Full Length Episode | #164 | January 13, 2022

Transcription for the video titled "Full Length Episode | #164 | January 13, 2022".


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Intro (00:00)

I'm Cal Newport and this is Deep Questions, Episode 164. So we have a listener calls episode to do. I'm joined in the Deep Work HQ with my producer, Jesse, who will play the calls. As we have been doing recently live, we place the call lives. I hear them for the first time as you hear them and try to answer them on the fly. One little change to that, however, is we are going to have to do a pause. At some point in this episode, we're gonna have to stop and I have to jump on to be a guest on someone else's podcast. You had very tight time demands and then we will return to finish this. So this will actually be a two part recording that we will then, through the magic of editing, seamlessly put together into one. I only mentioned this in case, those of you who are watching the video of this online, if that interview I do for someone else goes poorly, you might see a disconcerting cut where I go from looking happy and healthy to suddenly being drenched in sweat and my hair is all over the place and for some reason I have a bloody nose. If that happens, that is what's actually going on. You know, Jesse, before we get going, I should note I just got an email from our podcast host that gives us a year in review of the podcast. So I figured maybe I'd read through these stats so we could see how we've been doing. - Yeah, that's here. - So in 2021, we put out 102 episodes. That's 99 hours of new content over 102 episodes. And we gathered almost 3 million downloads. - So not bad. - Thank you, deep questions listeners. Gave you 100 hours of material to listen to and 3 million downloads later. In case you're wondering, the top episode, the top episode of the year via downloads was from August, it was episode 123, which was titled, What is My Daily Routine? So there we go, that was our most popular episode. Maybe I should do more episodes like that. Top City, Jesse, what's your guess? What city downloaded this podcast the most? - New York, Chicago, Illinois. - There you go. So that is all I know. Top Listening Apps was Apple Podcast.

Discussion On Time Management & Problem Solving Strategies

Okay, so most people are still listening on Apple Podcast. I saw by the way, speaking of podcast players, I saw our friend Lex Friedman, now in the Spotify app has video. It used to be that the only person who had video on the Spotify app was Joe Rogan. That was part of when they paid whatever it was, 100, 200 million to get Joe Rogan over there, that they wanted his video to live on there. And I more recently saw Lex had video, and so I looked it up, and I think they're starting to open that more widely. So, I don't know, we should look into that, but we may at some point be able to actually have the video of our podcast play directly, at least in the Spotify player. So I think that'd be pretty cool. - Yeah, there's always a not to. - Yeah. Okay, so we are going to do some listener calls today.

Time-blocking (03:36)

Again, we'll have one break in here, but otherwise we're going to rock and roll. Jesse, why don't you get us started by telling us what the first call is about? - All right, the first call is about Gert, and he's looking for some optimal ratios for time blocking. - Hi, Cal. This is Gert, I'm an entrepreneur in Belgium, and I have two questions regarding time blocking. First question is, is there an optimal aspect ratio between fixed time blocks and time blocks that you can schedule freely, in the weekly review leading up to the week to come? I mean, I have a number of fixed started, I need to do every week, such as, for instance, invoicing. I can put those in a repetitive time block into Outlook, but I'm looking for an optimal, if there is an optimal aspect ratio between those fixed pre-fixed time blocks, and those that I can fill in a week to week depending on the tasks that I want to work on. Second question is, is there an optimal aspect ratio between deep work time blocks and the non-deep work time blocks in which I have to do the daily grind as a matter of speech? You could provide some insight into that, that would be a lot should thankful. Thank you, bye. - Well, Gert, let's start with your first question, and just to clarify this for those who are listening. What I believe Gert is asking about is the difference between time blocks you put on your calendar in advance when you're doing your weekly plan. So it's Monday morning, you're doing your weekly plan, and you say, "Thursday at noon, I'm doing invoicing." The balance between those and the time blocks you figure out each day when you're doing your daily time block planning. Oh, how do I want to spend the hours today where you look at what is not already taken up on your calendar and you work with that free time? So first I want to say there's generally two types of things that will go on your calendar during weekly planning. So events, appointments, meetings, that goes to your calendar directly, right? As soon as you organize them. But what are the type of time blocks you might add to your calendar in advance? There's typically two categories here. There is blocks that come out of autopilot scheduling. So this is something that emerged from my original work on time management for students in which I like to take regularly occurring work, work that occurs every week. You know you have to do it. And you find a set time and place you do it. I call that autopilot scheduling 'cause you don't have to think about that work. It just shows up on your calendar like a doctor's appointment or a meeting. Just know this is when I do it. Autopilot scheduling lives on your calendar. So now you're putting time aside for regular occurring work. And in fact, you might be doing this for the entire semester, for the entire quarter. Always gonna do invoices on Thursday afternoon. Let me just make that a repeated appointment on my calendar. And then there is advanced scheduling. So sometimes when you're working on your weekly plan, you look at some things that are important. Here's a non-trivial task. It really has to get done this week. I'm gonna put aside the time right now for when that's gonna get done. And you put that on your calendar. So that also is a way that work gets on your calendar in advance. Let me make that concrete from my own life this week. When I was doing my weekly plan, I saw one of the things on my plate that was important is reviewing faculty applications. I'm on a search committee and a bunch of applications have come in and there's a batch of these I have to review before we meet next week. And that's a long task. It takes time to go through all these applications. And so I already put on my calendar last Monday, recording this on Thursday, last Monday, I put on my calendar a big block for tomorrow for Friday in which I'm gonna do that application processing.

Your ratio of time between deep work and shallow work. (07:28)

Why? Because it was important, it had to get done and it was gonna require a non-trivial amount of time. So I wanted to protect that time in advance. So between autopilot scheduling and advanced scheduling, you might have a fair amount of stuff on your calendar. Each day you time block plan. When you build your time block plan, you transfer those onto your plan and then you make decisions about what to do with the time that remains. Is there an ideal ratio here? I will tell you Gert, this has been my thinking more recently, has been shifting towards more on your calendar in advance is better. And I have just been having this thought and I'll tell you where it came out of. It's because I wrote this New Yorker article recently on slow productivity. And one of the big ideas behind slow productivity, you've heard me talk about on the podcast, when that article I focused in on one particular piece of slow productivity, which is work volume needs to be lower. When you have a very large work volume. So the number of things on your plate that needs to get done, when that gets too big, lots of bad things happen. Short circuits are planning brain, the planning portion of our brain that makes us anxious and the fixed collaborative overhead of all these things begins to eat up all of our schedules. So we wanna try to keep our work volume reasonable. Moving more work directly onto your calendar to say, this is when I'm gonna do that work, is an implicit mechanism to help keep your work volume more reasonable. Because if you have to find the time for when you were gonna do something, at the moment that you're committing to do it, you will be facing the reality of your schedule. And so when you say, yeah, I will review these applications, you need four hours to do it. And you say, I have to go find those four hours, you might realize you don't have those four hours for another couple of weeks. Now you can be realistic about it. Or when you get to that week where you have to do the four hours application review and you've already protected that time on Friday, and now you don't have any other time on that Friday to do other things and those other things don't get on your schedule. So I've increasingly been a believer of, maybe we should pre-allocate more time for more work, because it forces us to confront that our time is a scarce resource. And here's how much I'm already using. So no fixed ratio gert, do whatever seems reasonable, but do not be worried if you find your calendar is very crowded with work you have placed there in advance from autopilot and advanced scheduling. Don't be upset about that. I actually think that is a good approach. Now to get to your second question, this is the deep the shallow work ratio that I talked about in my book, Deep Work. It's something that many people have now deployed in their own work environments. I think you should have a clear ratio. So you should have an answer to this question you're asking, how many deep work hours to shallow work hours am I trying to hit in a standard week? This should be a number that you establish with whoever supervises or manages you. So everyone is on the same page. You should then use your time block plan as a record to look back and say how much did I actually do deep work how much time did I actually do shallow work? What was the ratio I hit? And if it is below the ratio that you decided on with your manager, with your supervisor, then you have a clear number to say we have to change something. We said I should do 50/50 and I'm only doing 25% of my time deep work. Something has to give and you have a number here to make that clear. So I'm not going to give you an ideal ratio because what I have discovered, hearing from my readers who have used this method, the ratio can vastly differ depending on what your job is and what season you're in of your job. So the key is not a magic number. It is having the ratio and having everyone relevant on board that the ratio you've decided is what you are trying to hit and be willing to make changes if you don't hit it. All right, Jesse, what do we got for the second call here? - All right, our next question is from Adam.

Looking for Perfectionism in Personals/Strategic Planning, by Adam (11:29)

He has a question about strategic planning and how he has a tendency for perfectionism to take over. - Hey, Kale, this is Adam again. My question is related to others about strategic planning which for me is kind of the last component to my system that I'm trying to get going. Long story short, I'm sitting in a big chair of the other night with my favorite ambient music in an oil burning lamp and I start to list the values that are important to my personal and professional lives. And then things get out of hand. Perfectionism takes over and I'm looking at a crazy long list of values that seems impossible to wrangle into the projects I have going already. I know you've addressed perfectionism and personal/strategic planning separately, but do you have any recommendations for not overloading my first value plan and strategic plans? Thanks. - Well, Adam, I appreciate the oil burning lamp. I think we need one right behind me in the HQ. I should do all of my recording. I think we made a mistake with black curtains. I should be in a leather chair in a smoking jacket with a pipe with like a gas lamp or oil burning lamp. And also, and Jesse, this is just what's called good production values, right? Is every time we start a new clip, I should look up and say, oh, I didn't notice you walk in there. Welcome. Just again and again. This will be our signature piece. I'll be like typing on a typewriter or something and look over and look over and look, oh, I didn't walk, I didn't see you come in there. Welcome. It'll be great. God, this is all just about production values. So Adam, here's what I'm gonna recommend. I have the same issue, first of all. I can get in my head in the planning and I have an obsessive brain. You might have this too, Adam. It serves me well in my career as a writer, but it can be pretty torturous in my everyday life. My brain has a very sharp instinctual feel about whether what I'm thinking about clicks or if something's not quite right. And so it's really useful, right? Like if I'm doing math proofs, it's really useful. It's like this isn't quite right. It's an instinctual feeling of disgust or dislike. And so I can feel when things click. And same thing with my writing is why I have this kind of crystal clear underlying structure to my writing is because if it's not, I feel literally sick.

Tame Your Values Within Roles (13:51)

And so I can get here with my planning where I'm like, this isn't quite right and I can get obsessive. Here's my recommendation. First of all, tame your values in your value plan with roles. It's an idea I stole from Stephen Covey. Here are the roles in my life. I am a writer. I am a father and husband. I am a community member, whatever it is. Here are my main roles in life. And describe for each role, like what am I aiming for here? And I actually will have a expository little description of like what it would mean to run this role successfully that captures the values inside of it or you can list values under it. But now you're confining values to roles. You know, you have some more structure to it. Like as a father, here's what I'm looking for. As a thinker in public intellectual, here's what I really value. That's gonna help. And then two, I'm a believer in trying to translate these in the strategic plans. Do the birthday challenge, I talked about this before, I like to have every year on my birthday, a collection of changes, goals, projects, or behavioral upgrades that I wanna complete by my birthday. And I usually will start about six months before my birthday thinking about these things. And I'll typically try to have one thing I'm doing in each of those roles to upgrade that. So it could be a one time thing, I'm doing like a goal I'm accomplishing or a behavioral upgrade I'm trying to ingrain. And that makes it tractable. So I'm not trying to overhaul my life all at once. I wanna be living the perfect life or I'm perfectly expressing each of these roles. I want each year at my birthday incrementally to have improved something about each of those roles. That makes it tractable too. So just to summarize tame your values within roles, you don't just have a long list. And then two, six months before each birthday, give yourself a challenge that does an incremental improvement in moving your life closer to your values in each role. Do this enough times and overall I think you're gonna find that you feel aligned with your values and you feel like that's getting better. And those would be the two main things I would suggest, along with buy more oil lamps.

Training (15:57)

I just, I really do appreciate that particular visual. All right, Jesse, before we go to the next question, this is actually where I think we're gonna have to quickly cut for me to do my other podcast interview and then we will be right back. All right, Jesse, what do we have next? All right, next up we have a question from a data analyst. He'll be proud 'cause he's got a lot of Greek references. He wants some advice on doing hard things. So let's take a listen. Oh, Demi, God of Deep Work, Cal Newport. Wise and good and strong. I once again seek your vast knowledge of doing hard and valuable things of which you virtuously preside over, much as Athena, goddess of knowledge, presided over the mountainous archipelagos of Greece. My name is Shane McGrath. I am a data analyst, writer, and aspiring software developer. I seek your wisdom of tackling new levels of cognitive challenge, not yet faced. I suppose you have surmounted these arduous summits as you scaled the rocky literary and academic cliffs to stand approximate to the revered Zeus himself. Are there not tips and tricks you may shower me with to devise my practical ruse? So I may construct my Trojan horse to invade the impenetrable intellectual walls of Troy. All right, well, there's quite the question. I mean, just I don't know if you know this, but that's actually how I insist all of my graduate students talk to me. So this is very familiar, similar references and voice. Question for you, Jesse, what's he asking? I think he's asking, he wants advice on doing hard work and valuable things and how to basically structure that into his life. Like hard intellectual work. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Oh, good. All right. I like this question. Um, so a couple of things to keep in mind. I think a Shane was his name. Um, there's a training aspect, I would say. I talked about this in deep work and this is worth keeping in mind. Your mind is a muscle that has to be trained. If you want to do hard intellectual work, you have to get that brain into shape. So we can start with that. How do you train your brain to do intellectual work? And then we will move on to then how do you actually structure and execute that work? So what can you do to train it? And this is coming from my book, Deep Work. Partially, it's about what you take away from your life. So if you are constantly distracted, or at least for large parts of your day, let's say when you're away from work, if you're constantly looking at a screen at the slightest hint of boredom, you are getting out of intellectual shape. Your brain is learning at the first hint of boredom where you get to escape into some sort of shiny digital trinket of a distraction. There's no way you are going to be able to subsequently support really deep intellectual work if your brain is used to this Pavlovian connection between boredom is distraction, boredom gets distraction. So you have to get away from that lifestyle, even when you're not doing anything related to work. So when you're at home, for example, use the phone for your method. My phone is by my front door. If I need to call or see if someone texts me or looks something up, I can go to the front door and I can do that, but it's not with me when I'm watching TV and it's not with me when I'm eating dinner and it is not with me, God forbid, when I'm going to the bathroom, I don't have that easy distraction. So my brain gets used to it. Oh, I don't always get distraction. You can go for walks every day or I don't have a phone with me and what my brain is to be used to it. I'm alone with my own thoughts and I'm comfortable with that. So that's a training aspect. The other active thing you can do to train is push your brain. Reading is a great way to do that. Read all the time, read a great variety of books, read to understand, to actually try to pull out and articulate and understand the argument if it's a non-fiction book. Constantly be engaging long form argument and information presentation in this way. That is going to make your brain smarter as well. So this is all training. This is fitness, this is exercise.

Become a Creature of Habit (20:06)

Then when it comes time to actually executing and doing this work, you probably know the types of things I talk about here. Deep work is different than shallow. When you're doing deep work, zero contact shifts. You can't look at Slack, you can't look at email, you can't look at your phone, you're just doing that work. Ritual matters, where do you do this work? What do you do right before you start these work sessions? The use of Greek reference, you should have some sort of big ritual as you might see during the annual mystery celebrations that are dedicated to the Oracle at Delphi. You wanna have whatever your equivalent is of that. I drink this coffee, I do this walk, I go to this garden shed that I've converted into a place for thinking. So ritual matters. And then when you do the work, you do the work cleanly, no distraction, no contact shifting. So you're gonna get the most out of it. This work should be scheduled. Here is when I do this work, I'm not just waiting for the mood. I have it on my calendar, I have a set plan. It's always in the morning or I put it on my calendar, it's gonna be gonna be each week. So it should be scheduled. Do all of these things. All of these things are building you up towards a more intellectual life. They're building you up towards the ability to produce non-trivial value with your brand. You will get better and better at it. The final thing I'll add here is strain. When you do this intellectual work, push yourself past where you're comfortable. A harder essay than you've been able to write before, sharper bit of code than you've ever been able to write before. A new analysis on your data that you haven't been able to do before. I'm gonna learn this new, more complex regression modeling and figure out I'm gonna apply it here. You keep pushing yourself. This is the deliberate practice aspect. When you're actually doing the work, I wanna get better, I wanna get smarter, I wanna do harder and harder things. You do all of this and you will scale that metaphorical mount Olympus. But the bigger point to make here is that it's hard and it takes training. So intellectual life, intellectual work is not a switch you flick. Oh, I wanna do more deep work now, that's what I do. It's instead like saying, I wanna be a great athlete. There's a lot that goes into that. You're caring about your diet, you're caring about your sleep, you're caring about your training and it's gonna take time. Use that same frame when you think about becoming a deeper thinker in your professional life. All right, let's move on, Jesse, what do we have next? - All right, so next up we have a question from a first year teacher and her students are using the phone a lot, social media a lot, and she wants to find ways to get them not to do so so they can study better. - Hello, Carl, this is Isabelle from Spain and I have a question about teenage years and poor news. - I have recently got a job as a secondary school teacher and I am responsible for a group of 15 years old. They have told me that they use their phones a lot and a lot means eight hours that they don't have to go to school or four hours that they have to go to school and they're basically on TikTok, WhatsApp and Instagram. Right? They also think that they are not good at studying and obviously I have connected the dots, right? And my question is how do I make them connect the dots from the perspective, from the point of view of a teacher which I think I'm someone they don't really trust like a parent. And I would like to make them a least question why they do with their time. So if you have any advice I will be very grateful because it's my first job as a teacher. Thank you very much, bye. - Well, it is a universal problem. I think teenagers and their usage of these phones is extreme.

What is New about the Problem (23:53)

They do use them all the time. Now there's an interesting question here before we get to a solution is, okay, what's new about this and what's not? I mean, I think it's certainly true that if we went back to the 1980s or the 1990s, what you would probably see is that teenagers used to watch a lot of TV. So they probably were watching as much TV as they could instead of using their phone. So it's not like they were before social media. We should be clear about that. Like before social media, they would come home from school and be like, all right, I'm on my dear. I shall be in the library. I shall be in the library studying. Perhaps I will get a spot of tea in the conservatory as I take notes in my notebook. But if you need me, I will be thinking deeply. And then when social media came around, they were gone. Okay, it wasn't like that. But we have to first ask this question, TV versus what's happening with social media. Is it worse? Is it the same? Is it better? That's the place I want to start. I have my thoughts. Jesse, you and I grew up in a time when it would have been TV at this age. What do you think? More stupefying, but better, worse than four hours of TikTok? - Definitely worse. - There we go. - Yeah. - Why does that? - Well, I mean, TV would sit down and be dedicated then you could go outside or something. Now they're always bringing the phone with them. - That's true. And TV was bad, right? I mean, like it's not that entertaining. Compare ALF, which was on when we were kids, to algorithmically optimize TikTok videos that have been selected based off of a 1200 point data vector that has been analyzed with recurrent neural networks to figure out exactly what to show you that is going to make you want to watch that through to the end. Compare that watching ALF to there is a complicated, distressing social dynamic happening at my school unfolding in these comments on Instagram posts and people are talking about me and my standing is shifting. I'm going to look the hell out of that. I'm going to be on that phone and seeing what's going on. All of that is much more compelling than ALF. And as you're saying, I can come with you everywhere. Comes with you in the car, it's on the bus, wherever you go, you can be looking at it. So I think I agree we have ramped up the invasiveness and the addictiveness of the tools.

Finding personalized consensus (26:17)

What can this teacher do? A couple optimistic things to say, when I was on the road selling my book, Digital Minimalism, I was surprised by the positive response from teenagers. So the thing about teenagers is there is an emerging counterculture where the countercultural behavior is to not use these tools. And we actually should not be surprised by the rise of this counterculture because we've seen this be successful before. Jesse, do you remember from when we were younger, the anti-smoking commercials that were sponsored by was called The Truth? Somewhat, vaguely, yeah. I mean, basically what happened is, if I remember this correctly, is in the 90s, the ad council, which is a federally funded, I guess, organization that puts out television advertising for positive purposes, they hired a super fancy ad agency and said, okay, we wanna figure out how did you add to get basically young Jesse and young Cal to not smoke? And so they brought in real good ad people. And basically what they figured out was focus in on the degree to which the tobacco companies are exploiting young people and manipulating them. And they're these old guys and suits that are trying to trick you into smoking. And that was really effective. They did a lot of sort of faux hidden camera work with blurred faces, but it was really effective because teenagers hate this idea of on being co-opted or exploited or manipulated by some 60 year old guy in a suit, right? That was very powerful. And in smoking rates, teen smoking rates are much lower here in the countries. And that was partly to do with it. A similar dynamic, I believe, is fueling the anti-social media emergent counterculture among teenagers today is that as they get more aware, now it's not old guys and suits, it's 37 year olds and t-shirts, but they're exploiting them. They're like, do I really wanna be Mark Zuckerberg's puppet, helping him be richer? They don't like these tech guys right now. They don't like these tech titans. And as they understand more, that this whole ecosystem is just designed to turn you into the cow and the milking machine in the bar. And it's just we're just sucking data out of your brain and selling it. And you're the thing we're selling. You're a tool for a $500 billion company that's trying to make a very small number of people who live in Northern California, richer. Teenagers don't like that. And I begin to pick up that thread when I was selling digital minimalism. I was on the road in 2019 and I would meet teenagers who were finding great comfort of being a part of this counterculture and great respect from their peer group where they say, I don't use this stuff. So this is what we have right now is a tension between this has been designed to be incredibly appealing and addictive to exactly your developing teenage brain. But on the other hand, your teenage brain hates the people who make these, you hate being their pawns and you might get some really good social street cred by being someone who doesn't use it. Both these things are happening at the same time. And so it's a matter of what is going to win. And I think the countercultural message is gonna win. Teens love to be ahead of something, feel cool, feel authentic. And this is giving them exactly that capability. The actual logistical social interaction piece of social media, that's largely moving the chat tools and text threads. So it's not like you're going to be ostracized and not know what's going on if you're not on TikTok as a 15 year old. It's not like if you're not on Snapchat as a 14 year old, you're gonna be cut out of social circles. Now these non social media tech space coordination collaboration alternatives like WhatsApp and just text threads and iMessage. Those are taking over the logistical roles anyway. So it's much easier to step away. And then that's what I think is gonna happen. All we need, and this is John Heitz theory, all we need to get a tipping point is not that most young people don't use social media, but that most people know someone who doesn't use social media. You just need a validation of that possibility in your immediate social sphere. In my class as a junior or whatever in the secondary school in Spain, Isabelle teaches, there's two kids who don't use social media. And that's kinda cool, I kinda like that. That's all you need. Now if you're really feeling like you hate this and you're overwhelmed and a lot of kids do feel that way, you have permission to leave. 'Cause you're not doing something new, you're joining that group. And this is John Heitz theory. You don't have to get an entire class to stop using social media before your kid will. You need two people in the class, not to use social media before your kid thinks it's an option. So I'm optimistic about it. I've said this on the show a lot. I think these small number of monopoly giant centralized social media companies dominating internet discourse is a moment that is coming to an end.

How to change in your 20s (31:17)

We're gonna look back at it as a 10 year period. The idea that 10 years from now we're all gonna be on two or three of these massive centralized social media platforms. I don't think it's gonna be that way. Their moment has come, their moment is passing. And so Isabelle, all of this should just be optimism. That this will get better, maybe not in the next few months, but in the next few years perhaps it will get better.

Our Use Case (31:48)

In the meantime, those are two things to talk about. A, you're a product, you are being exploited, update those truth anti-smoking ads to the world of teenage social media use. Hammer that point, you guys are plugged into the pods in the matrix and Agent Smith is Mark Zuckerberg, right? Push that point. Two, talk about thinking is a skill that you have to practice. And if you're constantly looking at screens when you're out of school, your muscle, your mind muscle is gonna be weak and there's a lot of advantages to having a strong mind muscle. It's not just you're gonna do better in your schoolwork, which you will and it'll take less time to study and you'll be happier, but you're gonna understand the world better, you're gonna take in more sophisticated information, you're gonna be more impactful, you're gonna grow into someone who can actually make a difference in a world where intellectual skill is the main skill that matters, where Braun is no longer that relevant anymore. This is a muscle that is hurt. If you're looking at a screen all the time you're eating junk food as an athlete. I think that is also a really effective message for young people, give them the positive. Don't be on the screen all the time exactly because you wanna have a stronger brain. If you have a stronger brain, everything will be open to you. And if you don't, you're plugged into the matrix to help Agent Smith bank account and you're gonna be worse at thinking and it's gonna, your life, your world, everything's gonna be more constrained. Push those two points in the short term, I think that will help. More teenagers are more receptive to leaving social media than you think. And we are gonna see more and more of that in the years ahead as this moment of social media monopoly hopefully comes to a pretty soon end. I don't know, I don't know if you buy that Jesse. Everyone thinks I'm too optimistic about this, but I'm just not convinced that this moment of monopoly social media is somehow like a persistent state. - One thing that does happen is a lot of teenage kids use Instagram messaging to communicate as opposed to WhatsApp and text message and stuff like that. So I think that goes into part of the problem where they're using that platform to message, but they're also using it to look at a lot of stuff. - Well, Zuckerberg is smart, which is a caution because I cover this space. I caution journalists and I made a little bit of fun of him too about the metaverse, right? Because he put out this clunky video where he was trying to introduce people to the metaverse. He's not good on camera. And I did make fun of him in a New Yorker piece. I talked about how in this video introducing his vision of the metaverse, he looked like a cyborg running out of date software. Because he had this sort of like halting weird delivery. And but here's the thing, he's smart. There are no other that I can think of founders from that era that were so young that are still in charge of a company of that size. You know how impossible that is to stay in charge of a company that's approaching a trillion dollar market cap when you started that company when you were 20 years old? He's a savvy guy. And this is what we see with Instagram and they bought WhatsApp. He knows this, right? He knows Facebook is on its way out. They bought Instagram. He knows that's going to be taken down by TikTok. They bought WhatsApp because he knows it's actually going to be the unendorned conversation that matters. Instagram messaging is all about keeping people engaging in the Instagram ecosystem. Oh, as long as I'm here, I might as well look at these photos over here. I think he knows what he's doing. He knows what he's doing with the metaverse. There is an inevitable shift towards a world in which much more of what we see every day is going to be virtual. It's incredibly inefficient to actually have to manufacture all of these plastic things that have chips inside of them. And you have to build it at the Foxconn plant in China.

Whats inside (35:33)

And inevitably the future is going to be, I have on a glass that can make any screen I want, running any software I want, anywhere I want in my physical space. Why would I have an iPad, a phone, a computer, and a big screen TV when I could just make any of those screens appear anywhere I wanted? And the only piece of silicon I have to own is the thing that runs these glass and everything else is in the cloud. Like he knows that's coming and he wants to be out ahead of it. The world is going to virtualize. So he's a smart guy, which is what I'm going to say. So he isn't able to, so his initial ploy, I mean, this is like Commodore Vanderbilt, if you'll excuse us some early American economic history. Think of Zuckerberg like Commodore Vanderbilt. Think about Facebook like Vanderbilt's fleet of ferries to get across from New Jersey to Hudson to New York, to Manhattan. This is where Vanderbilt began his fortune, was ferry boats, and then he moved to longer rain steam ships to go up and down the ply, the Eastern Seaboard. And then he got into railroads after that. He watched the technological landscape evolve in early industrial America and kept ahead of those trends. And he was ruthless and smart and built one of the world's largest fortunes out of it. That's how they'll think about Zuckerberg. You have to think about Facebook like those ferry boats. It made him his first couple of billion, but the railroads are coming, the steam shippers are coming, and they're going to be completely different technologies. So I think he's going to be around, keep an eye on him. But his first thing, let's put all of our information into the screens and look at the click on the phones and do social media back and forth, that's going to go away. So he's going to stay savvy guy. The technological landscape is going to evolve. So I know that's my techno prognostications. Don't sleep on Zuckerberg, but also don't overemphasize the importance of the existing social media platforms. I think that's a little bit-- it's a clunky technology it's had this moment. All right, so I think Isabelle, we just did a rant. I just did a rant for 20 minutes instead of really helping.

Queries On Visual Health & Remote Work

Q: Aging eyes - How do you keep them healthy amidst reading? (37:38)

I feel bad about that. But we'll make it up. What's our next question here? Next question, we have a fan of yours who is a big reader. It's Virginia, but she experiences some eye strain. So she has a question about that. Hi, Cal. I think your reading habits are super inspiring. And I'm glad to say I've been able to adopt them in my own life. I am currently on my fifth book of the month, which is really satisfying. But one practical health-related question, I went to the eye doctor recently. And the first thing the doctor said was, oh, do you read a lot? Because it was apparent in the physiology of my eyeballs that my eyes are pretty string. And so I know that you like to read during your breaks from work, which suggests that you spend a lot of time reading, both for work and then for pleasure or otherwise. So how do you keep your eyes healthy while still reading at such a great clip? Thanks. Well, here's the thing. Even if you're reading five books a month, the amount of time you're looking at a book compared to the amount of time you're looking at a computer screen for your normal job, assuming you're a knowledge worker type, it's still minuscule. And the strain of looking at a computer monitor or a phone is much greater than the strain of looking at a matte-printed ink on paper. So partially, I'm going to say, don't worry about reading is going to be the thing that is going to cause the issues, because it's probably much more strained the seven hours a day, you probably have to look at computer screens than it is reading. That being said, the two rules that help with reading is-- well, actually, let me add a third. Number one, do it on paper when you can. Don't do it on your phone. Don't do it on tablet. The backlight screen is more straining on your eyes. I count Kindle as paper, by the way. It is paper. The technology in Kindle, just from a physiological experience of reading, is the same because the technology in Kindle is not a screen like you would have on a laptop. It's not pixels that have light go into them. That's what streams you when you look at a computer is you have all this-- it's light. It's pixels that have light, and the light is a particular color. The E-E technology in a Kindle is actually a bunch of little disks, and one side's black, and one side is white, give or take. And they shock it. You can put a little bit of electricity to the disk, you can flip it over. But once you've taken electricity away, it's a physical thing. You're looking at physical little pieces of plastic that are black on one side and white on the other, that have been arranged, flipped in a pattern that looks like words. So it's actually from an eye physiology perspective, the same is looking at words printed on a piece of paper. You can put a light on your Kindle like you would on a book, but you're looking at just a physical surface that has some black and some white pieces. So a Kindle is not going to strain your eyes any more than a book. Number two, have enough light. You strain your eyes if you read low-light. And three, use reading glasses if you feel the strain. Those of us who have lived an intellectual life, we typically do need reading glasses earlier. I'm 39, but I still have-- in low-light situations, I have to use reading glasses. So use reading glasses have lots of light. Stay away from backlit screens when you read. And you'll be fine. But in general, I'm going to say, I'm letting reading off the hook here, because the seven hours you're on Zoom has got to be worse than the one hour you spent that day reading and rereading my books, which I assume, by the way, is what you're doing. And it's what I recommend. You just go through my books and order just a cycle again and again. All right, let's see here. Am I old? You don't wear reading glasses, you, Jesse. I don't wear reading glasses, but I got Lasik. So I used to wear glasses when I drive at night. But now I don't really have to do that. Does Lasik's work for you? Yeah, it worked great. I should do that. And my other job paid for it. Here's my question about what Lasik's-- how do people do without it? How do people do a long-term camping or adventure outdoor trips or something like this? Like, I occasionally get invited on these things. Let's go hike the whatever, matcha pichu or something like that. And how do you do these long trips if you have contacts or glasses? It seems like it would be impossible, right? Like, I guess you could have glasses you could wear. But you know, anyways, I need-- I should do Lasik's because I've thought about that. I can't do long-term camping trips or this or that because I wear contacts. I can't deal with contacts in the woods. I'm sure a lot of people do those trips or in the same boat as you. And they probably haven't figured it out. So you probably figure that out. But in terms of getting Lasik, I thought it was great. And it's seamless. It's like a 10-minute procedure. I should do that. I should do that. Or wear complicated glasses, right? Like blue plastic awesome Warby Parker glasses. I think they would be-- But rec specs from back in the day, like an NBA game? Yeah, I'm going to wear-- who was it that used to wear the rec specs? It wasn't Magic Johnson was it? It was someone classically wore those. Karim? Karim, yes. I'm going to wear Karim rec specs on air just so people think I'm more athletic and a sweatband. Be good.

The Appearance of Glasses (43:06)

All right, where are we at? That's Fork. Do we have another call? That's all the questions we have for today's show. All right. Well, excellent. So we end on a high note. I'm going to start wearing rec specs and the sweatband so that everyone thinks that I am more athletic. I am or complicated blue plastic glasses. Everyone will think I'm smarter. I can just depend on what I'm trying to go on. Have you seen-- not the go on this thing, but if you live in a city and you're around like 30-year-olds who are over-educated and aren't beaten down by having families yet, there's so much care in glassware and facial hair at this point that there's like an arms race of who can have the more complicated, weird glasses. Yeah, glasses are a big thing. There's so many different styles I see them all the time. I know what you're talking about. But what I can't stop thinking about and I'm laughing about is you were talking about Zuckerberg and his master plan to have everybody having all these devices and glass. And I get to say, you're wearing rec specs going forward. Yeah, but this is the technological threshold that has to be passed for this to be the case is that glasses have to look good. All right. So this was the problem with Google Glass is that if you walked around in those Google Glass, otherwise, like, very respectable people. It's an elementary school teacher on the way back from church. It just would feel the urge to punch you. You need to see some of those things on. You're like, I just want to knock this guy over. This is crazy. You are a dork goblin and you should be injured. So the technology has to look better. But we'll cross that. I think we'll cross that bridge.

Sudden Remote Work (44:45)

They're going to monetize these more and more. It's going to look better. But it is inevitable because it is just so much cheaper. I just don't see how we're going to avoid a future in which almost all of our interactions with visual technological interfaces will be virtual. I mean, because I did this thing for the New Yorker last month where I was working in VR. And there's this product called Immersed. That's kind of winning the work in VR war right now. And their whole thing was don't focus on collaboration because people don't want to put on a helmet to have a meeting. They just want to go on the Zoom. Find a way to make people's everyday work somehow enhanced by using virtual reality. And the thing they figured out is that focus on tech type first and give them more screens.

My favorite tool (45:33)

Tech types love screens. They want multiple monitors. And so if you use Immersed, you can have five monitors. They're all being powered by your actual machines. But in the virtual world, you can have up to five monitors. And I did this. I worked. They're sharp. And they're huge. You can drag them and put them wherever you want. And you can have like five big screen TV size monitors in this virtual world. And it really does feel like you're looking at a big screen TV. The resolution is there. It looks fine. And now you can have your code over here and your email here and your bug tracker over here. And it's literally-- it was literally better than their real world setup because it's more monitors. And that is how-- see, that's the trend. So you can have in this virtual reality world those monitors. So the tech is there. So now once you can have those monitors with an unobtrusive Google Glass type thing that does not make nice old women want to punch you, so they get the look, right? Why buy the monitors? Like, it's literally going to be-- because in the virtual world, you have to wear the big headset. But the thing you see in the virtual world is like, why do I need to own a monitor? You can watch YouTube or movies in the virtual world. I don't know if you've done this before. It's a movie theater-sized screen. And it feels like it. Here is this giant screen I'm sitting here and it's in a giant dome.

A movie theater-sized screen (46:53)

And it's like 10 feet away from me. And it's huge. So again, people don't want to put a headset on that covers their eyes. But if I have my glasses on wearing anyways, can put that screen, why would I buy one? Like, I don't think people realize like how close we are to the singularity, that like, there's a certain tipping point beyond which, basically, all these factories go out of business. And it's just going to be one factory that makes these things.

The Virtual World Perspective

Our world is about to be more virtual (47:20)

Anyways, that's another point. But I think people don't realize the degree to which our world is about to be a lot more virtual. I don't know if there's good parts of that and bad parts to it. - Snow crash. - It's going to be, yeah, snow crash, but without like as many sophisticated. See, here's the thing about snow crash or these, but you're reading it now, Josie, I know, is like because like, Stevenson's like a, kind of a cool, smart guy, all the characters are so like, steampunk techno sophisticated cool, you know, and like having these rat-a-tat dialogues and it's like these interesting artistic figures. And in these early metaverse things, they're always have like interesting haircuts. And it's always, there's a little punk in it and there's, you know, dyed mohawks and weird leather. And it's like this really cool. I think the authors want to imagine is like, yeah, we're going to be these like cutting edge avant-garde steampunk digital nerds, but not, but also them. And it's not going to be the case. It's going to be, you know, out of shape guys and their American giant hooded sweatshirt that is want to watch YouTube on a bigger screen. So it's not, the reality, the avant-garde is not cool. Immersed is used by a bunch of programmer nerds who had the work remotely because of the pandemic and said, my monitors are at my office, you know. And so they can put on their headset and get their monitors back. It's like never as cool as the Gibson or Stevenson's of the world predict it's going to be.

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