Technologists will have you believe that they got everything under control. Through years of hardware excellence and some good ol’ Moore’s Law we now have super computers in our pockets. Generations of designers and disruption enthusiasts have taken care of our every need. Dog walking, grocery shopping, suit fitting apps litter our phone, just waiting for us to sign up, arm in our credit detail and engage a query into cyber space.

Then idea of running errands is expiring. When was the last time you walked down the street with a dry cleaned shirt, milk, eggs and wine for dinner?

We are all working a lot harder, for longer hours — fending for our needs and hobbies is not a modern activity. We can sit on our sofa, or stand in the subway heading home while our digital tentacles arrange for everything to come to us, like true millennials superheroes.

We don’t need to sweat running around to make our perfect dinner – not physically running at least. There is a hidden cost, and that cost has a unit.

Mental steps are units of cognition we deploy when we route our mental activities. If you imagine the internet as an ocean, then each start–up is an island, and mental steps are the fuel that teleports you from one to the other.

Can you remember the last time you had mental fatigue? For example when you were jumping between ordering groceries for dinner, while looking for wine, and googling for wine pairing advice – all while holding onto a rail on a rush hour subway?

Mental fatigue is the result of our current industrialist and silo-ed internet paradigm. New technologies of AI, machine learning and decentralization are bound to change the architecture of the internet. Digital products will be able to interoperate themselves, ask each other questions and come to base with what you need (for a small fee of course, free software is the stuff of silos).

But until then what we can do is become better users by articulating our mental journeys. How much self–computation (cognition) did I have to put into my last session with a machine (my smartphone)? Was it justified?

Tools that are not intuitive require us to extend our cognition, and meet the system where is stops being useful.

The sooner we start thinking about that moment in time when we meet our machines, and our mental journey, the more mindful we can be of our technological surrounding. After all, the mind travels too.

July 19, 2017