« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#226 — The Price of Distraction

2020-11-27 | 🔗

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Adam Gazzaley about the way our technology is changing us. They discuss our limited ability to process information, our failures of multitasking, "top-down" vs "bottom-up" attention, self-interruptions and switching costs, anxiety, boredom, "digital medicine," neuroplasticity, video games for training the mind, the future of brain-machine interface, and other topics.

SUBSCRIBE to listen to the rest of this episode and gain access to all full-length episodes of the podcast at samharris.org/subscribe.


This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to the Makin says podcast. This is SAM Harris just a note to say that if you're hearing this, you are not currently on our subscriber feed and will only be hearing partial episodes of the podcast if you'd like access to full episodes, you'll need to subscribe as SAM Harris Org, there you'll find our private rss feed to add to your favorite podcatchers, along with other subscriber only content. and as always, I never want money to be the reason why someone can't this into the podcast. So if you can't afford a subscription, there's an option at SAM Harris Org to request a free account and we grant one hundred percent of those requests. No questions asked I am here with Adam Gasale Adam me? My pleasure, thanks for having me. No, you are a neuroscientist with many diverse interests and several
and in a fire. Maybe you can summarize what you do: now professionally sure, so I've had a sort of strange career font. Five adventure, I'm trained as a MD and a Phd she's pictures a neuroscience, I'm I'm a neurologist and I'm a professor at University of California San Francisco, where I direct efforts at a research center that I started called Neuro Scape and what we do is look at. The sort of interface between technologies and science and health, and then I also have started a couple of companies along the way and including a venture fun all the same general goal of trying to help improve the function of our brains and frequently through the use of technology, and you also wrote the book the distracted mind which covers a lot of ground that I think we're gonna wanna revisit here, because this is such a fascinating moment where we are seeing the
but it's all around us that our technology- it's always a two edged sword, but it just seems in the information space, especially so at the moment on. The opposite would not want to give up our connectivity and our access to the media totality of human knowledge, which has been, lived by, the internet and smart phones in there. so what we ve got here, but it's so clearly fragment in our lives, and it seems- rewiring, our brains into just different expectations of reward. Different habit patterns and they were all on aim somewhere. On a spectrum of python. And we know that there's no bright line between having a normal mind and a normal brain and haven't addition like obsessive compulsive disorder or narcissism? I mean it's just these are we were talking about curve?
and ingredients not bright lines here, but it does feel like are our use of technology hey, you know, actively and and passively is pushing us in direction. So I think well, and to this and then talk about how technology might also be a remedy for all that ails us here, let's start with information about you. You point out in your book that we are in full seeking creatures. How do you think about our relationship? Information to well yeah? You know it's interesting, you write a book and you try to make it timely, and, as you know, books take a long time until they eventually come out and you're, always in danger of it not being relevant anymore by the time it gets into people's hands and if anything, I've become more relevant, as you just referred to, and I think the cove did pandemic that were experiencing now is, is showing a lot of the fragmented
Shin in our minds and the stressors caused by technology and it really comes down to information. That's a great starting point. You know we! we taken information and that's what allows us to interact in this world and we were ever we arily sort of well suited to do this. This is how we survive I've, we avoid threats and seek out nutrients and made, since this is how the brain evolve to allow us to Fluidly dynamically interact with the world and that advances our survival and the brain, that we have now are the product of that, and you know, they're quite adept at dealing with complex information and helping us react both reflexively as well as through decision making. But what I think is clear now, probably too many listeners just through their own experience,
and certainly through data, that we don't have unlimited capacity to process information and if the system is overloaded due to all sorts of types of interference that we can talk about, there will be consequences and those consequences are really broad. and people see them feel them in different ways. He's in a manifest in people's lives and quite complex manners. But that's sort of the the crux of that story. That information is key to how we survive and thrive. But there's a breaking point and there's all sorts of consequences here. You use this at various points in the book information foraging drawing an analogy between animals well will forest food and their a you know that there are few curves based on data in terms of wages even found the opportunity cost any this
which, in costs of exploiting an area for food and then deciding to you, know based on instinct the case of an animal to move to a new area looking for food, and we accept a similar pattern in the way we self interrupt and attempt to multitasking or your ear. You're on the phone with someone, and then you decide to check, your email, your slack channel in the middle of that call surreptitiously, not realising that essentially losing thirty. I Q points for the purposes of that conference. and every time you do that and we this everywhere mandate, there's this arrogant, by the limits of cod. She's here and the the actual effects of multitasking, obviously malted Haskins possible in certain cases, because you people can listen to apply, cast or listen to an audio book and also successfully drive a car or or even do work that doesn't require
the same kind of linguistic cognition and you can. You can draw you could practice graphic designer, something probably without any degradation in your skills. But for so many other tasks there is a zero sum contest, but things that we attend to. So how do you think about multitasking at this Mama, what we know about scientifically yet so you know the term is confusing and complicates which already a very complex landscape of of Brain and behavior, and the reason why is because, if you think about you know, multitasking just doing lots of tasks at the same time something that wall familiar with, and we feel like we're really pretty good at man. It's also most people feel sort of pleasure in multitasking that something
fun and more fun than single tasking, so we're constantly drawn to it and it feels natural and you sort of feel that you could get better at it and the reason the terms complex, because it's a from a behavioral point of view, sure we multitask all the time, but what's implicit in it, that creates the confusion. Is that sometimes we use that term to mean like parallel ass that you're you're, you know from you know, borrowing from that. The computer terminology then signal processing, literature that you're literally parallel processing these two tasks and that their getting equal processing power, so you're truly multitasking in that way, and when you look at the brain, we've done these studies in our in our center at Ucsf, where, where we'll have someone a scanner, we
with eg. They have more than one demand on their attention and will see that fragmentation occur. Not just in their performance, which is quite obvious for pretty much anyone but will see it even nerli that there's really switching between the networks that are involved in accomplishing either of those tasks independently and that you can't really multi task in that. True sense of of parallel processing, two things that are demanding your attention now, if you can offload it and it becomes reflexive and becomes a skill that doesn't require attention, then you can do more than one thing, but the minute that changes, that's when the conflict and the interference occurs. So, just to say just to go back to your example of listening to a podcast and driving a car sure that could
and it does work most of the time because driving is often very reflexive and you're pulling in a lot of bottom up: information from the environment, making reflexive decisions without your top down attention, and so that allows you to focus your attention on listening to the podcast and digesting it and understanding it. But then something happens on the road and something unexpected and something that demands your attention, and that is the point of interference and conflict, because now your attention has to move from the podcast back to the road. It may not get there fast enough and, and then This is where you feel that that weight and suffer the you know in this example, incredibly detrimental consequences of not being able to truly drive and listen to that Pike S with all of your resources devoted to both
them equally, so I recommend that people pull over to the side of the road if they're in danger of missing or subsequent, I her your priorities straight so used to frame- it is there that are terms jargon in not just neuroscience but cognitive science. Engineering generally bottom up an and top down it. How do you think about those and- and their strikes me that there's a pretty clear, a symmetry in terms of of the bandwidth in those pathways yeah? Let's break that down a bit it sort of core to this discussion, about information, processing and in the brain, and those terms are used in a lot of different fields and the not so different in the context here and cognitive, neuroscience and cognitive science. In that the way I think about it from the perspective of of attention, I think about most of these things. From that perspective, I find it's really useful, so
attention is an incredibly broad concept and a complex one that would take us an hour to tease apart all the subtleties, but one way of thinking about it isn't two categories: one is bottom up attention and the other is top down attention and bottom up. Attention is when your limited resources, because we have those limitations and both top down and bottom up, have limitations that are limited. Mental resources are being drawn or being activated by the environmental stimuli itself. So
allowed sound a flash of light. Your name something this very important. A salient to you is going to demand your attention and pull your resources towards it very rapidly in this is obviously a strong survival advantage, if you don't have great bottom up your likely to giddy in pretty fast, and so that's bottom up attention. So it's a very ancient part of our attention, a system that was really in a critical for our survival on all animal survival and then there's top down attention, and by that I mean the goal
directed attention. It's when you make a decision, a conscious decision based on interpreting information from either the external environment or your internal environment, about where your attention is directed, and so you you can be. You know, attending to something like this podcast right now and you have every goal to absorb all this information and your attention make it pulled away by a bottom up force and so we're constantly managing these two draws on our overall sort of capacity of where we put our resources, both the bottom up in the top down, and if you pay attention to it, you'll, see it every day. All day at every every moment is that you know these two attention forces are constantly playing play: a tug of war and how do you think about this? experience we all have of self into,
wrapped in that it may be a phrase you actually using the book and recall, but it's this experience so, you know it's all too familiar. It's now practically unconscious the time of your penetration to something you're you're doing work at your computer say and then you decide check your email? Obviously, the technology is planning, a massive role here in terms of notifications, if you're receiving texts or you're receiving notifications will then then it's being driven by the machines but even without that, we just often experience this Dag. In in our ability to sustain attention for the task at hand, and we decide Probably probably reward is the right framework to think about it, and we seek this dopamine head by switching our attention to something else. And we're almost never
very aware of the switching costs them just how much time as well most reorienting to the thing you were doing when you do come back. What do we know about this whole process. Yeah mean, as you said it perfectly we can be. Our attention are top down, attention are goal, directed focus can be interfered with that interference can can occur on many levels. It can occur from external stimulation, some sort of the bottom up things were talking about. I would say if your phone vibrates in your pocket- or you hear a ping on you computer. That's like a perfect example of a bottom up source of attention and technology companies certainly are aware of that, at least at some level that you can pull attention with that. And so you know that
one that were very aware of, but you you could create interference internally to, and so they may be internal distractions tunnel bottom up information like an aching joint or your back, just sort of nudges, your your stomach rumbles, and so those would be like almost like physiological bottom up stimuli? The coming from your own body, but they're, knocking on on your brain and say hey? I need some attention over here and then they could be much more complicated than that and occur not sort of in a bottom up way, but that just you you have now for some reason decided it could be subconscious or it could be conscious to divert your attention from your original goal, and that may be to something external Well, so maybe I think that I could listen to this podcast and also bang out a quick email right now or it may be directed internally
so I'm going to listen to this, but also think about what I'm going to have for dinner tonight and so we're constantly fragmented, our limited you, no attention all focus with both external and internal distractions and multiple tasks and there's a cost for this, like you said whether that cost is something apparent to you or not, it is there? It has been well documented, both narrowly and and behaviorally yesterday, That is obviously a cost in terms of the, time lost in having to remind yourself where you were in the original task. Regiment and people dont really keep track of that. What well, but that yet the research sector, ask that you do lose a lot of time. Every time you switch, but there's also seems to me that aim kind of emotional cost to all of this, and it's somewhat paradoxical because I think urge to multi task is on
Ten born of this, this internal sense of time, poverty that many of us feel That is the kind of feeling of urgency that comes with just the same, so we don't have enough time, do everything we need to do or want to do. so your hands it. It seems like a brilliant idea to be doing two things are more at once and we really want feel that we can do that, and I guess TAT S probably reward component to it, but also just eight and anxiety. Component and one would break this up as it there. These internal and external factors. Here we have the our internal states I boredom anxiety, stress feeling of urgency, and this is your driving us in this direction, and that is the the external factors which is just the technology itself. This design
and to game us in a way and sought. So many of these platforms that wind age there. Their entire business model is based on maximizing the capture of our attention. And it s not new, but it is really been weapon eyes to an unusual degree by our technology now so maybe take the internal side of this first. What is this Doing to our emotional lives and and had he added, you see it as direct It is of very common state of mind, like anxiety
in an boredom yeah me you you some. I said absolutely perfectly that that's how I think about it, exactly that there are two forces and in turn, an external force that drives us to shift our attention all the time, whether its multitasking just being distracted by by external or internal stimuli- and you know just to tie this end with something we ve talked about a little bit of a foraging. You know in the in the book. I really spent a lot of time developing this, which really is a hypothesis that we're forging for information in the way that other animals forage for food and there's a theory. That's used actually. Actually it's a mathematical approach to help, understand and actually predict
natively of how long an animal wolf forage in a particular patch, like a squirrel. In a tree before moving to another one, and it could be actually predicted to really a high degree of accuracy and they also have two forces that are driving them to make that decision, so there's a cost benefit ratio going on of how long you stay in your patch versus how hard it is to get to another patch right. So if you depleted fifty percent of the nuts in in the but the next tree is really far away, you're just going to keep eating those nuts, but if the next tree is full and it's right, there may be enough for you to jump over, and so that has been well described in how animals that forge and patchy environments make So did these internal decisions about remaining or leaving a patch, and you could think of information as a patches? Well that were forging and whether it's a website
or an article that you're reading or any task that you're engaged in, and there are these internal and external forces that decides what are the cost benefit ratio of you staying there or just keep switching and on the internal side. I think what's clear is that you know there is often a diminished return of remaining and a patch sort of eating the nuts right, like you, read three quarters of, article like you, sort of have the idea already so that that's true and that's just part of why people switch ever right and that sort of unavoidable. But then this seems to be these other aspects it you talked about that are becoming quite clear now in that disease forces that drive us out of a patch that are not related to the diminishing returns related to the information itself through related to these sort of internal drives that we're just intolerant to being bored. Boredom feels just something that we cannot just sit
with and allowed to wash over us, even though it doesn't actually hurt us, and then this also that anxiety that you're missing out on something else that Fomo that there's something going on. That's deserving of your time that you're missing and then this also the anxiety that you're not being maximally productive, that you have the capacity to get another thing done simultaneously, and so is those elements accumulate over time along with your diminished return that you're getting from the patch you're in there's a driving force to push you out met in the if that next tree, really close. If it's really just a tab in browser or your phone sitting in your pocket, then there is no resistance to switching and you just keep moving here, The next tree, informational speaking, is always just right. There. You know, in the estimates, it's a tab away and yet and there
infinite number of trees. Now, in one sense, boredom has almost been driven into extinction by technology. Because what you know this is again, we have perpetual access to the total of the world's information, and I still remember, It was like to walk into a blockbuster vince, looking for a movie to watch and spending some intolerable amount of time roaming. The aisles there looking for a film I hadn't, seen or wanted to see again and I remember how inefficient that way, and how prone to failure I mean it got to a point where there was no guarantee come out of a video store something to watch right. Yet I remember that I'm innocent that never happened in a bookstore, those still functionally infinite number of I wanted to read, but with film. I really I felt like we were coming up against the limitations of supply there and
yet now we have access to so much information and entertainment and its becoming so frictionless may we most of us are still juggling too many absent and too many sources, but insofar as it gets consolidated in place like Netflix here is just like has almost been banished on one level except on another level. It appears to be growing in the sense that it feels like are our reward cycles in art engagement with media are getting shorter and theirs oh downtime between them and literally the next episode begins to auto play on most of these plans. Forms and you have to opt out of watching it rather than decide what you want to watch next. So it's just we're now part of this, binge watching machine and it's not watch em in binge reading, binge scrawling
social media and the frictions out of the system are, expectation of reward is coming in. It feels to me much shorter increments of time, and I would I would expect that our attention span wishes to say our are tolerance for boredom or the uncertainty of what what our attention is. Gonna land on and satisfying way is growing shorter so I wonder if I feel I boredom is almost gone, but on another level I feel like we are being tuned to be less and less resilient. To boredom than we've ever been yeah. I think that's, that's exactly right and it's sort of a fun area of some harmless self experiment, and taken. You know you, you have these moments that, throughout the day, where your forced to stop doing things like one that I love is just you know, those things are
now, because people people are in but like when you waiting on line at a grocery store and your you sort of have only two people in front of you it's not really gonna. Take that long. You could just pause there and think about things just relax, you're mine, but I mean I feel it just like things like most people do. This is DR to just reach in your pocket, with no actual intention of necessary play or need to look something up, but just to let that information flow start again, even at a light. You know at a traffic light. You know you know it's going to be thirty seconds, and this is part of the danger that do you know that you can feel If you just allow a little bit of introspection and time to occur on those natural pauses in our life, you can feel that onset of boredom an arm. You know it's something that there is like. You said, just a very, very low tolerance for, and I would I would
challenge people to get familiar with that feeling of boredom not to be afraid of it to realise that. It's not gonna hurt you, and you know it sort of like a little hungers, not as high the worst thing at times as well. You don't need to eat every second, when you get these stimuli so being in control and being aware of your of these internal states is really critical, and so I think, with the intolerance aboard and there's a lack of appreciation or recognition of it as well so what do you recommend people do what's up lines. Do you think they should should look for? their their lives and whether we think about this in terms of health patterns or discipline or engaging with technology differently. Different technologies, and I think that we want to talk about some of the work we are doing in digital medicine. At the end, but what do you
recommend people do on a daily basis. Yeah. This is such a great question it it was sort of it, trusting point in my life ass, a scientist the minute. I know you have it nearest its roots as well. When I started getting ask that question, because I dont like fancy myself as a self help put tape. A person but I understood the need for it. You know I've been studying distraction, distraction, multitasking from a neuroscientist perspective and when it came to writing a book, on the topic that I wanted to be more than a neuro science primer on on this, it was a very the real question that I had to ask myself. How do I answer that and saw how I really went about it was just described to people. Would I do so? I you know this You know my own desire to live a focused life of meaning and
do I get their knowing all of this information that I found in my own research. What are the things that I do, and so that's sort of the route that I went up about this and also the grounding in the marginal value theorem. The forge optimal, forging models that we talk about gave a lot of those clues, because once you see the pressures that make us switch all the time so that sort of what are used as a foundation, give advice to both myself and anyone else. Once you understand the pressures that drive this behaviour, then you sort of have the framework for reversing that and creating new habits. So, as we already described, there's both external and internal pressures on the external side, because that one's a little easier is just the accessibility. There's, no doubt that the accessibility is driving a lot of this behavior, because that tree is so close. So some of the things and some people do this,
extreme measures to do. This is start limiting some accessibility just to make it a little easier. So you know if you can't not look at your phone when you're at the traffic light. Maybe you should put the phone in the trunk of your car. Maybe you should not work with all your brow, is open or what, if you really writing an article that has a time pressure on it, maybe not keep you know twitter or slack open at the same time and so limiting accessibility as just a really simple way to start decreasing that switching tendency a little more complicated is on the internal side. How do you monitor and manage the anxiety?
in the boredom and a desire for high pyre degrees of productivity that are driving you from that side of the equation and for their. What I experimented with with myself was just practicing like many things in life. They don't come necessarily without effort practising the art of sustained detention and single tasking, and I started doing this. You know couple years ago, as us Sort of now, speaking about the book and that content publicly and just saying, okay, I'm going to challenge myself. I have an hour that I'm going to quit everything except this one source of my attention, is one focus and when I started doing that at the beginning, It was really hard with shockingly hard, because I felt this desire to like just go and check Facebook or just go and talk to someone even it wasn't technology and so what I
started doing and what I advise. People, based on my own experience, is start with small periods of time that you're doing singular, focus and feed what happens understand the boredom and the anxiety work through it and stick with it and then take that break. Make that break not about necessarily, going on social media getting into these iterative like holes to just take you away from your goals, but rather stretch do some light exercise close your eyes, meditate, look at nature through photography or real nature. These things, I think, have a lot of support for being really healthy, little breaks and then get back into that focus and see if you can extend that over time. I think it's a similar to someone learning how to become like a long distance. Runner like you, can't really just stop running for miles and what's in taller
to you on day, one because it's painful or maybe even boring after a while, you start enjoying that feeling- and I think I've discovered it's like that with this as well. You could single task sort of like an endurance runner where, after a while, it's just effortless and even fun to do that, and so I think it's a process of baby stepping into longer periods of time of building. The skill sets that allow you to sustain your attention without dealing yourself. I think this notion of single tasking it's really important and then the fact that we even have a name for it. Is a sign of how far we've wandered from from what used to be normal and when I think about how much harder is getting to read a book. That's happening to me, and I'm kind of aid can hear in the coal mine for this, because you know I really, I read a lot in books have always been
a major part of my life. I read both professionally in four for pleasure, but even I am finding it harder to to finish books. It's just one near the comp Titian for my attention is, is just always at a fever pitch sigh it gets diverted into two other streams of information, but I am also find it harder to just just to commit to us sitting down for an hour and doing nothing but reading the book right and that it, made me realize that I'm almost recognisable to myself the SAM Harris of twenty years ago would not have been To imagine finding reading a book for an hour at all difficult that there was kind of a basin of attraction there. For me, which was one once I once I was You know I was in it s like forecasting that at some point you can
difficult to eat ice cream right? That makes no sense at all. It's something something I consciously foreign, as you know, I spend my time focusing on explicitly that the topic of meditation and the importance of training attention in that way being able to pay attention Is one thing but having an internal sense that are many things that merit your attention right now and the best way to play this game is to essentially have Any browser windows always open a kind of decision, they once you make it, you then forced to function in that fairly doomed paradigm of ginger splitting attention so I do think there's a lot to be said for just making a decision around certain things like this: an end to having to the concept of single tasking it's a kind of hack for what you're gonna tend to do by default, just because of what's happening at your desk in
coming from the smartphone in your pocket yeah. I agree I mean I like the way you said that it's some, it's really more than one factor here that that leads to success in the way of this. One of them is the actual cognitive skill set of being able to sustain attention, and I think that that, even if you want to Anne and meditation, is a great way to build that that ability I mean that you know that meditate in many forms of concentrated meditation are essentially that third but tension, training practices and in many ways, and so that's part of it, and then you have to make the decision to actually apply it in a consistent fashion and that comes along with controlling your environment, to put you in the best possible setting to accomplish it,
and then there is, you know with the all of that- comes the forming of new habits so that it's not a constant control effort should do that that it that it is your reflex. Your reflex is to engage in the world in this way, and I think that, with all those factors, it's possible to see your way through, but it comes with recognition of what the cost of this type of style, of interaction with technology and your environment in general Is that allows gives you the motivation to take all these steps to just live differently? So how can technology help you have this phrase. I've heard you use digital medicine, which is part of what your exploring as a tech entrepreneur and a scientist You know what is digital, medicine and and what else do you see
on the horizon in terms of new technology that can help us yeah. Well, thanks for our thanks for the opportunity to talk about both sides of this coin because normally like in very short formats, they'll, do like an imperative. You have five minutes and it's it's it's a nuance discussion, because here I am the author of a book called the distracted mind. We just have been talking for you, no forty minutes about all of the challenges of our a bit it to maintain its attention and how technology has aggravated that and what I spend most of my time, working on on the academic and on the industry side is using. Technology is away from proving attention, and so it is complex. You know on this. so I I appreciate opportunity opportunity to dive in a little. I I think it's not dissimilar from you know. Most other things in nature is that this
Yin Yang right? There's always this push and pull in any sword can cut both ways, a term that you used already in that's true of technology, and I I sort of in deep into that pool of ok. Technology is aggravated our our already fragmented attention and in light of the ways we ve been talking about, starting with that as a foundation. and we re imagine it as a tool to actually do the reverse, to help our attention, and that is a goal that was born out of just practical, that I don't believe put in this Genie back in the I made it is here in his powerful and it has a lot of really amazing assets, it's all over the world right. It's. What has this incredible ability not just to connect but to reach people? They don't have access to many things like doctors and teachers
So it has all of these incredible strengths and really appealed to me, and so I do into now. It's been twelve years since I I'd, I challenged myself thinking about technology as a source of could not just in general, in some wishy washy way, but actually as a tool to help fine tune attention abilities. That was my original goal and starting twelve years ago I came up with you know the sort of this idea. I used the term digital medicine, a lot, I think more frequently. I use a term experiential medicine to encapsulate something a little larger digital medicine. Being an example of that or one of of you know many types of experts,
she'll medicines, but the the general idea behind digital medicine and the bigger category of experiential medicine is that are our brains have this phenomena of plasticity its ability to modify itself at every level in response to challenge and experience in this is then tucked the basis of learning it. It exists throughout our lives, it doesn't just end after you become an adult and certainly not through older ages. As we now appreciate, and so the general concept is, if we can challenge the brain in a targeted way and align the mechanics of whatever that interaction is and the reward systems appropriately, we should be able to optimize these neural systems, whatever they may be, and it's a very ancient practice. Some meditation mindfulness, which you know I know, is a big part of your world, is, I would say, a perfect example of an experience.
Edison and it could be delivered through a human expert or can could be delivered digitally, in which case, I would say, that's a digital medicine. So that's sort of you know the high level path that I've been on now for over a decade both in research and in short, a product creation and entrepreneurship, is, is to think about how we build technologies that create interactions. That bus, improve the function of our brains near one o one reactor, at that point you just made, which is often made, but I feel it doesn't really land for people released it. It can be one, is counter intuitive and to it it's often hyped in a way that that is misleading so that this notion that what you do Your brain winds up physically change in your brain based on neuroplasticity. You know this is a fascinating fact about us
the machinery that is producing our experience in cognition changes itself, based on how it's used and yet, as you point out, that as the key to all learning and everything else about us. That leaves a trace writer If someone's going to remember anything about this conversation, they'll remember it based on actual physical changes in their brains. That's what the encoding memory requires, and yet It's often said that people marvel at the claim that there is ever scientific evidence that something like meditation practice can physically change the brain right or the funds. no behaviour of the brain under no imaging, but of course it right, literally everything you do, changes your brain. Yes, on some level,
it is a kind of a hype, claim that one hears in the meditation literature to emphasize this point, because everything changes your brain, but because we have this general property of plasticity. We really should view the consequences of paying attention to specific fangs and specific ways. As being in fairly indelible until we do something else that changes in some other way right. So on some level, you you get more of what you pay attention to. It's like the algorithms that are successfully gaming attention when we know that fear on Youtube and you keep clicking on videos of cats or olympic sprinter finals or what it whatever it is whenever you get into you get more of the same. some level you that same algorithmic property is true of us. Semi you you're, making
yourself, based on what you're doing with your attention and the kinds of habits your round a fine and you are quite literally sculpting you're a neural circuitry in them. In time and Emily. Everyone experiences this in miniature psychologically, but it It's another thing to remind yourself that there's a physical basis for there's a kind of living sculpture that is producing this. This is something that we ve been doing inadvertently more or less every moment of our lives, and now we have the well resourced and technologically competent companies that have ever. existed, turning their their tracker on us and demand in our attention from every screen in sight and what you don't take research possibility for here is going to happen. to you, based on other people's business models and at some is just worth.
Realizing that the causality here is not really in dispute, all of these moments matter, and they they liver to you, your future self who will have whatever her competencies or or weaknesses, or amounting dissatisfaction with life to deal with, and if you like, it doesn't feel the way you wanted to feel a not you have done on purpose end by act, to bring yourself to this point and there's a lot. You may yet do to feel differently. I mean that was a beautifully said. I think that that is really true. It's sort of something that's over hyped and used, sometimes even as a marketing tool and yet under appreciated for its true, profound power of change. That is- That experiences can can induce one way that you know the reason I use. I put the word medicine in there, although it doesn't have to necessarily-
need. If you'd like to continue listening to this podcast you'll need to subscribe at SAM Harris Org you'll get access to all full length. of the making sense, podcast and and other subscriber only content, including bonus episodes and Amas, and the Conversations I've been having on the waking up app the making sense podcast, is ad free and relies entirely on listener. Support you can subscribe now at SAM Paris Org.
Transcript generated on 2020-11-29.