This is day 21 of "The Thirty Day Blog Binge." Learn more
I first read read about the Light Phone sitting on a runway, waiting for a plane to whisk me away to scenic Oakland in May of last year. As I scrolled through this Tech Crunch article, I felt like I had found a tiny door hidden in the side of a prison cell, a chance of escape where none had previously existed.
The Light Phone could save me from my smart phone.
As someone who trains others on blending technology and teaching, I'm all about tech's upside. But I'm also about using it thoughtfully. Our creativity and human relationships suffer when we're unable to escape the dings, pings, and buzzes of the shiny little monster that lives in our pocket.
Having progressed from Google's 30 Weeks Incubator in New York City to a Kickstarter campaign to now taking pre-orders that will ship in June 2016, the Light Phone hopes to defeat that monster by becoming the relief valve for our hyperconnected existence.
Instead of having to schlep your everyday, app-heavy phone with you everywhere you go, you can leave it on the desk, grab your Light Phone and still be reachable by, well, phone. The Light Phone is controlled by the Light App, and it's a pay-as-you-go type of arrangement that uses your current phone number. But everything else that's contained in your smartphone stays wherever you left it, so you can experience being present wherever you are.
But besides just opinion, why invest $110 in a phone that is a slightly less robust version of a landline? Scientific research is starting to reveal some interesting results of our perpetually connected existence, and the consequences of connectivity aren't exactly positive. Here are three of the findings that persuade me the Light Phone is a step in the right direction.
- Multitasking is a total lie.
In The Distraction Addiction, Microsoft Research Fellow Alex Soojun-Kim Pang points out that we typically call "multi-tasking" is actually "switch-tasking." Technical multi-tasking is where we engage in multiple activities focused on a common goal. For example, preparing a multi-course dinner, adjusting for cooking times and temperatures, and trying to get everything on the plate together is multi-tasking: we're doing many things, but they're all for one purpose.
"Switch-tasking" is the more accurate name for what we do most of the time: we trying to perform multiple, unrelated activities that eventually cause our performance to suffer in all of them. You may be very proud of your ability to do multiple things at once, but science says you're not doing any of them well.
Among the findings are that multitasking drops your IQ as much as smoking marijuana, that driving while performing another task is worse than being drunk, and that the mental blocks created by switching tasks can cost you as much as 40 percent of your productive time.
How does the Light Phone help? It removes the multitude of thing that make you want to engage in "switch-tasking" and allows you to be present, focusing one one thing. Hallelujah for unitasking.
- We're all addicted to dopamine.
Dopamine is the chemical in our brain that induces "seeking behavior." It makes us "want, desire, seek out and search." Dopamine isn't a bad thing: you wouldn't be curious and reading this blog if dopamine hadn't caused you to be interested and wanted to learn more.
The problem is when we get into a "dopamine induced loop." Dopamine is particularly potent when we're seeking and finding information in small bits (think 140 characters), and it creates a never-ending cycle of desiring, seeking and finding that often can only be broken by a change in environment.
The Light Phone lets us break that loop by removing the influence of the thing that provides all the endless information we could possibly need. If we're honest, we often get on social media for fear that we'll miss something or be left out of the loop. Even knowing that information is there and we could be looking at it keeps us from being fully present (one study showed that just know there's an email in your inbox drops your IQ by 10 points). Fully removing the potential for a dopamine loop (by, say, leaving your smartphone at home) is the only way avoid expending energy by trying to avoid it.
- Information overload makes decision making impossible.
Futurist Anthony Townsend makes the point that "Minds, organizations, cities, entire societies all need time to integrate and process new ideas. If you have to constantly, instantly react, rest and contemplation and deliberation--the ability to think about what you're doing--disappears." Constant exposure to real time "destroys both decision-making and contemplative ability."
At some point, you just have to stop and think. Our working memory is limited to the number of pieces of information it can hold on to and process (7 items or less), and too much information can result in "choice paralysis," where we have so much information we can't decide on anything. Barry Schwartz has made this his life's work, and his TED talk is worth watching to learn more.
So how can a glowing, credit card sized phone make a difference? By intentionally limiting our choices, we can deal fully with the information we already have. Instead of a constant, inescapable stream of "real-time" facts and data, deep, creative, analytical thought can emerge when we find ourselves in a quieter place. We may just find it easier to start making decisions with a little bit less information.
So I think the Light Phone is going to be worth it: a willful, intentional downsizing of my electronic and connective capabilities. I can't wait for June.