The Skill You’re Slowly Losing


– This video is sponsored by Brilliant. And the first 200 people to sign up with the link in the description
down below are going to get 20% off their annual premium
Brilliant subscription. The internet is an instant answer machine. Whenever you have a question, all you need to do to get an answer is to bring up Google on your computer or to poll your phone. Or if you’re feeling particularly lazy, ask one of the many voice
assistants that are, let’s be real here, definitely
always listening to you. Hey Siri, how do I stop procrastinating? – [Siri] Have you tried
not being literally the laziest piece of crap in the world? – But out here, on this frozen
lake, there is no service. Which means that if I run into a problem, or if I come across
something that I don’t know, the only thing I have to rely on is the bundle of neurons up in my cranium. Which, to be honest, contains
a vastly more limited set of answers and knowledge than
I’ll find on the internet. But maybe that’s a good thing. See, when I was taking
calculus in the 10th grade, I developed a bad habit of sorts. Calculus was really hard for me. So I would often go to the commons area of the math department to
get help from the professors in the mornings. And at some point, I
realized that they left the instructor’s edition of the textbook, which had all of the answers in the back, just out on the table
in that commons area. So naturally, I started
going to the commons area at six a.m. to do all of my homework. And a pattern started to develop where I would get stuck
on a calculus problem, get stuck on some part of
a derivative or something, and then I would eventually
go to the back of the book to get the answer. I had this threshold where
I became mentally lazy and went for those answers. And because the book
was right in front of me and I had access to those
answers all the time, over time, my threshold
for giving up lowered and lowered and lowered. And in recent years, I’ve
seen this pattern emerge on a larger scale and a more general scale with regards to that
magical answer machine that you’re using to watch
this video right now. For all its benefits, the
internet can encourage the formation of habits
that make us mentally lazy. And this isn’t just an
anecdotal observation, either. There is data to back this up. For example, a study
done at Harvard in 2011 found that when people are
faced with difficult questions, they’re now more primed
to think about computers. And it also found that
when they expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall
for the information itself and higher recall for
where they can access it. Essentially, we start
to perceive the internet as a true extension to
our brain’s memory banks. This is called cognitive offloading. And more recent research has
found that the more we use the internet to answer
questions, the more quickly we turn to it in the future. Cognitive offloading begets
more cognitive offloading. And this is congruent
with the habits we form around other effort-saving technologies, like washing machines and cars. And some people would say that’s okay, that it’s no different
than how we moved away from specializing in oral memorization when the printing press was invented. And well, we didn’t really lose much in that transition, right? But this time, it is different. The problem with the internet
is we don’t seem to limit our mental outsourcing to simple facts. Our critical thinking
abilities are affected as well. Take the case of Terry Hike, who was an English teacher
who asked his students the question how do modern novels represent the characteristics of humanity. And don’t worry, I’m not going to quiz you on this question later on. But the question was meant to challenge the students’
critical thinking skills. And instead of thinking
independently about the question like he wanted them to, Hike found that they immediately
started to Google it. The effort-saving technology
was so close at hand that it had become the
default problem solving method for his students. And this example is typical
of our behavior as a whole. Unless we consciously work against it, our brains naturally want to take the path of least resistance. When I was in college, the
closest I could park my car was about half a mile from my dorm, which meant that I
basically never used it. Instead, I just walked everywhere, or sometimes grabbed my
skateboard or rode my bike. But now that it sits here in my garage, well, I have to make a
conscious, disciplined effort not to use it. And make no mistake, it’s
worth making that effort. Every time I choose not
to drive, I get exercise. I spend more time truly
connected with my surroundings. And I don’t contribute
to traffic and pollution. But at the same time, without my car, I wouldn’t be able to
get to many of the places that I really want to go. What’s up world? The internet presents us
with the exact same dilemma. While there are very
real benefits to curbing the amount of cognitive
offloading we unconsciously do, the access to knowledge and the ability to get instant answers are both incredibly useful. Alexa, how many ounces are in a pint? – [Alexa] One pint is 16 fluid ounces. – So how do you strike a balance? How do you allow yourself to use this tool while also retaining your
critical thinking skills? This is incredibly important to consider, given the fact that sometimes, we’re going to encounter problems where the internet simply can’t help us. And other times, we’re
going to be in places where we don’t have
access to the internet. So here’s a simple
solution to this problem. When you’re confronted with a question that you don’t know the answer to, or you’re stuck on a
problem, ask yourself, do I have even a shred of confidence that I could solve this on my own? If the answer to that question is yes, then challenge yourself
to work on the problem for a few minutes on your
own before running to Google. A friend of mine works at a company where they’ve actually
codified a very similar idea into something they
call the 15-minute rule. When anyone at the
company finds themselves stuck on a problem to the point where they feel like they need help, the first thing they have to
do is spend 15 more minutes trying to solve it, while also documenting
the things that they try. And this documentation process
is actually quite helpful, because it causes them to
think about the problem from a different perspective, which often helps them solve
the problem on their own. But if they’re still
stuck after 15 minutes, that’s when they must ask for help. And this rule helps everyone
to strike a balance. They stay in the habit of
thinking independently, but no one wastes too much time banging their heads against
problems they’re truly stuck on. And I think that this is a
great way to achieve balance in the way that you use the internet. Because you don’t want
to lose the capabilities that it gives you. It is incredibly powerful. But you also want to
retain your own ability and your instinct to solve
problems on your own, to use your brain, and to be able to put it to work. And the only way you’re going to do that is if you frequently put it to work. In his book “Atomic Habits,” the author James Clear talks about how our habits are basically
how we embody our identities. One example he gives is if
you make your bed every day, you are embodying the identity of a person who is cleanly and organized. And the decisions that we make, the behavior that we
exhibit on a daily basis, stems largely from our identities. “Every action you take is a vote “for the type of person
you wish to become. “No single instance will
transform your beliefs, “but as the votes build up, “so too does the evidence
of your new identity.” So what identity do you want to build? Are you okay with being
the mentally lazy person who outsources everything to machines? Or will you be the
independent problem solver for whom the internet is
simply one useful tool? The choice is yours. All right, I am back into civilization. And well, now back dealing
with all the problems that come along with civilization. Now, if you want to become a
truly creative problem solver, you do need to spend time trying to independent solve problems like we just talked about. But you also need good problems
to sink your teeth into. And if you’re looking for a resource that will give you those great problems along with the ability to
expand your knowledge base in the areas of math,
science, and computer science, then you should check out Brilliant. Because in their library of
more than 60 in-depth courses, you are going to find tons
of material that helps you to actively become a better problem solver and actively learn things like
calculus, like number theory, like gravitational physics,
Python programming, and the fundamentals
of computer algorithms. They even have a course on
how search engines works. So if you’ve ever been
curious about how Google instantaneously serves you search results, then that is a great course to take. The best thing about Brilliant, though, is that every single one
of their courses is built with the principle of
active learning in mind. So you’re not just gonna be sitting there intaking videos or reading text. There are code writing challenges, story writing challenges, quizzes. You get to really interact
with the information. And that helps you learn more efficiently and stay more interested for
longer while you’re learning. And in addition to that
library of courses, Brilliant also has a feature
called Daily Challenges, where every single day, you can log in and get a brand new
challenge to number one, make learning and problem
solving a daily habit, but number two, expand your horizons. Maybe sink your teeth into something that you haven’t really considered before. Now, with Brilliant’s free plan, you get access to those
new Daily Challenges every single day. And if you want to subscribe
to their premium option, you’ll get access to all of those courses and every single Daily
Challenge that has been released since the beginning. And if you’re one of the first 200 people to go over to brilliant.org/thomasfrank and sign up, you’re going to get 20% off that annual premium subscription. Huge thanks, as always, to Brilliant for sponsoring this video and being a big supporter of my channel. And thank you so much for watching. If you enjoyed this video, definitely hit that Like button and get subscribed if you
haven’t done so already so you don’t miss out on future videos, because boy, howdy, are
we taking a lot of time to make videos for you guys. And I don’t want you to miss them. If you want to check out some other videos that I’ve made in the past, I will have a playlist link over here, or a link to my music
channel right over here. Check that out. And once again, thanks for watching. I’ll see you. Go do whatever you want. I’m not your dad. Yeah, bye.

97 thoughts on “The Skill You’re Slowly Losing

  1. This video started out with some in-progress thoughts posted on my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/B7me4onpsbM/ – connect with me there if you want to see more posts like that one and behind-the-scenes stuff 😁

  2. Been watching your videos for a long time and one thing I can say for sure is that you respect your audience enough to bring them quality content! Keep it up 💪💪

  3. Who knew from the first min that this was going to lead into a skillshare/brilliant ad? Great video though.

  4. Law of least effort, it’s encoded in nature so nobody should feel bad about taking shortcuts. The brain wants to preserve brain power for the really important things.

  5. I agree. A lot of people rely on teachers instead of figure problems out themselves. This then slowly builds up to the point where they cant learn independently

  6. The fact that your audio was still crispy clear while you were recording outdoors is awesome! Also, I can relate this decreased threshold for problem-solving to learning a language and the temptation of knowing that the answer key for my workbook is just sitting on my computer. I realized that checking every time I got stuck on a grammar point or vocab word wasn't helping me with my progress but it was just too tempting to look. I think developing a habit to do the workbook away from my computer and think longer about the question will definitely help me absorb the lessons better!

  7. Video speaks truth,We tend To rationalize our lazy Tendencies and stick them.I was definitely called out on a few habits especially when it came to assignments😅

  8. YOooo the editing in this video is SO MUCH of a step up from your previous ones. How much more effort and time did it take to do this compared to your past work?

  9. This is one benefit of upper level college courses and discussion based graduate school courses. Most are free format socratic discussions that require one to think and critically analyze a situation from your own point of view, and articulate those thereby solidifying them in your head.

  10. THOMAS THIS VIDEO IS AMAAAZIINGGGGG !! 😭😭 you really out did yourself with the visuals !!!! the structure !! the writing ! this is inspiring

  11. Alternative version of that quote at the end:
    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." — Aristotle

  12. This was so well made! Following you for years, I remember what videos used to be like and now I see the production quality and I'm shook. Thank you for being you and constantly improving every single one!

  13. 2017 Thomas Frank in his room in front of the camera talking about productivity
    2020 Thomas Frank's awesome production values with lots of cool b roll, lots of camera angles and several locations
    2023 Thomas Frank's alternate reality game VR miniseries starring Meryl Streep and Al Pacino in space

  14. After marathoning a lot of the podcast, it's really funny to see the new things you're trying out in the video. Interesting camera work/lighting while out doors and B roll. A little jaring compared to your normal inside talk to the camera type deal, but much more visually interesting for a video about a less concrete topic, so props to that. Been having problems with this kinda stuff for a big exam coming up in February. Thanks Tom!

  15. This felt like a veritasium video!

    I love the way you have developed as a Yotuber Tom. Been subscribed since '16.

    Keep up the food work!

  16. Hi Tom! First quick question, what kind of timer are you using in your video?

    Second, as an engineering student, I really appreciate and agree with this video (at least about striking a balance between utilizing your critical thinking skills and utilizing the internet). I find that when I'm learning something for the first time, I do need to see the answers to the examples (which aren't often provided by the professors) and that sometimes involves using the internet. However, when I'm studying for a test, I really try and use the retrieval method- can I now solve the problem without any other resources or time available to me other than what is given on the test? I find that I do much better on the test when I've tried solving a problem from scratch and guessing- even if I was wrong- at how to solve the problem. And it is so much more of a confidence boost to get a problem right on your own than to have to refer to the internet all the time to solve things.

    You are honestly my favorite YouTuber. Thanks for the video!

  17. "Have you tried turning it off and on again" I love how many references you make to the IT Crowd in your videos haha !

  18. AMAZING video Thomas! Please keep doing other ones like this. This level of quality, information and watching pleasure is epic. Easily my favorite video of yours by far.

  19. Thomas, this production is incredible. Along with your incredibly useful insight, I'm blown away by the clear effort you put into this video. Easy A+ from me.

  20. The skill we're slowly losing is that we forgot how to learn. I always remember my grandpa figuring out how to solve the rubix cube within four hours without any guide or anything. He grew up in a time where there was no easy way to find a quick answer. He figured out how to fix cars, plumbing, electricity, carpentry, etc. because he's so good at learning on his own. Nowadays, everyone just googles the answer to a question without trying to find it themselves.

  21. Honestly, I think this might explain the division I seem to see in the millennial generation.

    Those who rely on the ease of the internet and other tools, seem to form the bulk, and the stereotypes of this generation.

    And those who don't rely on it form the sub group that people don't even associate with millennial.

  22. Haven’t posted a question on stack overflow for months. Hopefully I can solve this Caesar cipher problem on my own 😤

  23. Very different from previous videos. Love it really love it. And also that video helps me to think again about life.

  24. Accidentally, I just happened to walk out of the library to pull my phone and watch a YouTube video on the process of fatty acid oxidation that I couldn't understand form my textbook, but instead I procrastinated and decided to click on this video, and thanks to you I've decided now to skip the video and challenge myself to find out how it works without relying on a video to explain it.

  25. I think is a benefit to save on the pc things you want to never forget.leave space only for the important things in your brain.Is imposible to remember everything in detail so having it somewhere written, you can revise and eventually learn it.

  26. Think the heavy problems in daily office work which need to be solved specifically for the company you're in, there is no convenient answer in the internet and gives room to be solved by yourself.

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