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Autopilot: The Art and Science of Doing Nothing Paperback – 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher: OR Books; 1st edition (2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1939293103
  • ISBN-13: 978-1939293107
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 11.9 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 717,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

"A tour de force of an academic field that doesn't really exist just yet - the science of being idle. Andrew Smart synthesizes a whole range of cutting-edge ideas in neuroscience, dynamic systems theory, psychology, literature, pop culture, and philosophy, and gives us a hugely entertaining read about what we do most of the time, i.e. nothing. Autopilot finishes with the most stimulating and provocative ideas about who we really are, reflections on what our society has come to, and how to fix it. If you are to read one pop science book this year, this should be it." -Prof. Hakwan Lau, Department of Psychology, Columbia University

Andrew Smart wants you to sit and do nothing much more often - and he has the science to explain why.

At every turn we're pushed to do more, faster and more efficiently: that drumbeat resounds throughout our wage-slave society. Multitasking is not only a virtue, it's a necessity. Books such as Getting Things Done, The One Minute Manager, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People regularly top the bestseller lists, and have spawned a considerable industry.

But Andrew Smart argues that slackers may have the last laugh. The latest neuroscience shows that the "culture of effectiveness" is not only ineffective, it can be harmful to your well-being. He makes a compelling case - backed by science - that filling life with activity at work and at home actually hurts your brain.

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.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cole Davis on 23 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback
Andrew Smart may become the Pavlov of doing nothing. The metaphor of his title is that our brains run by themselves and that interfering with them too much - or at all - is the precondition for crashes, for people as individuals, for society and for the world in which we live.

He bases his arguments on experiments in neuroscience which indicate that much of our mental activity takes place when we are doing absolutely nothing. So, if like me, you find some of your most creative ideas occur when you are in the most out of the way places - and not in that all-important meeting or seminar - you will feel vindicated by this book.

Smart draws from philosophy, history, literature and management theory (thanks for explaining the One Minute Manager to me - I had never intended to read it) and at times draws from economics (as sparingly as he can) and even the principle of emergent properties. His is one of the best comparisons of the ant colony with the human brain that I have read; food for thought, as with the rest of his book.

He rails against the distractions which ruin our ability to think creatively and destroy productivity, including multi-tasking, digital media, the inappropriate rolling-out of management systems and the hot-housing of extramural activities for young people. With considerable logic and a fair amount of imagination, he also concludes with some radical measures for dealing with the plane crash that many believe to be our world's imminent plight.

His aims are to produce `bullet-proof scientific excuses for laziness .. possible neuroscientific insights into the relationship between idleness and creativity ... (and) to hammer the first nails into a coffin for the insufferable time management industry.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Formatting was a bit of a problem for the eBook but a very good look at how doing nothing is good for your brain. The author has a bit of a thing about time management 'gurus' and 6 stigma management process's but his argument against them is very entertaining.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nina Buchanan on 11 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Purchased it to get insights on developing a talk on 'the art of doing nothing' and coming from a more spiritual perspective. Didn't find it that helpful
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 19 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A Firework of a Book 23 Oct. 2013
By Cole Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Andrew Smart may become the Pavlov of doing nothing. The metaphor of his title is that our brains run by themselves and that interfering with them too much - or at all - is the precondition for crashes, for people as individuals, for society and for the world in which we live.

He bases his arguments on experiments in neuroscience which indicate that much of our mental activity takes place when we are doing absolutely nothing. So, if like me, you find some of your most creative ideas occur when you are in the most out of the way places - and not in that all-important meeting or seminar - you will feel vindicated by this book.

Smart draws from philosophy, history, literature and management theory (thanks for explaining the One Minute Manager to me - I had never intended to read it) and at times draws from economics (as sparingly as he can) and even the principle of emergent properties. His is one of the best comparisons of the ant colony with the human brain that I have read; food for thought, as with the rest of his book.

He rails against the distractions which ruin our ability to think creatively and destroy productivity, including multi-tasking, digital media, the inappropriate rolling-out of management systems and the hot-housing of extramural activities for young people. With considerable logic and a fair amount of imagination, he also concludes with some radical measures for dealing with the plane crash that many believe to be our world's imminent plight.

His aims are to produce `bullet-proof scientific excuses for laziness .. possible neuroscientific insights into the relationship between idleness and creativity ... (and) to hammer the first nails into a coffin for the insufferable time management industry.'

There is much to be enjoyed and learnt from this book. Much of it is backed up by excellent scientific facts, even if some of the neuroscience may at times be a bit unclear to the uninitiated. There are claims which the reader may consider less than justified. The reviewer for one fails to understand the author's obvious detestation of to-do lists as an aid to the weary brain, and the author himself veers from suggesting (as most would agree) that too much leisure is boring or worse, to desiring a huge acceptance of idling as the foundation of a new society. However, this adds to the joy of a book which ranges widely and allows the reader independently to consider just how lazy an idler should be.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Do- Be- Do .. ??? 17 Feb. 2014
By S. Small - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you wonder how you are going to get everything done, be somebody, earn your way, be productive, add value and stay sane .. this book will help put some of the Do Do Do impulse into a different framework.

If you are a day dreamer, one of those people that just need some down time to let "things settle", time to space out, meditate, rest, nap, and take more than 30 minutes for lunch .. this book will put your mind at ease. your not crazy, lazy or unproductive.

Just as there are more ways to skin a cat (I know a bit of a gruesome metaphor mostly known by those of us over the age of 40), there are also more ways than we might imagine for the brain to feed itself, re-nourish and do its best work.

What I got from this book is it doesn't matter whether it is corpse pose, meditation,focusing, open focus, day dreaming, resting and looking at the ceiling .. all of these activities can help us not just do our best work, but also be.

If you need to choose to Do, Be or Do ... Be is better and necessary for our physical and mental health.

Just my two cents. Cheers.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Idleness is not laziness 29 Jun. 2014
By Ilya Grigorik - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Idleness is not laziness. In fact, idleness may be an important and necessary condition for processing and synthesizing information to create new ideas and connections. The key observation and premise of the book is that latest experiments in neuroscience indicate that our brain is, in fact, extremely active when we are "idle", and that the involved regions may play an important role in helping with "creativity". As such, perhaps in our quest to fill our calendars we may have inadvertently blocked ourselves from the creative breakthroughs that we all seek?

The book is based on limited studies (and our overall understanding of this space is poor, to say the least), so the conclusions are to be taken with a grain of salt. Similarly, the used language is imprecise and at times simply wrong (e.g., the many comparisons of linear vs. nonlinear systems), but despite all that, still a thought provoking and very interesting read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Original and Much Needed Conversation Worldwide 26 Dec. 2013
By Paul Medus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
From a scientific point of view, based on limited studies and profound opinions about work thought to be sacred, Andrew Smart's book is a fast read that will leave long lasting ideas about work, adhd, and a whole host of topics associated with "busyness" in a world that prides itself of how busy can a person be. Working one's self to death is not the pathway of a true warrior. There must certainly be another way to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Thank you Andrew.
I love the book because part of it is a discussion ... 7 Dec. 2014
By BryanML - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I love the book because part of it is a discussion on the authors first-hand experience in neuroscience, studying the brains activity levels during task-oriented thinking as opposed to a more relaxed free-flow thinking that he refers to as autopilot (or more technically called the "default mode network"). But the other discussion he has is sociological about how the modern information age requires us to be more productive and better at multi-tasking just to keep our jobs. Which the author tends to believe is a misconception created by corporate america. This trend of corporations forcing workers to be more productive is causing our society to be more stressed-out and burned out than ever before.

Part of the author's argument is to point out this mistake made by corporate managers and proposes that we all learn to give our brains time to relax each day and just day dream. The argument for allowing our brains to relax in order to be more creative and better at problems solving is backed up by the research he has done. The audiobook is especially fun to listen to because the reader Kevin Free has such a fitting scientific voice. You will love the book if you are interested in the neuroscience argument for giving workers more leisure time or if you believe most corporations are basically no different than a Dilbert cartoon. But if you are a corporate manager who uses six-sigma or even "Getting Things Done" to force your workers to be more productive, then you may not like the book because you are presented in a very bad light. I still think you should read it though, maybe it will open your eyes to the possibility that people can be more productive if you just lighten up a little.
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