How the Internet Redesigns your Mind | Choose your Default Mode

How the Internet Redesigns your Mind | Choose your Default Mode

Imagine for a second that everyone had a magical
cube in their pockets. With the right permutation, you could materialize
all kinds of food or drink. At first there was only one cube in existence
and nobody knew what it did until after about a year of fiddling with the thing, someone
found the permutation for water. After that, they started to quickly figure
out how to make more things like tea and avocados and all kinds of vegetables. Over several years, they then figured out
how to manufacture the cubes efficiently and inexpensively and with a lot more cubes and
plenty of people to play with them, things rapidly progressed to the point where they
were making more complex things like kimchi, butter or yogurt. Cube users were increasing exponentially and
the world was excited about this- it was going to cure world hunger, standard of living would
increase across the globe, everyone would have infinite access to healthy foods! A couple days later beer was added to the
list. Then a bunch of hard liquors came out and
a few people became slightly worried about the whole situation. Then a couple weeks later two guys from Virginia
show up and say “Hey uhhh we just made cocaine with the cube.” For the first time in most of these people’s
lives, they were in a situation where they had access to a huge variety of choices at
all moments during the day . They could do anything from having the highest quality nourishing
meal, to deciding to add just one or two cookies to their lunch, or they could say “eh work’s
not going so well, maybe a spot of cocaine would help.” And that’s kind of what we have with the
internet. OK It’s unrealistic to say you get pathologically
addicted to the internet as fast as you would to cocaine, but just as the mystical cube
people can choose to nourish or poison their bodies at any point in the day, the internet
allows us to subject our brains to information that enriches our intellect and gives us new
perspectives, OR we can choose streams of information that leave us thinking “What
I have been doing the past 30 minutes?” The thing is, the problem goes deeper than
just the minutes you lose to twitter, facebook or reddit. The way you use the internet literally changes
your brain’s default way of operating, and part of it has to do with how intimately your
brain interacts with tools. A 2010 research article from the association
of psychological science found that when you are using a tool, your brain understands the
tool not as something you are manipulating with your hands, but actually as if it were
a part of your body. For example if you have someone hold a marker
and then you could ask their brain to describe their right hand, the brain might say something
like “I have 6 rods coming out of a meat filled slab. 5 of the rods are bendable and 3 of them are
attached to a rigid, meatless rod.” Kind of like you are what you eat, from your
brain’s perspective you are what you use. But what about more abstract tools? In Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows,”
which is all about how the internet affects your brain, he explains how different tools
change our perception of the world and the the actual way we think, and not just what
we think about. One example is the very simple and useful
tool that is the map. Without the map people would rely on their
sight as well as their understanding of intricate smells and sounds to create a 3D landscape
in their minds. The map then simplifies this complex process
down to just visualizing your position in space as a point on a 2D plane. Another example is how originally our perception
of time was an understanding of how cycles and rhythms of the natural world relate to
each other. With the advent of the mechanical clock, we
began to look at our day as just a compilation of neatly segmented slices of time. Even something as simple as the spaces between
words can be considered a tool that changes the way we use our brains. For a while, there were no spaces between
words and everything was just jammed together, so you had to read the text out loud to see
where one word began and another ended. Putting spaces between words made the task
of reading much easier to the point that people could read silently to themselves for much
longer stretches of time. Because people now had something they could
engage with and stay concentrated on for hours at a time, deep focus became a more widespread
skill. However, the recent internet environment is
one that wires peoples’ brains for enhanced distractibility. At all times you have multiple streams of
information in the form of notifications, advertisements, and messages
from your friends -all things that you can redirect your attention to. Our brains are naturally on the alert for
new information, and the more we’re exposed to this kind of virtual interface, the more
our brain decides to rewire itself to respond to and even crave these internet distractions. Try and think about how long you usually stay
on one tab, one application or one video at a time. Might be no longer than a couple minutes or
even a few seconds. You might have flipped over to facebook in
just the course of this video. I’ve even found myself opening up reddit
on my phone while watching a movie on my TV that I’m enjoying. I’m already entertained, so what am I doing? You can exercise or let atrophy different
modes of thinking. Maybe at some point you finally set some time
aside to work on that big project you’ve been meaning to do, only to find yourself
feeling uncomfortable and asking yourself “Why can’t I focus?” The reason is the same as why most people
can’t sign their names with their left hand. Alright, so what if we are gearing our brains
to be distracted? Maybe things take a little bit longer to do-
that’s not that terrible. The problem with getting distracted like this
has to do with how your short term memory processing works. Your brain, ironically, can be compared to
a web browser. For example, when you’re shopping on Amazon,
you might want to go back a couple pages to double check the price of something. You can do this by clicking the back button
because the web browser stores those pages in its recent history. When you’re doing something like reading
a book, your brain is processing and storing the information in short term memory so it
can relate the paragraph you’re reading to the last couple paragraphs you just read. If you get distracted by a text message while
you’re reading, you might find that when you go back to the sentence you were just
on, you’re asking “Wait, who are they talking about?” This is because getting distracted and shifting
your attention to the text message is like clearing your recent browser history. Your brain can’t hit the back button to
review what it just read because it dumped what was in the short term memory so it could
focus on the text message, so you end up having to to reread the last paragraph or two. Being distracted like this gets in the way
of the insightful, creative thinking necessary to complete fulfilling and ambitious tasks. You process information in the short term
memory like this when you’re doing anything from working on a business idea, to practicing
piano or writing an article. With enough time and uninterrupted focus,
the information slowly trickles from your conscious short term memory to your subconscious
long term memory. And it’s only when the information is in
the long term memory that you can make insightful connections with other pieces of information
you’ve picked up in the past. The reason you get those Aha! Moments and creative insights out of the blue
is because in the background, your subconscious long term memory is processing new and old
bits of information and making connections between them. When something distracts you and pulls your
focus from the task at hand, this transfer of information from short term to long term
memory gets interrupted. “Attention is the key to the entire process
of transferring information into long term memory and creating connections.” To be truly productive and successful professionally
or creatively in this competitive and fast moving world, you need to set up long blocks
of time where you can work completely uninterrupted and you’ll need to have developed a mind
where distraction is not the default mode. When people are picking out what to eat they
kind of have it in the back of their mind how that piece of food is going to change
their body. They can expect that while processed junk
food does taste good, it will make them gain weight and have less energy. But I don’t think enough people are thinking
“Is the way I’m about to use my smart phone right now going to change my brain’s
default setting to be more focused or more distracted?” Looking at a couple memes for 5 minutes when
you get a quick break from work probably doesn’t feel like a big deal and it probably isn’t. Then again, your brain has the annoying ability
to quickly habituate towards activities that provide enjoyment for very little energy. Looking back on my cube analogy, cocaine may
seem like too intense of an example for the bad aspects of the internet. Well, research has shown that the difficulty
with cocaine isn’t just that it rewires your pleasure center to make you addicted
to it, cocaine actually damages the dendrites of the neurons in the prefrontal cortex- this
is the area of the brain that is responsible for executive control. Executive control is essentially the ability
to stay rational, maintain focus and exert willpower in order to achieve some sort of
long term goal. This means that at the same time one area
of the addict’s brain is wired to crave cocaine, the area that he needs to rely on
to resist these cravings is damaged. It’s this kind of rewiring of the brain
in a way that interferes with your ability to reach your personal potential that I’m
pointing to when I make the comparison to certain negative aspects of the internet. While it happens slowly, these quick or instant
bursts of new and interesting information from the internet can become a slippery slope
into a brain that enjoys and desires distraction and prefer instant gratification. Also, consider this: in cases of people truly
addicted to the internet they also have severely reduced executive function, similar to the
cocaine addicts. In many ways, the internet is an incredibly
useful and helpful tool. But a deeper understanding of which aspects
of the internet affect your brain in what ways is necessary to modify your usage in
a way that keeps your brain functioning the way you want it to. We’ll be looking at this more in depth soon,
so stick around.


  1. yeah, well we also have a knowledge addiction., and neurons that fire together wire together….. seems like the only way to avoid habits, avoid addictions and avoid the collateral damage of life

    is to just perform random tasks
    and then freeze your head at an early age and hope for the best, in status

    im also addicted to socializing, eating, and sex

    and all of those are potentially life threatening activities

  2. you know they said this about the radio and T.V and the electric fan.
    edit: I love how the people who give these types of video essays are the ones who work on-line. IDK about everyone else…but I don't spend my entire day on-line, but no offense…you are making money by telling people they need to spend less time on-line from your computer or phone…making videos which require you to use more devices, edit, and using your own footage…maybe take your own advice?

  3. You have a talent dear, your gentle discourses present complex information with such coherency and neatness, its almost magical.

  4. Its not just enhanced distractability, it also rewards immediate gratification. Not only do I see people have a lack of focus, but an aversion to being patient or diligently improving over time. Even reading, which I greatly enjoy, is something I suffer to convince people to engage in. Mention its in a book and suddenly you see them abandon looking into a thing they were otherwise psyched about, like a cool fantasy story. With emails or notes, some people seem incapable of reading anything beyond the first 3 lines, as a result they make mistakes I explicitly warn them about in the message. Its very frustrating, people need to learn to center themselves.

  5. something similar happened to me, where a brain illness would punish (with increased pain) deep concentration. Now I no longer experience chronic pain but I can no longer seem to focus productively. Is it as simple as behavioral changes? do I need to spend three further years "acting" disciplined, and the focus will follow? or is is it useless?

  6. With exception of excess porn the internet has been nothing but a great benefit to me. Every thing I do I read about first on the internet and it has helped me tremendously . My observation is the only people harmed are those on social media. (Granted YT is SM but most on here are anonymous posters and might well be bots. )

  7. I have had this disturbing intuition that my little sisters generation (the first to never know a world without high speed internet access) are the canaries in the coal mine for some serious brain fuckery

  8. Sir such a wonderful video but I have a doubt what if your mom calls for a small errand or your girlfriend needs your help that also comes under distraction right??. So does this hinder my brain from processing info in the long term memory. Please respond to me sir.
    I have been following you for such a quality videos especially the one where exercise has many advantages to your brain, BDNS stuff. Please solve my doubt

  9. Video game about a cube that can alter your character's reality when you put it in different combinations incoming xD

  10. Perhaps this is just the logical next step to our evolutions as humans and as we habituate to how we interact with PCs we'll find new ways of workflow or our brains will adapt and learn how to retain different tasks at the same time.

  11. tbh, the fact that I had to watch this at 2x speed to feel engaged fully probably proves the point. Tho I still wrote this comment during the video

  12. I grew up reading for fun when I came home instead of doing sports or other activities like most other kids. My mom had a lot of children and wasn't able to take us all to sport practice so none of us did those activities. As a result I have an intense imagination and can easily visualize and meditate unlike some other people. I also think I am able to focus but lately that has been slipping, probably because of my internet use. Now I am trying to stop watching useless videos and only do one thing at a time instead of being on my phone and watching a movie

  13. Sometimes I think I'm addicted to smart channels like this and this has become my new entertainment vs having it actually change my life

  14. I've noticed something about the Limitless clips: whenever Eddie is on nzt, he's always single-tasking. You never see him attempting to do two things at one time. Even in his trading clip, he is learning about what he is doing. Hmm..

  15. In the book 1984 by George Orwell, there are the so called ''telescreens'' that can watch you and hear everything. They are in everyone's homes, in the restaurants, streets. The main character, Winston, says that they can see everything and hear everything but they can't look into your mind and change your thoughts. If we translate this to our world, we have the phones and devices that can observe you and see what you search, watch, listen to (AI like Netflix, Spotify), though they can change your mind too. Just like Netflix recommends you new movies you might like or Spotify composing your daily mix, this technologies can change what you see and change what you think.

  16. what I like about your videos is that they're really informative so even while not doing anything productive on youtube you are actually learning things. And everything you say makes me realise that we have much more control over out lives that we sometimes think, you just have to understand your own mechanisms. And once I've finished one of your videos, I'm much more likely to decide to stop watching videos and start trying to actually make make something out of my life.

  17. Your videos are extremely insightful, thank you for your hard work and research it makes learning alot easier. Although sometime I find it a little difficult trying to understand everything your talking about

  18. There’s always something keeping me from doing it. And the last time it was my own health issues and the fear of missing out on calling my family via video chat from thousands of miles out. Because I live alone and I am more traumatized by my past experiences with negative situations as I may seem. Thus I feel doomed.

  19. How did the information presented in this video inform/change the way you made the video and shared the information? Did you structure the video to be a 'glass of water' or 'a hit of liqour' to use the cube device analogy.

  20. My phone addiction and my ADHD make my attention span absolutely nonexistent and it kills me… I’m really gonna have to cut down on my screen time before I start the International Baccalaureate program next school year :////

  21. I notice I’ll click on a video I’m genuinely interested in, and about 15 seconds in I’m already scrolling comments and not even Paying attention lol

  22. People use the internet because they are eager to learn and search for important information. Cocaine cannot be compared with the internet because cocaine is an addicting drug that damages the brain and cognition system. On the other hand, the internet is a tool that can answer almost any question someone may have about pretty much anything they could think of. Which improves the cognitive thinking system.

  23. For real? are we all too embarrassed to talk about the elephant in the room
    PORN People !!! Porn is on the internet and it is HORRIBLE for you. Porn Addiction is REAL

  24. So, you’re telling me I’m just a junkie listening to another junkie cry about why other junkies are so obsessed with the internet? Btw, you failed to mention “dopamine”.

  25. Your videos are so brilliant. I feel like all these "mindlessly spent hours " on youtube are, in the end, worth of something, at least i found your channel.

  26. thank you, this has inspired me to go on an internet fast for a while :0
    if it goes well enough i'll probably won't post an update

  27. I'm currently reading The Shallows, that's why I didn't watch the video,only listened to your voice, I was afraid of getting distracted by the visual content

  28. Pretty sure the internet is kind of more addictive than cocaine, considering I was able to quit cocaine pretty easily, I still justify always being online.

  29. I'm 60 now, I partied like a rock star, still do, worked like a rented mule, and studied like a scholar when required. Point is, there IS no shortcut to anything viable and worthwhile in life and if you wanna be able to continue to enjoy everything then do everything in moderation yet with intent.

  30. I find myself having to do two thing at a time for example: play videos games while watching news on YouTube or Tierzoo. Or every time I end a game I hop on my phone right away. This needs to stop ASAP.

  31. a yogic lifestyle has as much concentrated activity as possible balanced with relaxation to avoid the distraction lifestyle. for more info DM me.

  32. It's sad when you realize that you've watched so much YouTube that you come back to videos that you thumbed-up without even realizing you've seen the video

  33. Great video. I'd like to say though i've tried cocaine and the internet, and I am much more addicted to the internet than I am to cocaine haha

  34. The title is weird. Your brain isn't being redesigned, since we weren't designed in the first place. Our brain is Changing. So it really should say "how the internet changes your brain"

  35. I’m soooo glad I decided to click on this video. This is just what I’ve been focusing on lately – restoring focus and executive control.

  36. But I already have ADHD, long time ago even when I'm reading a book, I can read 2-3 book alternately. So does this effect me or not?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *