Chip Is Alive!, Issue 19

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Welcome to Issue 19 of Chip Is Alive!, where we examine thought-provoking life strategies and issues which may or may not be of interest to you. Chip Is Alive! is inspired by Chip Vivant, the app who thinks he's alive and wants to be your friend and help you in ways that other productivity apps can't. You can meet Chip at

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In this issue, we'll discuss:

  • Free Will: Myth or Reality?
  • Snap Out of It!

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Free Will: Myth or Reality?

Aside from my math and science classes, I've had very few high school learning experiences which were so fascinating that they've survived with me for decades. One such subject was Greek Mythology in my Senior (fourth) year. At first, the Greek myths were amusing, fictional stories which had no connection with my real world: superhuman Gods, many-headed dogs guarding the gates of Hades, oracles which could predict the future years in advance....

It was the oracles that were particularly amusing to me. That someone could predict years in advance that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother was cute, yet my teenage self knew that Free Will made the notion of oracles preposterous in real life. My high school teacher was fascinated by this subject too, and the paradox of Free Will vs. oracles predicting the future became a topic of study for weeks. He assured us that there was more to this discussion than met the eye.

My memories of the exact content of that study unit are somewhat fuzzy, but I remember Mr. Morgan insisting that oracles and Free Will could most definitely be reconciled. "Impossible," I thought. He then encouraged us to examine how difficult it is to change one's behavior and how easy it is to use one's current behavior as a predictor of the future. Such predictors are obviously not foolproof, but they're pretty good. Think about it: how often have you successfully predicted someone's future fate based on their current habits and behavior?

The sad reality is that change is very hard and that most people live their lives on autopilot. Our brains are very good at finding patterns in chaos, so running on autopilot kind of makes sense if it doesn't cause immediate death. This is of little solace to you if you're trying to effect a personal change in your life, though.

But it's actually even more insidious than that. Your notion of the factors influencing your ability to make a decision might be much different you think. Case in point: scientists have discovered that decisions are already prepared and made in our unconscious mind many seconds before our conscious mind is aware of them[1]. If our unconscious minds (and by definition we know precious little of what goes on in there) are actually calling the shots, think about how much harder that makes it to effect a lasting, permanent change in ourselves.

There's hope, though. Just as you know that real change is very difficult, you also know it's not impossible. They key is seeking out and adopting techniques that are known to work rather than sticking with tired myths about self-control and willpower. Known successful techniques are that of structuring your environment in a way which maximizes your chances or achieving your goals and minimizes your temptations to not achieve them[2]. Similarly, surrounding yourself with people successful in the goal you're trying to achieve can potentially wire your unconscious mind to make the right decisions for you.

The first step, though, is snapping out of autopilot mode long enough to start implementing the above techniques :).

Juggling Update

I've picked this up again, but feel I have plateaued. I haven't gotten any worse, but haven't gotten any better either. I'll post a video as soon as I've made some progress.

Spanish is going well. I'm putting in the time and making steady, consistent progress here.

Chip's Tips: Snap Out of It!

Take advantage of this tool you've been gifted, imagine one way that you can change your environment or find a successful person to emulate, imagine one concrete step that will move you in that direction, then program in a notification or to-do to help you with that step. Do it now: they've shown that following through on a decision within the first thirty seconds maximizes your chances of actually completing it.


Thanks to Bryan Franklin[3] for his invaluable mentorship and Nancy Colasurdo[4] for checking in on me.

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