Fighting replaceability by fighting superficiality.
The tools we have at our disposal to communicate serve us until the day we realize that we are at their service through the dependency we have created for ourselves. In his book, “The Shallows”, Nicholas G. Carr explains the cognitive harms of embracing a lifestyle in which the machine and artificial intelligence would have a central place. By outsourcing our most trivial tasks in a world where interruptions and other distractions are legion, we end up weakening our cognitive abilities to the point where they are unable to perform meaningful work. By allowing ourselves to be invaded by these tools offered by the Web, we have fallen into the trap of replaceability.
Being replaceable means that our work capacity can be identical to that of a software or an algorithm. To face this pitfall, it is advisable to take things in hand by following the advice given by Cal Newport in his book “Deep Work”.
The only remedy for superficiality and its deleterious consequences is the ability to enter a cognitive state that allows us to do meaningful work. According to the author, deep work is a state of concentration without distraction that pushes our cognitive abilities to their limits. This state allows us to acquire skills more quickly and to perform tasks such as writing or programming. The ability to acquire skills is critical today as everything is changing rapidly. Someone who has the ability to learn knowledge faster than others and put it into action has a decisive advantage over others and over machines. In order to achieve such a state, favorable habits and rituals must be put in place.
First of all, you have to be comfortable with boredom. You have to relearn how to live the way our ancestors lived who were not constantly distracted. They had the ability to wait patiently in a line without feeling the need to draw their cell phone for entertainment. They couldn’t do that. This impossibility made it easier 100 years ago to reach a deep state of work than it is today. Getting used to boredom and even taming it like taming a wild animal is therefore essential. It can take time, but without this it is futile to seek an intense cognitive state. Disconnect from social media for a while and become comfortable with a form of loneliness. By embracing boredom, you will rewire your brain in a different way, only then will you reach the Deep Work state.
Learn to identify shallow work
It is obviously impossible to eliminate tasks requiring limited cognitive resources. Not everything can be deep work. Moreover, it is rare if not impossible to perform more than 5 hours of deep work per day. Nevertheless, it is important to identify the non deep tasks in order to limit their quantity in daily life.
We live in the era of the knowledge economy, according to the author, three types of individuals can stand out in such a context :
Individuals who know how to work with intelligent machines (such as computer professionals for example)
Persons holding capital. This is a constant in history, except during revolutionary episodes in which they have been targets.
Champions in their field
Thorough work allows success in the third category according to the following equation: high quality work = time spent x intensity of concentration
There are several “modes” that allow you to live according to the principle of deep work, ranging from an extreme state called a monastic state in which you isolate yourself from the world to the lighter one that consists of dividing the day into a few slots devoted to deep work. Depending on your situation and preferences, you will choose which mode suits you best.
Reconsider the idea of a break
A break should no longer be a moment of distraction but a period during which you recharge your cognitive capacities. When you work intensely, you gradually exhaust your neurons that need rest. The problem being that distraction does not rest your neurons, it stimulates them on the contrary. This is why you need to switch from a concentration mode to a diffuse mode, i.e. you think in a detached way while doing a physical activity such as walking or any other sport. This can be called productive meditation.
Once you have set up this mode of operation in which you work in particular in blocks of time without distractions, preferably in isolation, you can move on to the second step, which consists of researching the skill or skills you wish to develop or acquire. According to Kai-Fu Lee, a Taiwanese computer scientist author of several books on AI and its relationship to work, a job will be resilient to machines when it is creative and involves human relations. To what extent does your job involve these two parameters? What strategic choices can you make for the future to increase your resilience to the threat of replaceability?
You will need to answer these questions to better envision the future.