I’m a big fan of Ezra Klein. His slow, measured approach to viewing the world and the people in it has an attractive distance. It’s easy to enjoy the analytical take on a world slowly burning down around you.
Cal Newport is a bit of a cult author. His books have a very fervent following. I have not read his books, but have enjoyed both podcast episodes where Ezra interviews him on those topics. I think he articulates several things very well.
First point was to define “silence”. Cal Newport borrowed this definition, but I really loved it. Silence is to be in the absence of another’s thoughts. It’s not about it being quiet around you, but that you are alone with your thoughts. No one is talking to you, you aren’t reading or listening to a podcast. They then discuss that this form of silence which was hard to go without fifteen years ago is now nearly impossible to find. It’s very easy to spend a day constantly looking at your phone or on your computer consuming other people’s thoughts. I though that definition of silence was a good one, and one I’ll be thinking about achieving more in my days.
Cal also stresses the importance of replacing digital time with “analog” leisure time. Leisure is still absolutely necessary. When deciding what to replace the digital time with, Cal recommends starting from a set of values. Do you value literature and long-form human thought? Consider dedicating some leisure time to reading. Do you value time with others? Consider dedicating some leisure time to be with friends and family. The one caveat here is to leave room in your day to be alone with your thoughts, whether that’s meditating quietly, solitary exercise, or lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. :)
The last piece I found interesting was the following passage from Ezra, summing up our current state of affairs:
My read of this is that we don’t have a theory of technology. It’s not even “digital maximalism.” What we have is Neoliberalism. And the underlying idea that basically greets everything (unless it’s one of a small group of things that falls into a ‘protected’ or ‘state’ category – essentially drugs or laws) is that: if something is winning in the market, then consumers are choosing it, and if consumers are choosing it, then it is good. Consumers are revealing a preference and who are you to question it? … What we care about is not interrupting the workings of the market.
He goes on to describe the case of the original Luddites who were essentially making a case for some value that should supplant the supremacy of the markets and maximizing growth. Much of the problem with today’s technology is that it feeds into this neoliberal idea of consumption and market growth without taking into account the psychological manipulations required to sustain the growth of many of these technologies, especially social media.
It was a great podcast episode and I’d recommend it to others interested in the idea of digital minimalism.