Blog of Sara Jakša

Extended Cognition and the Reason for Two Operating Systems

As I am writing a master thesis right now, I have decided to get a bit more extreme and try to create an environment, where I would be forced to work on it. Really, I now finally understand, why people have traumas, when writing their thesis, though for me it is not on that level yet.

One thing that I did was to make sure, that the operating system, where I was productive, does not have any kind of distraction on it. I already had two operating systems on my computer before (Arch Linux and Windows 7) and I have made the distinction on what I am doing on which computer before. For example, in Bratislava, when I wanted to be more productive, I gave up the internet cable, and every time I wanted to get internet, I would need to go to the church, we had in the student hall and use theirs. And it helped, that I uninstalled the Wi-Fi from one of my operating system, so one was more associated with mindless browsing (Windows 7) and the other with doing other stuff (Arch Linux).

But here home, even if I get rid of the cable, there are many other cables running around the house. So, this was not a tenable solution. Each time, I could just find a cable and installed a game or something else to distract me. So, what I did, was make sure, that at least on one operating system, even if I plug the cable in, I cannot connect to the internet. In the last week, if I needed another R package for statistical analysis for my master thesis, I needed to use a CD version, boot to this CD version and then install what I needed through the command line (and here I can thank the Arch Linux community, that they did not ship with graphical interface, when I got my CD).

Sure, the alternative could still be, that I would simply spend way too much time on the Windows. Well, for one, I don't really like Windows interface anymore. It can be way too slow and if anything goes wrong, the error messages are not that helpful. So, this is one reason. But even I could see on the beginning, that this is not going to be enough. So, what I did was use LeechBlock addon, to block all internet connection until 14:00 in the afternoon.

For one, it is a bit after 10:00 in the morning now, and I have already done more than half of the things one my To-Do list. After finishing this blog, there are only two things, that I can do without internet. Partly this could be, that I no longer put a lot on my To-Do list, but there were days, that I did less in the whole day, then I did today already.

But why does this work? My current hypothesis is, that the reason it works is the extended cognition. This is the thesis, that we use the objects and people around us to do our thinking and they also shape how we think and basically our whole cognition. One trivial example would be using a pen and paper to either help us think or to help us remember something. And what we use, for example in writing, do we use a computer, a pen or a typewriter can affect how we write. The original article is quite accessible to non-research oriented public, so you can read it here.

So, by making sure there are no games or access to the internet right now, it helps shape my mind and makes it easier to simply do something else. I can no distract myself by watching the series in the arrowverse the whole day, which is what I would likely do, if I gave myself this chance.