Ben Franklin, mind hacker

At age 20, Ben Franklin designed a plan for regulating his conduct for the rest of his life. As Flamebright reports, Franklin devised thirteen “virtues”, including these:

Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.

Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.

Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

I love that final one, as a neat corrective to our age of religious fundamentalism, and those who’d like to claim Franklin for it. But what particularly tickles me is Franklin’s obsessive, hacker-like systemization of a moral system. I can’t imagine what sort of personal tracking he’d have developed if he lived in the modern age. Sprawling Excel spreadsheets? Galvanic-skin-response metering? Neural-net A.I. for future vice prediction?

(Thanks to 43 Folders for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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