Dangerous Depths vs. the Distracted Shallows

Dangerous Children Must Learn to Work Deep

One of the things that sets Dangerous Children apart is their minds. They learn to think for themselves, and use their own inner compass to determine what to do.

Deep Work is the ability to focus intensely on a problem for hours at a time, bringing all of your cognitive skills to the task — and shutting out almost everything else for that time. This is how difficult concepts and skills are learned. This is how ideas are turned into research papers, books, and inventive products and working systems.

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time…. deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep—spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way. __ Cal Newport

Deep Work is the opposite of groupthink, and the opposite of busy work. It is the opposite of distraction and the polar opposite of “social media.” It is where the prolific producers of important new work spend much of their time, and it is where the consistently best students get their secret powers.

Over 300 years ago, the mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”

In an intriguing 2014 psychology experiment published in Science, college students often chose to administer electric shocks to themselves rather than to sit quietly with their own thoughts.

Adults will watch movies or TV, we will start an argument, we run to social media, we take stimulants or anxiolytics, we go out to eat and drink too much, we play games, pursue empty relationships, and drive ourselves to the end of distraction just to avoid “being bored” or too much alone.

Dangerous Children cannot afford to fritter away their time in those ways. They have things to do, skills to learn, and provisions to make. You cannot pack the work of a Dangerous Child into 18 early years while distracting yourself in “the shallows.”

The Seductive Appeal of The Shallows

The Shallows is the almost inescapable miasma of the internet, social media, and the constant distracting connection to the largely trivial outside world. After being immersed in the shallows long enough, it becomes more difficult for a person to concentrate deeply.

Over the last few years I’ve had the uncomfortable feeling that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going . . . but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think… I used to find it easy to immerse myself in a book or a lengthy article… Now my concentration starts to drift after a page or two. I get fidgety, lose the thread, start looking for something else to do… The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle. __ Nicholas Carr in The Shallows

Nicholas Carr is simply describing in himself what is also happening to a large number of other mind workers who have adapted to making their way in the new hyper-connected world of distraction he calls “the shallows.”

It Did Not Start With the Internet or Social Media

This need for constant distraction from deep and difficult focused work is not something new. Throughout history few people ever mastered the solitary task of thinking deeply and bringing complex and beautiful new objects and ideas into the world. Not like da Vinci, Michelangelo, Einstein, or Newton.

But in times past — before radio, TV, movies, and other popular entertainments — there were far fewer distractions from “thoughtful solitude.” And with the coming of the internet and ubiquitous all-the-time communication, time alone to focus and think deeply can be almost impossible to come by.

Why do we throw away our time on superficial distractions?

… it’s not necessarily that we are addicted to a TV set because there is something uniquely satisfying about it, just like we are not addicted to most stimulants because the benefits outweigh the downsides. Rather, what we are really addicted to is a state of not-being-bored.

Almost anything else that controls our life in an unhealthy way finds its root in our realization that we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs.

We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious… __ https://medium.com/personal-growth/the-most-important-skill-nobody-taught-you-9b162377ab77

Most people were never taught any better — either verbally or by example.

We dread the silence of our very existence so we choose aimless distraction… Coming to such a realization can be life-changing. __ Ali Mese

Perhaps reading books such as Deep Work and The Shallows can be life-changing. Learning to devote more of our time to deep focus and deep work — while avoiding as many shallow distractions as possible — can certainly be life-changing for many.

But at what stage in a person’s life should he learn deep focus and deep work? We see how easily the internet and social media have taken over the mainstream media, much of academia, much of government, corporate culture, and many other social institutions — including large numbers of families. Once a person is “truly hooked,” it is not necessarily easy to pull himself back in order to learn to intensely focus on deep work.

If you watch most very small children, they seem to have been born knowing how to focus deeply. How else could children learn to walk, talk, ride bicycles, negotiate to get their way, and do all the other tasks of young humans, so effortlessly?

It is best to keep young children away from “The Shallows” for several years so that they can develop their powers of intense focus for learning ideas and skills, and for creating new concepts and things. Each family will need to work out its own rules and policies, but it is best to work them out before the child is old enough to develop a strong preference.

If a human cannot focus for long periods of time, is he still a human? Perhaps. But he is certainly no Dangerous Child.

Most modern denizens of the shallows do not read anymore. They skim, scroll down, skip in staccato fashion from hyperlink to hyperlink — and miss any nuance in the material they were “reading.” When bored they jump on social media to text or message an acquaintance to discuss “feelings” about yet more of the shallow distractions that make up much of their lives.

Dangerous Children must pack a lot of learning and skill-building into a short eighteen years. Their lives are not filled up by TV, video games, social media, movies, and pulp fiction. They learn to teach and guide themselves through the unique curriculum that fits their talents and proclivities.

By the age of 18, a Dangerous Child has mastered three ways to support himself financially, can speak three non-native languages, has enough academic credits to finish a college degree in a couple of years, is comfortable starting new businesses or organising expeditions, and has the skills to move over most any terrain or through most any neighborhood. And they know how to think for themselves — something sadly lacking among modern college student cohorts.

Intense solitude can be used for many purposes, depending upon a person’s age and current state of existence. Albert Einstein preferred to spend his time alone solving hard problems. That approach worked for him over his lifetime. When he ran out of problems to solve from outside sources, he invented new difficult problems to solve. These problems took a lot of time and deep work.

If humanity is to move forward to an expansive and abundant future, it will need a large number of people devoted to high levels of intensely productive work, based largely on solitude. Networking will be important at certain stages of refining and extending disruptive new ideas and systems. But distraction at too early a stage will kill them before they can be born.

Infancy is Now Officially Being Extended to Age 25

Technically, it is “adolescence” that is being extended to Age 25. But in today’s mainstream culture, is there really any difference between infancy, childhood, and adolescence?

“The idea that suddenly at 18 you’re an adult just doesn’t quite ring true,” Laverne Antrobus, a child psychologist at London’s Tavistock Clinic, told the BBC. “My experience of young people is that they still need quite a considerable amount of support and help beyond that age.” __ http://www.medicaldaily.com/adulthood-extended-age-25-child-psychologists-uk-257835

Here is the latest official declaration from the medical journal Lancet:

Perpetual Children
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2430573/An-adult-18-Not-Adolescence-ends-25-prevent-young-people-getting-inferiority-complex.html

An expanded and more inclusive definition of adolescence is essential for developmentally appropriate framing of laws, social policies, and service systems. Rather than age 10–19 years, a definition of 10–24 years corresponds more closely to adolescent growth and popular understandings of this life phase and would facilitate extended investments across a broader range of settings.” __ Lancet … via intellectualtakeout.org

Medical and mental health professionals in the UK will be expected to take such declarations seriously. Even in the US under Obamacare, “adolescents” can stay on their parents’ healthcare plans until age 26 as dependents — a tacit admission of extended childhood and adolescence.

Perhaps if they had to wait until age 25 to be licensed to drive, to be able to vote, or to buy alcohol, the entire fiasco might make more sense.

Modern Youth Waiting to Marry

By 2015 the median age for a first marriage in the US was 29 for men and 27 for women. In 1974, the median age for a first marriage was 23 for men and 21 for women. Source

Keep in mind that those who never get married at all do not affect the above statistics — and that number of “never married” is growing rapidly. “Barely half of “adults” ages 18 and older are married.”

And of those perpetual adolescents who do eventually get married by age 30 or beyond, a significant number plan to never have children.

Perhaps It’s For the Best

Most of these perpetual infants are undeveloped in almost every sense of the word, other than physically. After several decades of “dumbing down” the educational systems from K thru U, their minds are untrained or badly mistrained. They have no useful or marketable skills, regardless of the levels of their college loan debt.

If these young eternal toddlers were to marry and have children, what disasters might await society when that newest generation comes of age? Perhaps it is better that they step aside and allow robots and outsiders to attempt to maintain the high tech infrastructure that their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents built?

Dangerous Children Are a Different Breed

The further this grand societal experiment of “eternal infantilisation” proceeds, the clearer the need for Dangerous Children grows. In a society where perpetual adolescent incompetence is the norm — not only up until the age of 25, but indefinitely — the more important the competent and broadly skilled individuals become. Keeping a high tech society afloat is not easy, and nations such as Venezuela, South Africa, North Korea, etc. are experiencing the travails now that in the future will beset more nations of Europe and the Anglosphere.

Dangerous Children master at least three paths to financial independence by age 18, with significant investment and business expertise to boot. By intellect, by emotion, by physical skills, by executive function, and by almost any other measure, Dangerous Children are at least a cut above.

It Is Never Too Late For a Dangerous Childhood

And it is certainly never too early. Whatever it takes to avoid the perpetual dependency and incompetence being displayed by the broad mainstream. A lifelong helpless adolescence is one of the worst fates imaginable.

Perfect Pitch

The following is an excerpt from the book “Peak” by Anders Ericsson and Robert Poole. It illustrates the musical phenomenon known as “perfect pitch,” and explains the “critical developmental window” aspect of the childhood development of perfect pitch. By understanding the time-criticality of the learning of such skills, parents and coaches of Dangerous Children will have a much better idea of how to proceed from the beginning.

The term is “absolute pitch,” although it is better known as “perfect pitch.”

… Beethoven is thought to have had it; Brahms did not. Vladimir Horowitz had it; Igor Stravinsky did not. Frank Sinatra had it; Miles Davis did not.

It would seem, in short, to be an example of an innate talent that a few lucky people are born with and most are not. Indeed, this is what was widely believed for at least two hundred years. But over the past few decades a very different understanding of perfect pitch has emerged, one that points to an equally different vision of the sorts of gifts that life has to offer.

a good deal of research has shown that nearly everyone with perfect pitch began musical training at a very young age — generally around three to five years old. But if perfect pitch is an innate ability, something you are either born with or not, it shouldn’t make any difference whether you receive musical training as a child…

… perfect pitch is much more common among people who speak a tonal language such as Mandarin, Vietnamese, and several other Asian tongues in which the meaning of words is dependent on their pitch… people of Asian heritage who don’t grow up speaking a tonal language are no more likely than people of other ethnicities to have perfect pitch.

The true character of perfect pitch was revealed in 2014, thanks to a beautiful experiment carried out at the Ichionkai Music School in Tokyo and reported in the scientific journal Psychology of Music. The Japanese psychologist Ayako Sakakibara recruited twenty four children between the ages of two and six and put them through a months-long training course designed to teach them to identify, simply by their sound, various chords played on the piano… The children were given four or five training sessions per day, each lasting just a few minutes, until he or she could identify all fourteen of the target chords that Sakakibara had selected. Some of the children completed the training in less than a year, while others took as long as a year and a half.

Then, once a child had learned to identify the fourteen chords, Sakakibara tested that child to see if he or she could identify individual notes. After completing training, every one of the children had developed perfect pitch, and could identify individual notes played on the piano.

From “Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” by Anders Ericsson and Robert Poole.

Mozart is famous for his “perfect pitch,” which doubtless assisted him in his lifelong work as composer and musician. By the time young Mozart reached the age of four, his father was already working with him intensively on the violin, keyboard, and other instruments. Wolfgang came from a family of musicians, so his genetic complement probably made him more receptive to this training than, say, the son of a chimney sweep would have been. But if started at an early age — and given the right kind of training for a long enough time — even the progeny of chimney sweeps now are thought to have had an excellent chance to develop perfect pitch.

The Book Goes On to Describe Other Unlikely Skills That Can Be Developed or Enhanced by Training

Humans are believed to be limited to about seven consecutive digits of recall, when remembering long numbers. But Anders Ericsson developed a method to extend that ability in college students up to 82 digits — eighty two! There is a big difference between memorising seven digits, and memorising eighty-two digits. The key was in the training that Ericsson had developed.

Proper and Deliberate Practise Transcends Plateaus

Research has shown that, generally speaking, once a person reaches that level of “acceptable” performance and automaticity, the additional years of “practice” don’t lead to improvement. If anything, the doctor or the teacher or the driver who’s been at it for twenty years is likely to be a bit worse than the one who’s been doing it for only fife, and the reason is that these automated abilities gradually deteriorate in the absence of deliberate efforts to improve. __ Anders Ericsson, Robert Poole in “Peak”

Ericsson packs a lot of meaning into the word “deliberate.” Deliberate efforts to improve, or “deliberate practise,” is designed in a particular way to help you break through the barriers, and transcend the plateaus of learning on which you have been stuck. By learning deliberately you combat the natural degeneration of memory and expertise which tends to occur naturally with time.

Consider “Purposeful Practise”

Purposeful practice is all about putting a bunch of baby steps together to reach a longer-term goal…

Purposeful practice is focused . . .

Purposeful practice involves feedback…

Purposeful practice involves getting out of one’s comfort zone …

__ Ericsson and Poole in “Peak

Getting Started Early Makes a Difference

Children who began musical training early in life, had different patterns of brain development as adults than those who did not begin training so early. The age of development when purposeful and deliberate training is initiated and maintained, shapes later development of the brain for life. If the person later neglects his special skill, his brain will regress to an extent, but the traces of the earliest training will remain and will provide scaffolding for building skills if purposeful training is re-instituted.

What is true for music is also true for chess, mathematics, scientific reasoning, and many other skills — many of which are critical assets for success in a modern high-tech world.

Different skills are better learned at different ages, but for most basic skills such as music, foreign language, strategy & tactics, three-dimensional dynamic movement and visualisation, creativity and invention etc., sometime before the age of six, eight, or ten, is best, depending …

And we have known for a long time that the development of pre-frontal executive functions and character should be developed before the age of eight, and as early as the age of four. Executive functions are probably more important than IQ to a child’s ultimate life success.

Do Not Neglect This Time in A Child’s Life

If the development of the child’s mind is left to institutions and society in general, parents will get what they deserve — another groupthinking member of the herd. But if parents want something very special for their child, they will mind the brain calendar and begin playful but purposeful practise at very early ages, according to the skill being developed.

Always remember that each skill requires a foundation, and most early skills foundations are quite easy and fun to teach and learn. But if they are neglected, later training is more difficult and is likely to leave cracks and holes of weakness and vulnerability.

Early Brain Development and the Dangerous Child

Freedom and Competence of Thought Begins Early

The most dangerous thing about Dangerous Children is their minds. Natural contrarians, they are immune to the commonplace brainwashing and indoctrination that often overcomes young people during their formative years. How do Dangerous Children come to possess the thinking skills and self-confidence that allows them to stand against popular delusions and dysfunctional systems of thought and action?

Connection Proliferation 0 to 2 Years
http://www2.palomar.edu/users/rmorrissette/lectures/physio/210Development_files/frame.htm

Brain Development Sets the Stage

Beginning at birth (and sometimes before), Dangerous Children are kept away from mainstream entertainments, and are immersed in special fables, riddles, rhymes, myths, and tales explicitly formulated to help young minds learn to deal with an expanding reality. These “thinking memes” take a wide range of linguistic, musical, visual, and kinesthetic forms. Such memes are incorporated into a wide range of experiences, so that strong thinking skills are shaped quite early in development, and continuously added to. The best early thinking memes incorporate plenty of “hooks” on which to hang later useful skills.

The first few years are a busy time for the child’s mental and physical development. Brain connections proliferate wildly, then are massively pruned by the child’s experiences, over a relatively short time period. The mental structures that remain after this rapid proliferation and subsequent pruning will be the foundation for the child’s mental and psychological development from that time onward.

Secondary Proliferation and Pruning

Puberty is a lesser period of proliferation and pruning, although still wild and crazy — heavily influenced by cascades of sex hormones that bathe the brain during this time.

Ways of Thinking Are Built Upon the Changing Neural Substrate

Dendritic pruning is shaped by the child’s experience, and continues throughout the person’s life to a much less intense degree. The earliest mind structures that survive the prunings will likely be the most influential.

What the child is capable of learning depends to a large degree upon his earliest experiences, which shaped subsequent brain pruning and dendritic tree structure.

Neglect is Commonplace

If a child’s mind is left to steep in front of a television, or if the young child is left at the mercy of caretakers who are ignorant of or indifferent to a child’s critical development windows, the young brain will be hobbled and needlessly stunted compared with what he might have otherwise achieved.

To outward appearances, no significant damage may have been done by surrendering one’s child to daycare or other low level third party forms of child raising. But deep inside the brain, the neglect of crucial experience in the early years will leave subtle forms of mental impoverishment and limitations to learning and development.

Most parents do not know any better, and thus we see a progressive mental and psychic fragility of newer generations of children and youth, raised by largely indifferent third parties. Too many of these youngsters never learned to think on their own, and seek refuge in groupthink and mindless mass movements.

A Dangerous Child’s Experience is Specially Shaped From the Earliest Years

Parents and mentors of Dangerous Children tend to be both more informed and more involved in the Dangerous Child’s formative years. As a result, these lucky children are given the gift of powerful mind-shaping linguistic, musical, visual, and kinesthetic memes that boost their later learning and development to higher levels.

The effect of early childhood interventions may not be obvious to outside observers — even to full-time parents. Consider this example: The First Cut is the Deepest. Even a brief exposure by newborns to a second language achieves lasting brain changes similar to how a bilingual brain is structured. Another interesting fact: some languages can never be perfectly learned unless the child is exposed to it during early infancy.

One would never learn about the critical importance of early childhood exposure from most mainstream sources. Modern societies are too deeply invested in the “two parents working” model to consider whether farming infants and toddlers out to a third party caretaker is the best plan for the child’s future competence and well-being.

And So Fragile Generations Beget Fragile Generations

The more intelligent and educated the parents, the more likely the children will be “thrown to the wolves” without thought for long-term consequences. All sorts of justifications will be given, but the end result is another contribution to the coming Idiocracy.

Dangerous Children represent a partial antidote to this general dumbing down and weakening of society’s complement of brainpower and problem-solving skills. Because Dangerous Children constitute a small minority of all children, the best that can be hoped for over the long term is the creation of “islands of competency” which network with each other to reach a “breakthrough” stage of societal and technological development which allows for a definitive branching out and rising above the dominant skankstream mainstream.

A Playful Foundation of Music, Movement, Pattern, and Language

The following article is republished in slightly edited form from an earlier posting on this blog.

Children are Born with Primed Brains

In the real world, babies are born with brains primed to learn and enjoy using language, movement, elements of music, visual and conceptual patterns, and symbolic art. This is in stark contrast to the leftist belief in the newborn’s brain as a “blank slate (PDF)” or tabula rasa.

The baby’s brain is predisposed to a rapid learning of language — even multiple languages. Even inside the womb a fetus begins to recognise the cadence and tone of the mother’s voice. Within just a few weeks after birth, the infant’s brain shapes itself around the sounds of the language it hears. Other, unheard sounds will be very difficult for the brain to hear or comprehend when encountered later in life.

New brains are likewise tuned to the enjoyment of music, movement, pattern, and simple art. Enjoyment leads to imitation as a form of learning which commences quite early, proceeding in a playful manner until the early lessons are learnt well enough to build upon. The playful element of learning for young humans is obvious from the beginning.

Sensitive Periods of Brain Development
Sensitive Periods of Brain Development

The brain is most sensitive to particular types of learning at different stages of development. Good habits and emotional control should be learned in the early years, no later than 5 or 6 years. These are particularly important traits for later learning — particularly self-monitored learning.

Language and music should be learned early — and together. Multiple languages are best learned before the age of 9 or 10. Music cognition complements language cognition, just as language learning can be combined with music learning in songs and rhymes.

Music learning likewise complements spatial and number / size learning — so that music learning can be an important forerunner to maths learning. Keyboards and fretboards are spatial in nature, and counting and “sizing” of intervals are part of learning such instruments.

Dance movement and other rhythmic movements have been linked to improved executive function in young children. Dancing can be learned even before walking, with a bit of assistance and gravity mitigation. Rhythmic and choreographed movements involved in playful dancing are good training for the cerebellum and basal ganglia of the brain, as well as for insular cortex training.

Pattern is implicit within art, music, language, and movement — and leads naturally into pre-mathematical foundational concepts, best experienced through play.

The development of artistic judgment and perspective boosts spatial development while giving the child a sense of confidence in creating something that others can appreciate. Children are intrigued by dynamic art such as mobiles, and very much enjoy the tactile aspect of art.

The child should have the opportunity to observe skilled adult musicians, artists, writers, dancers, and craftsmen at work. Children should see where their efforts can lead them. The child’s early efforts should be appreciated for what they are, as long as he has put his heart into them. If a child is a budding prodigy of art, music, language, or movement, it will be difficult for him to conceal his talent so long as it has been allowed to develop in a playful, creative manner.

A human brain is not fully developed until around the middle of the third decade, and remains in its prime for only about ten years before beginning to subtly lose ground. The earlier a child can find a strong talent for independent learning and skills-building, the longer the part of his life that he can develop and exercise that talent.

A television will not do much to help a young child, nor will a computer — at least as computers are currently made and programmed. Children need to see that human beings create music, art, stories, and dance. If a child is particularly talented in a given area, he should be encouraged and given opportunities to pursue development of the talent. In this area it is best not to force the child along any one path. If the motivation is not there, forcing the child will only prevent him from finding a talent he is willing to develop.

Play is the strongest motivator for younger children. During the early period of childhood, children crave the company of their parents and other family members. It is the period of greatest opportunity for self-development and foundation-building for the child. If this time is squandered by day care and television watching, it can never be retrieved.

Once simple play has lost its appeal, and once the child no longer craves a parent’s company, if the child has not learned good habits and self-control, a parent’s ability to guide the child becomes severely limited. Hasta la vista, baby.

This is important: A young child’s mind is a sponge. Be very careful what you allow it to soak in. You cannot take it back, once it is absorbed.

Link to original article

A Child’s First 12 Years in Less Than 3 Minutes

12 Formative Years in a Child’s Life

Lotte Time Lapse: Birth to 12 years in 2 min. 45. from Frans Hofmeester on Vimeo.

Whether a child grows to be a dangerous child or just a ditzy party girl (or worse) depends largely upon the choices to which she is exposed during her formative years. Very few children will lie dormant all those years. Give them the opportunities to learn about the world and their unique interests in the world, and set them up to run with the knowledge and skills they will acquire.

The brain is a hungry hunter. The growing, developing brain is a particularly hungry hunter which is capable of feeding upon a wide range of conceptual fodder. The mind grows up to resemble the things it ingests, digests, and incorporates into the mental machinery.

12 years is plenty of time for a child to begin to become very dangerous — in many good ways. Don’t waste that time.

The above is taken from a 2012 posting on the original Al Fin Next Level blog, alfin2101.blogspot.com

That blog contains a Dangerous Child archive of articles. Some of the older articles have been adapted to The Dangerous Child blog here, but many have not been.