[Previous] Pragmatism | Home | [Next] Having Reasons


Objectivism discusses automizing the use of your ideas. For example, you automized walking. You can walk without consciously thinking about it. Walking works automatically. Walking is actually pretty complex and involves moving multiple muscles and balancing, but you can do all that automatically. Pretty cool!

Some people think automizing sounds mindless and are wary of it. What if I automate how I handle a situation and then I keep doing the same actions over and over without thinking? How do you automatize anything without losing control over your life?

Let's step back. There's a simple concept here. You do some stuff and the first time it takes time, effort, attention, work. But if you do it often, you learn how to do it easier. This frees up effort for other stuff. Learning better ways to do things, that consume less resources, isn't bad. That isn't losing control over your life.

You need to make good choices about what to use when. If you have a method of doing something without thinking about it consciously, that's a good tool. You can still choose when to use this method, or not. If you know how to clean your house without thinking about it (letting you focus on listening to audiobooks), that doesn't make you clean your house. You still get to control your life and choose if and when to clean.

People's methods of doing something – automatic or not – can be used as building blocks. You use the walking method while doing cleaning. The cleaning method involves doing multiple simpler methods together. (If you're a programmer, think of these as functions. You can build a cleaning function out of a walking function, a looking around function, an identifying dirt from visual data function, and so on. You would not want to write a cleaning function only in terms of basic actions like moving individual muscles.)

People build up many layers of complexity. They automate things like a life schedule, and routine cleaning, and routine cooking and eating for mealtimes, and so on. Those automizations threaten their control over their life. They get so set in their ways, they have trouble choosing whether to keep doing that. The problem here isn't automization itself. It's having a bland repetitive life and basically habitually not thinking. That's a totally different sort of thing than creating building block methods – like walking, or cleaning – to use in your life or in other methods. And figuring out how to do them better, faster, easier.

Elliot Temple on February 28, 2016

Comments (2)

Pretty simple idea and well explained. I came up with a similar idea, when I was reading John Gray. He made a silly argument about how consciousness does not have a role in the skills we develop, because whenever we become conscious of what we are doing, we usually make a mistake. I think he is half correct, but only when you have fully internalised the skill. Bringing too much consciousness to a particular skill, while you are trying to employ it can disrupt it, because then, instead of doing something you know how to do, you are thinking about something you know how to do. This can be caused by self-doubt etc. But when you do not yet know how to do something, self-consciousness is all important to eliminate those mistakes and to slowly automate it.

Anonymous at 10:52 PM on March 25, 2016 | #5093
When you read John Gray, did you write anything down? Link or explain why not?

there are lots of skills people do using conscious attention even when they are top experts, such as playing chess.

actually people put conscious attention into pretty much everything they do, unless they suck. you're getting confused because when they get great at stuff they'll have automated *some parts*, and be paying conscious attention to other parts.

Anonymous at 11:40 PM on March 25, 2016 | #5095

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)