing, it also feels like a removal of being in the present moment and just enjoying it for what it is.

This argument get brought up quite a lot, but rarely by someone sharing his own experience which is interesting.

I never really felt like this. Snapping a photo takes a few seconds and I can continue enjoying whatever I was doing, not that I'm not enjoying taking a photo :) To me it's just shrink-wrapping my mood.

I've actually noticed that I pay more attention to my surroundings when I want to take a photo - I think about what's actually engaging me, what I'm trying to record in a photo, notice the background environment, etc. Most of the time I end up not taking any photos because I know I won't capture what I want, but I like the increased mindfulness that thinking about it gives me.

I used to feel more as GP describes, but that's changed since I started carrying a DSLR every day - not that I don't still use my phone's camera, but I find there's a distinct and very palpable difference between taking quick snapshots as aides-memoires, and the much more mindful and absorbing state that, at least in my experience, is part and parcel of photography for its own sake.

I can do the former without removing myself from the moment, while I find the latter requires it - at least thus far, I haven't worked out a way to both remain present in an experience, and also engage in the kind of analytical thought and modeling that goes into producing photographs which are (or at least strive to be) worthy in their own right, whichever camera I happen to be using to do so.

I do miss the camera sometimes. :(

get a dedicated pocket cam

This is good advice - point-and-shoot cameras are really good these days! For $90 you can get one [1] that's the equal of any smartphone camera ever made, and the better of the vast majority - you might find a >16MP sensor on a smartphone, but you'll have a very hard time finding a smartphone with a 5x optical zoom capability. Spend a few hundred dollars more and you can get one [2] with an almost absurdly broad range of capabilities, including a 20-megapixel sensor and a 35x optical zoom capability that'll cover a broader range of use cases than any smartphone camera could ever hope to manage.

[1] http://www.nikonusa.com/en/nikon-products/product/compact-di...

[2] http://www.nikonusa.com/en/nikon-products/product/compact-di...

Polaroid also launched Snap:


I love the style and simplicity

I own this thing. From my experience it's pretty terrible. Inconsistent colors, horrible focus, open all the time if you throw it in your bag. Would not recommend.

Eh. Unless instant prints are a thing you really need, I'd tend to go with a discrete printer. You can get an inkjet capable of good quality on photo paper for pretty cheap these days, and there's got to be some tradeoffs in cramming an imaging system and a printer into a handheld form factor - for one thing, the sensor's only 10MP, and the prints are only three inches by two.

If I go with polaroid I go with polaroid, not a digified thingy: https://eu.impossible-project.com/collections/polaroid-600-c...

Though I have to agree it looks pretty cool.

Almost three bucks a pull? And I thought Velvia was an indulgence...

Do you not have a phone now? Does it affect your relationships with people at all?

I have family and friends in other cities and a girlfriend across town. Texts are just too convenient not to have when you need to coordinate. Just last week a friend passed through town looking for a new car and we met up for dinner - never would have happened without a phone. GF gets into a minor accident (not her fault, she would like to point out) and I can be over there in minutes thanks to a couple of texts. Father breaks his knee and I can follow how he's doing in real time, rather than finding out at the next family gathering.

I could do without the "smart" part of the phone. I really just need texting/calling (mainly texting). But I don't want a land line, and I'm pretty sure my relationships with friends and family would quickly deteriorate without my cell phone.

> I could do without the "smart" part of the phone. I really just need texting/calling (mainly texting). But I don't want a land line, and I'm pretty sure my relationships with friends and family would quickly deteriorate without my cell phone.

Why not just buy a "dumbphone"?

I have a cheap-as-costanza dumb phone with texting which has served me very well. I definitely need a phone! Can't whistle that loudly.

I'd love to stop using my phone so much, but I can't break the habit. Short of losing it, any tips for dealing with the stress when it flares up from not having the ability to fill those gaps with refreshes of Reddit, news sites or playing games?

Mindfulness, and studying the little details of your immediate surroundings. Meditation on-the-spot.

When I realized how dependent I became on the phone for my well-being I decided to go through a painful-ish withdrawal to get back my own sense of self. Definitely wasn't comfortable, which prompted me to continue the practice!

How long did that take you? Was was your low point?

First couple months I was the most impatient and impulsive. However, my whole life is an effort in staving off boredom and red traffic lights, so I try and practice mindful meditation every day to stay patient and "still" in my mind when there's no reason to be thinking furiously.

Low point was feeling impatient to check for updates when a loved one was dying and I was visiting at the hospital. Where in the world was my head? I was there to spend quality time with someone while they were still in the here-and-now! And I was anxious to check notifications from some random social website that'd be there tomorrow? WTF.

That's when I knew I had an Internet addiction, and that the phone enabled it.

I think it can help to have a hard intellectual problem you're working on. Your future startup idea or some talk you'll give or whatever. Then you can think about it when you have a gap.

you can set it to black and white (iphone under accessibility). i've heard this makes it less attractive to stare at. you can disable apps under restrictions on iphone - like safari. i've tried all of this and i inevitably just roll these changes back after a while.

Carry a book, or a fidget spinner.

How do you deal with 2FA?

I have a little widget similar to this hooked on my keychain for AWS: https://safenet.gemalto.com/multi-factor-authentication/auth...

And for other services? I need 2FA for couple dozen different logins. And not all of them support such hardware devices. Mobile phone is needed.

Google Authenticator works fine with an offline device, and SMS-based 2FA is insecure.

Right, but you still need a device. So you can just switch your smartphone into airplane mode and only turn the airplane mode when you want to make a phone call / use wifi.

You need a device, but you don't need a cellphone plan.

Not OP, but I suppose one could set up SMS based 2FA on a cell phone that is not a smart phone for most major services out there.

I see. Well, the way I understood it he got rid of mobile phone altogether. So no smartphone, no dumb phone (like old Nokia). That's why I wondered how do you deal with 2FA.


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