I joined Beau Haan’s Roam Book Club because even though I read Söenke Ahrens’s book back in early 2019, the way I tried to implement a Zettelkasten was truly cockamamie and insane. I’m really enjoying Beau’s writing prompts so far. Today’s thread is from today’s prompt.

The problem with technology for augmenting thought is that it promises to make thought “better” without defining “better.”

Those of us who are intent on APPLYING ALL TECHNOLOGY skip this step: “Obviously the old way is dumb|inefficient|based on constraints that no longer apply.”

See, we get the new technology and how it works. We spend all of our attention on ways it can be used to “improve” on these dumb old ways. One of our favorite, most obvious improvements, is Efficiency.

“Efficiency is better than inefficiency” feels like a safe assumption, especially in a market-religious world, but it fails to consider that there are many areas where efficiency isn’t desirable.

One of these areas is in critical thinking.

While there are parts of thinking where it’s desirable to improve efficiency, such as finding or rediscovering desirable bits of old thinking without friction, the core function of critical thinking does not benefit from efficiency.

Applying an efficiency optimization to critical thinking is like applying a warming optimization to a refrigerator. The point is the cold.

The point of thinking is being present to the automatic, self-connecting ideas that arise from stillness.

Efficiency is not relevant.

These “improvements” aren’t always as perfectly offbase. Another Refrigerator Disruptor™ might optimize for seeing what’s inside the refrigerator without needing to open it.

“Why are we still manually opening our refrigerators like animals?”

He begins sawing holes in the refrigerator.

He realizes that this lets warm air rush in, destroying the refrigerator’s food-preserving capabilities.

He pivots to transparent glass refrigerator doors. Nailed it…

Customers universally hate his refrigerator design, which primarily promotes anxiety and disgust.

Refrigerator Disruption Man™ is baffled because he has clearly solved a problem.

He started with the fact that people want to know what’s in their refrigerators. Their desire is obvious based on their behavior of opening the refrigerator door so many times every day. Conclusion: There’s inefficiency in manually opening a door just to check what’s inside.

It never occurred to Refrigerator Disruption Man™ that a core, not-often-acknowledged feature of the refrigerator is that it hides away your unsightly and disorganized food, allowing your chaotically stocked kitchen to present as calm and sterile.

It never occurs to many who are trying to create thought-augmenting technology that slow, random, open, quiet stillness, the opposite of traditional notions of Technological Efficiency, is the key feature of critical thinking to optimize for, not a bug to fix.