Dealgorithmizing my life - 1

07 Feb 2021

As I listen to a mathematician analyze a Minecraft YouTuber’s speedrun, I think to myself, “Is this the most productive I can be?” And as I begin to reflect upon this question, I try to recollect how I got to this point. The last thing I remembered was being separated from my parents and put into a small cramped room. The people who put me there told me that all I had to do was to look at a screen, and so I did. But I never recalled time passing by so fast; had it really been 20 years?

Dealing with YouTube

YouTube probably has the most infamous algorithm out there. Recommendations of COOM material is not unheard of during the sacred time that is No Nut November. On a more serious note, YouTube is the one of the biggest hurdles on the track to a productive life (at least for me). A HUGE part of my day is wasted just looking for a video to watch. I used to get up in the morning to exercise and meditate, but now, after getting up in the morning, I just browse through YouTube trying to find something to entertain me. Suffice it to say, YouTube’s recommendation system is really effective at getting people to waste their time.

I’d also like to address the question, “What if it’s not a problem with YouTube, but a lack of willpower on the user’s part?” I really don’t get that question, since it’s like saying that if someone much stronger than you punches you, just stop the punch. Firstly, why should the stronger person punch the weaker person in the first place? Here, the stronger person is likened to YouTube’s algorithm (and other recommender systems as well), and the weaker one to the user. Secondly, I have no doubt that the user is the weaker person in this analogy. Thousands of dollars and thousands of people have contributed to creating an algorithm meant to make you sit and stare at a screen for hours on end. You simply CANNOT win against this. The only way you’re going to make make any sort of progress against this attention-hungry app, is by giving it up. Finally, and most obviously, HOW IS THE WEAKER PERSON SUPPOSED TO STOP THE PUNCH? Speaking less in analogies, how is the average user supposed to ‘will’ their way out of a system constructed with so much care and precision, that is designed to serve only a single purpose, which is to hold your attention for a long time? Whether you’re for capitalism or not, you have to admit Adam Smith never thought of the consumers being the products; he never thought that ‘the sins of man’ that were supposed to benefit society (as that was the premise of capitalism) would turn against humankind itself, and would seek to exploit it. This is most definitely a flaw in the system, and you don’t have to be an anti-capitalist to admit it. Now I could go on and on, likening this to slavery or to the dystopian future that George Orwell depicted in his book, 1984, but that would be totally unnecessary, as I only wanted to provide my reasoning behind wanting to dealgorithmize.

How am I going to go about dealgorithmizing on YouTube?

I’m going to limit myself to 5 YouTube videos everyday (at least for now). The first 5 videos in my YouTube feed are going to be youtube-dl’ed. Good news is that most of the stuff I watch is pretty informative anyways, so I’m not too worried about downloading anything too unproductive. Music and podcasts will all be listened to on Spotify now. After I download the 5 videos, I’m going to block YouTube on my /etc/hosts file, so that there’s absolutely no chance of me being distracted throughout the day.

I can already tell this is going to be hard.