Creative Boredom, Dumbing Down, and Memorizing

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    Welcome to Skills for the Future of Work! We hope you enjoy this edition as much as we enjoyed writing it! If you did, don’t keep it to yourself. Share it with some friends!

    As usual, here’s what to expect – a tip, an insight, and our favourite new thing. So, let’s get going!

    In the 1970s, calculators began to enter our classrooms – to the consternation of some educators, and many parents, who were concerned that basic skills would be lost as students became “dependent” on them. The reality turned out to be somewhat different – calculators helped students become more engaged in mathematics, and allowed them to get to higher proficiency in mathematics overall, as they moved beyond performing basic calculations. In other words, the calculator actually made us smarter.

    But just because that happened with one piece of technology, doesn’t mean it happens with all pieces of technology. And technology is so ubiquitous and powerful today, it’s probably worth thinking seriously about what effect it is having overall on our human capabilities. We say “Human is my superpower” at BillionMinds, but that superpower needs to be nurtured and maintained.

    It’s easy to make the “pro-technology” case. The internet has democratized access to highly detailed information, often for free. Want to learn from an expert how Jane Austen’s letters to her sister debunk myths about her sheltered upbringing? Download the Kanopy app, and start binging 24 college-level classes on Austen with nothing more than a library card. Oh, and the above brief history of the calculator? Credit Sarah A. Banks Masters Thesis on the usage of calculators in classrooms since 1975. 132 wonderfully meticulously researched pages found with a 1 minute Google search. Never in the history of humankind have we had easier access to such rich information.

    So, what’s the “anti-technology” argument? There are actually many. Consider that not only is misinformation ripe on the Internet but that it spreads faster than the accurate stuff. Henry Mintzberg (who will soon be a guest on our podcast) – cites several causes for dumbing down, including the decline of our communities, addiction to our devices, and Groupthink. And some of the more dystopian views of an AI-dominated future reference the movie Wall-E, which imagines a world where our electronic surroundings overstimulate us so much that we no longer think for ourselves at all.

    So should we be worried that technology IS dumbing us down? The answer is, to quote the wise band Oasis, Definitely Maybe. One key difference between the calculator and the smartphone is that the calculator isn’t really addictive, but the smartphone is outrageously so. The calculator made basic calculations lightning fast, and we used the time freed up to do more complex mathematics. In other words, we spent our time thinking deeper thoughts. Our current devices push to us whatever content we want, or what the algorithms think we might want, and overstimulate us to a point where many of us are doing very little thinking at all. Even if we cannot be sure how dangerous that is, it’s probably time we put down our devices for a bit and started at least thinking about it.


    Whether it’s an elevator pitch, a poem at an open-mic night, or a speech at a wedding – we all need to remember things from time to time. It can be devilishly challenging to remember things word for word, but fortunately, technology is there to help us out. There are lots of apps you can get, but our favorite one is called MemoCoach – it uses a variety of techniques that build on each other to help lock in those words. So check it out, but don’t forget that other vitally important thing that helps you remember – sleep!

    The Tip: Get Bored!

    Video Length: 105 Seconds

    When was the last time you got bored? As in REALLY bored, like the kids used to get 4 weeks into the summer holidays and there was nothing left to do that hadn’t already been done multiple times. Boredom is good for us, surprisingly so, so this week’s tip is about how to cultivate boredom and take advantage of its positive effects. Check out the video below to find out how to get yourself more bored right away.

    About Us

    BillionMinds brings you this newsletter each and every week. But that’s not all we do. We also help employees and managers in companies around the world embed key soft skills to thrive in the modern workplace and get certified in those skills. Each of our Learn/Do experiences is less than 10 minutes a day and you can see meaningful change within two weeks.

    We work with both companies and individual employees. Certification programs start at $200 and we provide discounts for those seeking work. For more information, visit us here.