Having experienced obsessively refreshing the website and checking how many likes I got in the early days of Facebook, a hate-it-but-can-not-stop-doing-it behavior that I couldn't explain myself,
I hope that this book - "Irresistible", would provide more insights on this topic.
With the question in mind, I started reading.
This is my "Peek into the Future" series of reading, a "sequel" of the previous book I read - "Thank You for Being Late". Both books reflect on the issues caused by current technologies, while this one focuses on the behavioral addiction in smartphones, video games, wearable techs, emails, and so on.
It's the first book I read that questions the ethics of design of video games, wearable techs, social networks and upcoming VR tech. After years of trial and error, designers have learned and become capable of engineering a system that could abuse the weakness of human being, a weaponized product through thousands of tests that could easily outpace our willpower.
Also, as a software engineer, my company as any other companies, want people to use our products simply, more. The more people use the better. No companies would say "it's enough".
But imagine this, if they use our products 24x7x365, does it improve their lives or rather cause destructions? If I were in a company developing a highly addictive service like YouTube or Netflix or World of Warcraft that keeps so many users hooked to a degree that they can't stop even they want to, would I just blame them lack of willpower and self controls, or would I have this self-consciousness to say, "here we are abusing the human weakness, using it to our advantage, and it's evil"? Quote the book, "There are a thousand people on the other side of the screen who job it is to break down the self-regulation you have."
It made me think about the responsibilities as "the guy on the other side of the screen", to re-examine the ethics when designing a product.
One interesting fact I learned and got surprised was that Steve Jobs chose to not give an iPad to his kids. Evan Williams, a founder of Twitter and Medium, bought hundreds of books for his two young sons but refused to give them an iPad. "As if the people producing tech products were following the cardinal rule of drug dealing: never get high on your own supply."
There are some great pieces in the book that showcased why too much time in front of a screen can affect a child's empathy.
Cyberbullying, or even any other mean conversations sent through message apps, provides zero nonverbal cues, hence hard for children to build empathy.
"Screens" makes parenting easy. But the book calls for more.
Parents have always taught their children how to eat, when to sleep, and how to interact with other people, but parenting today is incomplete without lessons on how to interact with technology, and for how long each day.
After reading it, I imagined, if I want to be a role model for my kids in the future, how I should behave myself these days, and this book showed some methods.
When I was half way through the book, I can't help but comparing it to the other book Grit (and I almost shouted out when it literally used the word "grit" once in the book!). For the almost same stories - like a long-time runner who runs everyday for nearly 40 years - in the other book it'd be modeled as the perfect role model of grit, but here it could be treated as a behavioral addict.
What's the difference? It's the mindset. If he pictures the exercise as a core activity to live a healthy life and chooses to do it every day, then it's a display of true grit. But if he's driven by the numbers/goals shipped from the wearable techs, feeling irresistible of breaking the streaks, forcing himself to go out even when he's physically ill, that's an addiction.
The most critical problem is, you won't learn that much about what the book was titled to teach - ingredients of the behavioral addiction and how to engineer it. You'd get that kind of "aha" moments a lot, but each chapter is not explained in full lengths, and it rarely pieces them altogether.
It felt like the same cotton candy wispy knowledge I get from reading hundreds of articles on my phone but having trouble recounting what I really know now after all that consumption
(One review from Goodreads)
And after 10+ chapters of reviewing the history and revealing the components, you'd expect some sort of solutions or redemptions. Ironically, after criticizing addictive games all the way through, in the end it uses gamification at length as the suggestion to encourage and overcome some of the issues. Too thin.
Lastly, just a preference, but the writing is a little dry.
Where once you had to seek out new goals, today they land, often uninvited, in your inbox and on your screen.
(On the "like" button on Facebook) Users were gambling every time they shared a photo, web link, or status update. A post with zero likes wasn't just privately painful, but also a kind of public condemnation... Like pigeons, we're more driven to seek feedback when it isn't guaranteed.
"I worry what happens when a violent video game feels like murder. And when pornography feels like sex. How does that change the way humans interact, function as a society?"
Wearable techs like the Apple Watch and Fitbit allow you to track your workouts, but they also discourage you from paying attention to your body's internal exhaustion cues.
I've tweeted on the same topics before, and I still enjoy reading/watching them again.
This was directly mentioned in the book, I feel this is exactly the "system" I want to build into my life.
Instead of goals, live your life by systems. A system is "something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run." For a cartoonist, that might be drawing one cartoon per day; for a write, writing five hundred words per day. In contrast to goals, systems bring a steadier stream of low-grade highs. They're guides to a fulfilling life, day by day, rather than enticing pictures of some grand end goal without instructions for how to get there.
As for the continuous reading of the "futures", I have these 2 books in mind particularly:
Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It. A quick Ted talk to get the idea: https://www.ted.com/talks/marc_goodman_a_vision_of_crimes_in_the_future
The 100-year Life - Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, I don't want to retire :)
Ready Player One, it's a fiction set in the future where living in the VR world becomes the norm.
"The twenty-first century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today's rate of progress".
That's the time we are living at, and the book takes you on a trip to walk you through the accelerations in technology, climate and market, how they are collectively affecting our lives and how we as individuals, organizations, countries and human beings should learn to adapt to this new pace of change.
I love 2/3 of the book.
No matter if you check technology news regularly or not, it's a quite well-packed content that can give you a real feeling of how life could be in the future, and what to do when technology accelerates faster than humans can cope.
Also, the story about folks in Africa, had to leave their home and head north, but stuck in the middle and probably can never meet family again, truly touched me.
Quoting the books:
Tell these young African men that their odds of getting to Europe are tiny and they will tell you, as one told me, that when you don't have enough money to buy even an aspirin for your sick mother, you don't calculate the odds. You just go.
no work in the village, went to the town, no work in the town, heading north. (And never ended up going Europe or back home)
And in the chapter "Is God in Cyberspace", it reflects issues about current social media like harassment, fake news, echo chamber, angry mobs, etc. It sets the context in the political situation, but I think it applies everywhere.
Our social media experiences are designed in a way that favors broadcasting over engagements, posts over discussions, shallow comments over deep conversations. It's as if we agreed that we are here to talk at each other instead of talking with each other.
It's the one chapter I do want to read again.
What I don't like much, firstly is the title of the book. To me it's a bait, "Thanks for being late" is also the title of chapter 1, and it doesn't really capture the whole idea of this book at all. As for the meaning of "Thanks for being late", I'm a person who doesn't like to be late, and holds a moderate tolerance of waiting for the late people, the title gives me too much "fake hope" or "fake image", "it's not something I imagined or something you promised", it feels like that.
Next is the slogan in the subtitle: "An optimist's guide to thriving in the age of accelerations", is not deeply explained. Some reviews in Goodreads also expressed similar thoughts, and his "return to Minnesota" perspective was long on nostalgia and short on being a "guide to thriving". I rarely say this about books, but I do want to take back my time on reading the 2 "Minnesota" chapters.
What I dislike the most, is the way he implicitly displayed as if only America is the "hero" country who fight against Russia, China and so on - so to keep the peace of the world and save from those "evils". Throughout the book, he set the scene in a global scope and did a good job analyzing the world nowadays, but in the end, as for the most important answer of how to cope, it suddenly srhinked to America only, what a waste.
That's the 1/3 I disliked but overall, I liked the experience, and that's the most important thing. It fed my brain and provided the opportunity to reflect technology as a whole based on my experience. Also took me to as far as Africa continuent, as close as inside Google's self-driving car, I appreciate the work and I got a lot out of it.
I like to peek into people's workflow and tool kit. It can be watching how a person drips a cup of coffee, from grinding the beans to pouring into a pre-heated mug; It can be observing how a chef cooks a dish, from choosing the ingredients to presenting it on the plate; It can also be, exactly what I'm gonna write about - reading a book about how a writer thinks and writes, from mastering basic principles to adjusting the attitudes.
Ever since I turned into 30, I've noticed an emerging needs to pin down who I once was, to ponder on who I really am and where I'm heading, to seek the meanings of life from all sorts of unexpectedness. My two great companions on this quest have been reading and writing. This book is perfect: it kills two birds with one stone. (Not like I got my 2 companions killed.)
I am a writer and I'm not. I am a writer because I write stuff regularly, but before that I love to think about stuff. Whenever I'm not talking - my majority life has been like that - I'm thinking about something inside. Meaningless or not, it doesn't matter. That something keeps me alive, and only through writing I can put those thoughts in a logical order and make sense out of it.
I'm not a writer in terms of professionals who publish some books and make a living with it. But I won't stop day dreaming that one day I might reach more readers not with better stories but with stories that are written better.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book. No matter what type of writers you are, this book give you some guidance:
On writing skills (principles and methods)
On different formats of writings
I especially enjoyed the technique of using thesaurus dictionary to choose words, not just to find more precise ones but also to make it sound good. Readers not just read your words, they also hear them. I think that's one of the secret ingredients why good articles read instinctively good - it's fine tuned for our palate.
And I loved the attitudes part the most. Even though the author is targeting non-fiction writers, the fundamental about writing or perfection can be applied to any fields that requires hard work and craftsmanship.
He also showed me writing well is not about talents but constant efforts:
"What do you do on days when it isn't going well?"
The professional writer must establish a daily schedule and stick to it. Writing is a craft, not an art, and that the man who runs away from his craft because he lacks inspirations is fooling himself. He is also going broke.
"What if you're feeling depressed or unhappy? Won't that affect your writing?"
If you job is to write ever day, you have to learn to do it like any other job.
"Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is. What holds me is the enthusiasm of the writer for his field." As a person who has never lived in any English-speaking countries, learned it as 3rd language and only holds limited vocabularies in hands (can't blame anyone for this), I'm never confident enough to write with it. But language is a beautiful thing - with simple words and sentences I can still be myself and further find some missing fragments of myself within it, which can't be found in my native language.
I'm gonna continue this journey with 4 core lessons learned from the book: clarity, simplicity, brevity and humanity. Now I've doubled my dual weapons, I hope and I can go out hunt for 2 birds, or 3.
Have you ever felt this way? "This is a great book but I only wish it could be shorter".
I've never finished Getting Things Done, the famous personal productivity and task management book. Even though I love the idea and concept, there're way more words seemingly unrelated or off topic. Don't feel motivated enough to continue, that's why I dropped out.
Another one is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, part of me still feel ashamed not finishing this book but same reason above, too redundant.
It's not like all of us want a bullet points or checklists to quick fix whatever problems in our life. We pick up the book instead of just googling "how to blah blah blah" right?
So I really hope there is a good balance point once the story is well told, conclusion is laid out, then that's it, no more off topic contents to make an already great work less great.
Among all the books I've read, REMOTE is outstanding because of its contents and its length. Precise, concise and convincing. I remember the author mentioned that after they wrote the whole book, they cut it to half size to save readers' time.
The free ebook "SHAVE 10 HOURS OFF YOUR WORKWEEK" by Michael Hyatt is another great example, only 50 pages but it perfectly covers all the points.
And one timely tweet I saw recently is this: "21 minutes edited down to 14 minutes (- 33%) because I respect your time."
21 minutes edited down to 14 minutes (- 33%) because I respect your time. pic.twitter.com/jVY76NKLXW— NSScreencast (@NSScreencast) April 25, 2016
Isn't this another great aspect of delivering your contents that most book authors are either ignoring or being kept in blindspot? You don't need to pack tons of words to make it a book, while you can write a blog post.
This book covered all those major moments of his football life. From his childhood, how he got his work ethic from the family background, where he's love for Manchester United is from, to the "infamous" tragedy in 1998 World Cup, last 3 minutes vs Bayern Munich in 1999 UEFA Champions League final, 2002 revenge to Argentina, to the final match as a football player. In a very personal story telling way, as if he's sitting there talking to you. I've watched some of his talks before, gentle, humble, honest. You would enjoy this book if you are a fan of David Beckham for sure.
I still remember the 1998 World Cup England vs Argentina match, vividly. I was just about getting 15, the good age to be able to fully enjoy the football match, just started to understand the tactics of teams and skills of individuals. That year was special to me, and what made it more special was that match.
As Beckham wrote himself, after he was provoked by Argentina player Simeone and got sent off the pitch, and then was blamed for the lose of the game, "I was the most hated man in England". There're people, super skilled, super smart, but they just like the dirty plays and mental tricks, Simeone is one of them, to me at least. And Beckham as the inexperienced player that year, paid the price, he suffered a lot. What made it worse was that his families were also involved in that national hatred. There was an envelop with bullets in it sent to his house. His dad was yelled by a stranger in the street. During that dark era was his teammates and his club, Manchester United and its supporters embraced him. You would thank the past self that you've had done something with your full heart and earned those respects and people around, that one day when you really need a hug, they would come to you.
I would also like to mention about his work ethic. He wrote in the book that throughout his career he had been getting this criticism that he's more of a fashion star rather than a football player. Maybe it's because his handsome look, maybe because he married to a fashion star, but people may not know that how much effort he had put into training and practicing. Those free kicks are not luck. That's a natural consequence. He started practice earlier than everyone, and stayed late than everyone in the team. Rainy days, snowy days, all the same.
Confidence is a funny thing. People often say that you need a lot of luck to win. But, for me, confidence comes down to preparation. When you have practiced something so much that is has become a part of who you are. Second nature.
When Beckham talks about free kicks and confidence.
Football is a sport, but in many ways, it's also an attitude to life. To me Beckham made a huge positive influence on/off the pitch, to his supporters and enemies.
Note: The kindle version of this book is unlike the normal ebook, more like scanned and turned it to a pdf, has the original book layout but it also makes it terrible to read on laptop/phone, and can't highlight or keep any notes. A hardcover book is recommended.