I used to get told the same thing a lot while I was working as an analyst. "Don't Overthink This." Um, OK. Since I stopped working in October, I've started to comb through these phrases I've heard repetitively without truly understanding what they meant. The object of this exercise has been to avoid hearing them again. My reflection of the timing and context of hearing Don't Overthink This in particular is as follows:
Usually when people say it to me, "Don't Overthink This" is more just a shit code for "Don't Ask Questions and Get it Done and Stop Bothering Me Because I Need To Go Fuck Someone In The Copy Room." That's fun, I hope. I have never tried it. I have to conclude that this is what this means, because it's usually said to me by a manager or stakeholder on a deliverable that they promised someone would be done a long time ago without every coming to me to ask how long I'd take, knowing they could just lean on me to work 14 hour days until it got done. I'm flexible like that.
Suffice it to say that "Don't Overthink This" doesn't really strike me as an empathic call to be gentle on my own mind, or even to produce quality work. It strikes me as a gaslighty way of shifting blame to me for their own failing to negotiate a work timeline with me in advance of promising the work to someone else. If I can't do it with the efficiency of someone who's been doing the task for 10 years, then they can find a way to blame me for somehow trying *too* hard, thinking too hard. Not an actual drawback in any life scenario I've ever been in. Only a drawback for people who don't care about the work they do and are simply using me to look good to their superiors, while simultaneously having a fallback plan in case it goes to pot and they need to blame me. This is sort of human nature, from what I've seen anyway.
Human nature aside, I have often wondered if those Don't Overthink This people know just how much shit i think about and how little I've ever overthought my job. Here's one of my sort of normal run-of-the-mill thought trains as an example:
I used to get all excited thinking about how much self-driving cars were going to change my life. As soon as they were adopted widely, the network effects and the utilization effects would benefit everyone so much. I'd start getting 2 extra hours of sleep a day, I'd be renting my car out while I was at work, stuff like that. Self-driving cars were going to put my entire hometown out of truck-driving work. Just, like, really basic stuff.
But then i realized one day. Fuck self-driving cars, I wanna hold out for self-driving bodies. Have you ever seen pharaohs' pyramids in museums and whatnot, and the weird marble slab they'd sleep on or whatever? Be dead on. I don't know. So if you haven't seen them, or that image isn't evoking much, oldtimey pharaohs were apparently very hardcore about their sleeping situations. As in, instead of a feather pillow, which would be comfortable, these fucking ballers has little head rests made out of metal. Like, a small metal bowl to set their heads and necks in while they slept.
I used to just think, "Hot damn, that looks really uncomfortable." But now I'm thinking, "What if those guys just had amazing control of their bodies?" Like, Pharaoh comes home at the end of a long day of slave-driving and other horrible stuff, decides he's ready to call lights light out, and instead of lying down like a normal person, he starts screaming, "BODY DEACTIVATE!" and then he just falls perfectly onto this uncomfortable fucking thing. Because he's just powered down for the night. Or better yet, his prefrontal cortex is just manning up like fucking Jean-Luc Picard, pulling the Starship Enterprise into its dock for the night, powering various switches off and setting rest levels and wake-up times. To me, this is the only possible justification for those incredibly uncomfortable looking neck rests. Pharaohs were cyborgs with self-driving bodies and they didn't give a fuck about nighttime comfort. They didn't have insomnia and their little robot dreams were all just pyramid blueprinting. This is probably how they slept at night after murdering a bunch of Hebrews also. It explains a lot.
To me, self-driving bodies would be so much better than just a self-driving car. If I had one of my own, I'd love to think that I'd be the type of person to program my body to DO BRILLIANT SCIENCE so I could sit back and watch myself go. And maybe also check out what's new on Netflix. If anything.
There are so many amazing things about brains. Like, did you ever notice that the pundits on cable TV who are supposed to be explaining concepts to the audience also usually seem like maybe, just a little bit, they're actually explaining the concept to themselves, maybe even for the first time? I think that the way we store information is more based on how we see ourselves and our identities than anything else. So if we are fascinated by information itself, then maybe we give that information the storage space it really deserves. Key concepts, causal chain theories, context, etc. We just store the information, and maybe don't think too much about how to teach it. That can actually make it sound like we know less once we start trying to explain it, because we might not examine the whole body of information from the point of view of the questioner.
On the other side, if what we really want us to look great while talking about information, we store information a different way. It hangs together, it forms a tight narrative, it sounds emotionally compelling. These things are not necessarily connected to 1) being logical or 2) being factual or even 3) being interesting. Focusing on presentation gives that person some assurance that they can use their narrative to lead a group, by giving us a next step that sounds vaguely achievable.
So let's think about the mental activities in building this skill. The presentation. It takes a lot of work, work that has very little to do with the original information. The person has to have active recall on how to battle stage fright. How to sound authentic. How to build trust. Sound snappy. This stuff takes muscle memory, and takes an enormous amount (maybe even a lifetime!) of space. I think sometimes when I'm watching pundits talk that what I'm seeing is a very confident, authoritative-seeming person essentially pulling vital information out of cold storage, rehydrating it, and desperately trying to remember which acronyms stand for which metaphors, and so on.
People are amazing at this. We do so much more with so much less than computers will in the next few decades at least. So that thought got me thinking: are our bodies already self-driving? Are most people essentially on autopilot? Because this explains so much human behavior to me. About things people say and do that make absolutely no sense otherwise. I've spent a lot of my life being baffled by what seem like nonsensical reactions by people who feel their territory (or authority) is challenged.