Autopilot: The Art & Science of Doing Nothing

I have to admit that book endorsements do not motivate me to buy a book, and often they do just the opposite, when I bother to read them at all. I read the endorsement by a PhD of Autopilot that proclaimed it was about the “art and science of doing nothing” because it struck me as an anomaly. Obviously, no one gets a PhD by idling. The PhD’s first sentence however seemed to confirm my suspicions that this book was hokum.

A tour de force of an academic field that doesn’t really exist just yet – the science of being idle.

Right, a new field of academic inquiry – immediately I could see the author, Andrew John Smart (a name too perfect, it must have been suggested by a low-life marketing guru, I thought) promoting his book to Fortune 500 Management Seminars.

Fortunately, I didn’t click on to another internet allure. The publisher of this book didn’t strike me as one that would be promoting slick, pseudo-cutting-edge personnel management crap. OR Books is new. Check out their offerings.

Questioning my initial impulse, I delved a bit deeper into the promo verbiage and found this sentence:

At every turn we’re pushed to do more, faster and more efficiently: that drumbeat resounds throughout our wage-slave society.

Use the term “wage-slave” and I’ll pay for your beer. For me, this put the author beyond the “cutting-edge” of so-called entrepreneurial concerns.

And then a bit further, this appeared:

A survivor of corporate-mandated “Six Sigma” training to improve efficiency, Smart has channeled a self-described “loathing” of the time-management industry into a witty, informative and wide-ranging book that draws on the most recent research into brain power. Use it to explain to bosses, family, and friends why you need to relax – right now.

That was all I needed to know. I plunked down my credit card and bought it (at a pre-publication discount).

Here’s an extract from the book:

Scientists like Buzáki and Raichle estimate that as much as 90% of the brain’s energy is used to support ongoing activity. This means that, regardless of what you are doing, your resting brain represents the vast majority of your brain’s total energy consumption. This is also known as the brain’s intrinsic activity. When you activate your default mode network by doing nothing, it becomes robust and coherent. So, somehow our brains seem to violate the second law of thermodynamics which states that left unattended, things in general get messy and lose heat. This is called entropy. It’s why your kitchen just gets messier and messier the longer you don’t clean it. However, the old adage that “the dishes don’t do themselves” does not apply to the brain.

On the contrary, when you leave important parts of your brain unattended by relaxing in the grass on a sunny afternoon, the parts of your brain in the default mode network become more organized and engaged. In your brain, the dishes do wash themselves if you just leave them alone. It turns out your brain is never idle. In fact, it may work harder when you’re not working at all.

One more thing. If you go to Smart’s blog you will find a smart post on professionalism and you will be able to read a draft of a play/screen script of a projected “epic” tale of Michael Bakunin! Hey, I might be disappointed with my impulsive purchase, but anyone who writes a screen play, titled Bakunin: The Lust for Destruction, needs all the support he can muster.