How much technology is enough?

Buergy_hwd Having been a designer of high-tech things for many years, I never thought I would find myself looking at the possibility of limiting the amount of technology I am willing to accept in my daily life.

Technology applied to your life can save lots of time and money but it has a drawback. It makes life easier so you incorporate more of it into your life until you spend more time managing your technology and playing with it than living your life.

So, how do you know if you have sufficient technology in your life? Are your living life to the fullest or are you tending and fixing your technological wonders instead?

Technology is the application of knowledge to achieve certain ends. It started with simple principles like the lever and screw and progressed to using the behavior of electrical particles and properties of matter to accomplish tasks that would otherwise require immense amounts of brute strength.

Technology makes it possible for us to drink water without carrying it miles from the nearest waterhole in jars on our heads. It means that we prepare meals in minutes instead of hours. It means that we can travel more miles in one hour than great grandfather did in his lifetime. It gives everyone living in a modern civilization the leisure time to study anything they choose.

Consider living off the grid and see how much time is spent on the mundane details of daily life. Growing and preparing food, cleaning and mending clothes, heating a dwelling, these tasks leave little time for commerce or craft work or study of any kind.

In the past, only the very wealthy or powerful had the leisure time to study the stars or to investigate natural phenomena. Today, almost anyone can attend online university courses and do research if they wish because the time spent preparing food, cleaning clothes, even earning a living has been reduced by technology to an amazing level.

However, I think we have reached an unfortunate level of technology abuse in recent years. I see people driving along with earbuds or cellphones stuck in their ears, people texting during meetings, children texting during meals, families driving through nature with kids watching cartoons on the car video. TVs left on all day with the sound turned up as a background to family conversations.

On the managing side, who has not struggled to save files from a dying computer or has not struggled to install some new generation of software on a computer that will not accept it. Some people are still struggling to block spam from their email. Others have simply given up and check their email only after they are called and told that they have an important email in their inbox.

Everyone has a comfort level regarding the inclusion of technology in their lives. Perhaps the determining factor is observing whether technology frees you up to do creative and useful things or does it monopolize your waking moments with subtle distractions.

I have become aware of how certain specific levels of technology detract from the pleasant experiences of life. I am looking to simplify in those areas and will write about my adventures in simplification.

What has been your experience with technology impacting quality of life?

(Image from http://www.wearable-consult.com/index_en.html showing technology in a work situation)

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0 Responses to How much technology is enough?

  1. Perspective says:

    I think we spend years in fear of being passed over by not adopting new technologies (i.e. people who used to say I don’t need a computer to do my job well, etc.). And, we get a rush from being early adopters through much of our lives.

    I still struggle with “putting off” purchases until the 2nd or 3rd generation of a device…thinking the broader population has whittled down the likely number of new tweaks for a while.

    I feel out of it by not being able to discuss every new gadget and its cool features. Yet, I just hate it when a good conversation just gets obliterated by interruptions from a new iphone.

    Can codgerdom be far away?

  2. mattbg says:

    Good topic, David.

    I think there is far too much focus on adding new features and not enough on fixing what’s wrong with the old version.

    Also, I think some technology cause parts of your brain to atrophy. Although I use Google, I am aware that its encouragement of you to be lazy by helping you fix your mistakes, and to not think in complete sentences is problematic. Also, I think cell phones and GPS cause you to plan ahead and think things through. It has created a kind of “just in time” system for whatever we need. In this case of the cell phone, it doesn’t consider other people’s need for space and privacy — maybe they don’t want to be called because you can’t remember something but just happen to have your cell phone with you.

    I generally don’t buy technology early anymore. I never really did, but now I hardly do it at all because I know it’ll be painful and end up causing me more stress or time than it saves. So, my general rule is that when a technology is affordable enough for most people to be able to afford it, then it’s pretty much ready. That’s not a foolproof strategy, but it’s a lot better than the others I’ve tried.

    Another thing I do is that I don’t ever buy something over something else because it’s on sale or marginally cheaper. If it’s free, that’s even worse. The only time I buy something on sale is if it is exactly what I had planned to buy but was on sale anyway. I investigate beforehand on the web and go and get the exact product I’ve selected.

    I don’t feel old by doing this (I am 32). It is simply a sensible application of technology and I am buying what I want and not what someone else wants to sell to me.

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