My Life As An Experiment
One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself
Written By: A. J. Jacobs
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
You might remember a friend of mine sending me a book called The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs and that I found it hysterical. Well, she also sent me another book by the same author in that package - My Life As An Experiment. Needing something light and fun to enjoy the past couple of days, I decided to check it out.
Originally published as The Guinea Pig Diaries, this book was written after Abrams' year-long experiments on living biblically and reading the encyclopedia from A to Z. In this new book, Abrams decides to devote another year of his life to several different experiments, each one given a month to complete. Some of these include, outsourcing his life, telling the absolute truth 100% of the time, posing naked, living under the moral ethics of George Washington, living as a beautiful woman and devoting a month of servitude to his wife.
Some of the most thought-provoking projects include his experiments at uni-tasking and rationality. A self-proclaimed Queen of Multi-Tasking, I never realized just how bad multi-tasking could be for your mental and physical well-being until reading some of Jacobs' research. Of course, I'm a safe multi-tasker - no texting while walking or driving, no reading a book while hiking, no playing softball while eating, etc. That being said, I never realized that multi-tasking upped my stress levels and, therefore, my Cortisol output increases...which can be a bad thing if you are trying to lose weight - yikes! It can also cause attention spans to wane. That hasn't really happened to me yet and I don't find my multi-tasking making me any less efficient. There are things I know I can't multi-task efficiently and so I don't, but this segment of the book and Jacobs' experiment at single tasking is food for thought.
The rationality experiment is thought-provoking in a scary way. Just think about it. It affects us in hiring practices. Think about the way you respond on social networks to a cool profile picture. If the picture is of a decent looking individual, you may be inclined to think that person is a "good" person without even knowing a thing about them. A person who takes a picture of a certain part of their body may be considered promiscuous. Someone with an artsy profile picture could be considered smart, yet you still don't know anything about them. Now think about an employer - show up looking good in an expensive suit or dress and that person may be more inclined to hire you before you open your mouth...good for some (the hiree), not so much for others (the employer who can't seem to get the production wanted from that person they hired on perception of looks alone). It's about the way your rationalize things without truly thinking about them - scary.
There were some incredibly funny moments in this book, but my favorites take place in the outsourcing and living as a beautiful woman segments. I loved the various ways Jacobs found to outsource his life, using individuals from overseas outsourcing companies to do mundane tasks like answering emails and making purchases and some out of the ordinary tasks like arguing with his wife, reading to his son and talking to his parents so he won't have to. Unfortunately, this may have sent even more jobs overseas with the invention of overseas personal assistants. However, there is a positive note - one of Jacobs' readers couldn't find a job, but his outsourcing assistant found one for him. Not bad, huh?
Now, the living as a beautiful woman thing deserves some explanation. Clearly, Mr. Jacobs is not going to pass for a sexy female. However, if no one actually sees him doing so, ala the internet, it would definitely work. This sort of thing happens all of the time and has recently been on the news as happening to well-known individuals as well as non-celebrities (Remember Manti Te'o?). His experiment involved posing as his nanny on a dating site and answering several of the emails members of the site sent to her. Just reading some of the emails, his answers and his indignation regarding them is hysterical.
All-in-all, My Life As An Experiment was a fast and funny read with quite a few thought-provoking insights by the author. I really enjoyed the book, perhaps more than the last one I read. Though I must agree with A.J. Jacobs' readers thoughts on one subject - his wife MUST be a saint to put up with all of this. Thank goodness she does or we wouldn't have so many funny A.J. Jacobs books and articles to choose from.