We should make better use of complementary cognitive artefacts. Reading, writing, walking. Great ways of chewing a little time and doing a little useful ‘nothing’. But these tools are also powerful because they unlock our brains in indirect ways.

Cognitive artefacts are tools that help us think - you can do maths in your head, or you could use an abacus or even a calculator. All three are tools. Artefacts become parts of our minds when we use them, but the difference in value is in the impact they leave behind.

Complementary cognitive artefacts (maps, pen and paper, abacus, walking) are accessories that build on your knowledge even when removed, whereas competitive cognitive artefacts (computers, calculators, cars) detract instead. Mastering the calculator leaves you no better off when it is removed. If anything, over-reliance on competitive artefacts just erode our existing knowledge bases. To be clear, the divide between competitive and complementary artefacts isn’t as clear cut as digital vs analogue. Coding is a complementary artefact in the same way all languages are.

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