This was a surprisingly swift and interesting read. My first book by Nicholas Carr.

I will focus on the highlights I have made while reading, not attempt any sort of full book review which the inclined reader can easily find on Amazon or GoodReads.

What is slightly peculiar about me reading this book now, in 2019, is that it is already a bit dated, having been published in 2011. The internet has certainly changed since. To me, that made it all the more interesting to find what had been projected then and being able to compare it to the recent past. All in all, I think the book is certainly worth a read.

So what is the internet doing to our brains then? In short, technology is changing us, behaviorally, and actually changing our brains thanks to neuroplasticity. The impact of the internet is so much bigger than that of previous technologies, simply because the Net is sucking in more and more of us, our work, our hobbies, our relationships, activities, knowledge, and … what does it not absorb, really? Becoming aware of that is important if you care to consider any countermeasures in order to create some balance to the pressure.

Nietzsche’s Writing Ball

As Nietzsche apparently had serious trouble with his vision, he found a device, a piece of technology, which let him continue his writing. He ordered and began to use the newly invented type writer, the so-called Malling-Hansen Writing Ball – a fascinating instrument (read more on Wikipedia). It reminds me a lot of the types of ergnomic and sometimes split keyboards.

 Fifty-two keys, for capital and lowercase letters as well as numerals and punctuation marks, protruded from the top of the ball in a concentric arrangement scientifically designed to enable the most efficient typing possible.

The keyboard of the Malling-Hansen Writing Ball
The keyboard of the writing ball, inventend in 1865. Source: Wikimedia

This piece of technology “saved” Nietzsche, but it also changed his writing, as a side-effect. In a letter to Köselitz he wrote:

 Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.

Interruption Machine

The challenge of interruptions is a personal as well as a professional one to me. There is more to unpack here, and I intend to consider and use some of the insights from the book to improve our training product Fundamentals.

 The Net is, by design, an interruption system, a machine geared for dividing attention.

We have been emphasizing how frequent interruptions are sabotaging any “deep”, focused work. And it is one of the pillars of Fundamentals to keep interruption low, not only in the way you can control and adjust things like notifications on your end, but considering the causes for interruptions when communicating and sharing information with and within your team.

Especially when trying to solve complex problems, we really can’t afford to have a culture of interruption.

 […] frequent interruptions scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory, and make us tense and anxious. The more complex the train of thought we’re involved in, the greater the impairment the distractions cause.

People Over Tools

As much as we like tech and tools, it is our responsiblity to use them - not get used or tyrannized by them. This is why we focus so much on people, their skills and their mindset in the TightOps framework. It is on us to be and stay aware of what we do and how we do it. We have a lot of control these days, more choices than ever maybe. But we are also distracted and we tend to follow the well trotted out path instead of taking creative and conscious initiative to design the way we want to work and build things together.

 Every tool imposes limitations even as it opens possibilities. The more we use it, the more we mold ourselves to its form and function.