Analog automation

by Jared Meyers on 17 Feb 2021

To automate or not to automate, that is the question.

In terms of technology, automation tends to have a clear tradeoff – put in a bit of time now to repeatedly save time later.

The time you save later isn't just the time spent doing the task. The time spent pondering the task and the mental energy it takes to remember the task can also be time sinks on their own.

Habits act like "analog automations," or automations of the organic form. They are triggered by certain states of the system (the human) and its surroundings, involve an action, and achieve a particular, usually consistent, result.

While we have to wait for Apple to release new Shortcuts features so we can automate our phones, our brains already have a full complement of features that we can work with. The developers of humanity have spent billions of years developing those folds and connections!

Many people have investigated habits and their relation to the mind, from Aristotle to James Clear, BJ Fogg, and Charles Duhigg. The summary is that habits directly influence, and even determine, our lives and we can cultivate excellence by building habits.

You can't just program analog automations the same way you can use digital ones. Habits can take a while to form and are sometimes counterintuitive in nature. This can create an illusion of a huge barrier to entry with minimal payoff since the horizon is so far away.

It's very common and obvious to look at both the short and long-term tradeoffs of technological automation since the time scale can be relatively short overall. There's a clear cost to adopt new habits that can take way longer than writing a few lines of code.

Maybe it's time that we fully consider the tradeoffs of analog automations – that increase in cost appears to have a disproportionately large impact if you pick the right habits.

The benefits of regularly practicing gratitude, exercising, and thinking far outweigh the perceived costs of automating them.