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Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather sing lullabies to soothe babies (and themselves) to sleep. I hope Harvey Fierstein doesn’t show up…
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- “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music
- ‘Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: Sleep Is Our Competition” from Fast Company
There’s a distinction to be made about the mentioned moralizing about sleep. On the one hand, the people talking about how great it is to get sleep are basically evangelists after…well, feeling better. That contrasts in interesting ways with the “sleep training” thing, which is basically the parenting version of the marshmallow test, when you get down to it, offering that parents (and their baby) endure some pain now in hopes of getting more sleep in a few months. And like with the marshmallows, the results are probably more determined by the parents’ background than any indicator of how good their parenting is or the child’s future success.
I do really like the idea of big data algorithms being used on behalf of the user, rather than being used with the deliberate idea that the user is an adversary, though that obviously goes against an ad-driven revenue model. The idea of competing with sleep seems mind-boggling outside of ads, since Netflix’s business model seems like it makes the most money if people have a few things they need to watch, but don’t have time to waste bandwidth on anything else. But maybe I’m wrong, and the streaming business model isn’t really to maximize subscriptions and minimizing overhead. But regardless, it would be interesting to be fed content appropriate to how far into the day we are, rather than just whatever has been up-voted most by “people like you.”
(Adjacent to this, Douglas Rushkoff has been talking for a while about how he views a lot of these algorithms as trying to both predict and limit choices to maximize the chance that the prediction will be correct. I’m not sure how much of that is from talking to developers, which he does a lot, and how much is desperately wanting to believe that something like shopping at a farmers’ market or listening to a local band play is some massive and calculated act of rebellion…)
On the blue light thing, my (personal/anecdotal) experience has been that red- or yellow-tinted glasses feel like turning down volume. That is, it doesn’t so much help sleep as much as it feels like it removes (something that feels like) a barrier to wanting to sleep. It could well be a placebo or a ritual, but it immediately worked far better than anything else I’ve tried short of getting a sleep mask. The more traditional equivalent would be the various generated noise options (white noise, pink, red, blue, etc.), where it’s not that there’s some magical frequency distribution that puts a person to sleep, but rather that there might be environmental noise (traffic, neighbors) in a range you can cover and make less distinct and intrusive, if you choose carefully. None of it works without the structure/routine in place, though, except the right hormones at the right times, and messing with that doesn’t really go well.
DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF! There’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. I had a book of his in 1994 called “Cyberia” which I was very very into as a nerdy kid. What does he do now?
His current project is “Team Human,” which is (more or less, and probably like a lot of us who’ve been at this for a while) trying to reconcile his utopian views of technology with how these systems turn out when there’s money to be made. The podcast is fairly approachable and even when I disagree with him, he’s still a very charming host https://teamhuman.fm/ but I haven’t dug into the book with the same title/themes.
Following up on the “algorithms trying to keep you up past your bedtime” thing, it turns out that The Stakes podcast has been talking about “persuasion technology.” https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/the-stakes
I’ve only heard those most recent three episodes because On the Media has been running them, so I can’t (yet) vouch for the rest of the series, but since this starts out with the Unabomber and ends with dividing attention to get more ad revenue, I’d say at least these episodes are Overthinking-friendly…