We are used to thinking about tools and technologies as “all good, all the time” these days – and anyone who suggests that a certain gadget may not be a force for good in the broader sense of things, stands at risk of being labelled a Luddite.
There is, however, a good argument to be made that you really would be better off without certain technologies in your life – while at the same time benefiting enormously from others.
Here are a few smart rules for buying tools and technology, to help you strike the right balance.
Go for the technologies that give you the most “bang for your buck,” without introducing too many potential setbacks
The author and academic Cal Newport spends a significant chunk of his book “Digital Minimalism” working to dispel certain popular perceptions about the Amish community.
Specifically, he tells us that the Amish aren’t actually “anti-technology” per se. Instead, they have a strict policy of only embracing technologies that are in line with their values, and that don’t damage their sense of community cohesion.
Along those lines, Amish elders will “audit” different technologies on a regular basis and weigh up their relative pros and cons. Portable generators may be deemed fair game, while mobile phones are written off as contributing to anti-community attitudes, for example.
It’s worth considering that the technologies you use may have potential setbacks, according to your own values and frame of reference. Try to weigh the pros and cons of every technology up analytically, and go for those that give you the most bang for your buck without introducing too many potential setbacks. Think outside of the box also, uses for industrial technology, information technology or mechanical technology. Technology can be applicable to a tool, industry, device or the digital world.
Sullair Air Compressors, for example, can power many other useful tools in your garage, and are unlikely to disrupt your life in a significant way.
Consider the “feel” that you get from using a certain technology, and not just its purely rationalistic function
A modern oven will always cook your meal faster and with less fuss than a charcoal barbecue – and yet, people continue to use charcoal barbecues for special occasions.
Why would they do that when the technology is, essentially, redundant?
Simple: it’s the “feel” and “flavor” of the barbecue experience that people are after.
When you’re shopping around for tools and technologies, take the way they make you “feel” into account. Each tool or technology should give you a sense of enrichment in your life, and not just serve a purely rationalistic function.
Consider whether bringing a particular tool into your life makes you more resilient, or more fragile, in the grand scheme of things
There are all sorts of tools out there that can offer tremendous benefit in the short term, but that might make you less resilient in the longer term.
Many people these days rely on a suite of digital apps in order to manage their to-do lists and calendars, for example. But what happens if you rely on these tools to manage your entire life, and that company supplies them suddenly goes bust? Or what if you have to go without power, or an Internet connection, for a few days?
Sometimes, the positive trade-off from certain tools will make you more resilient in general. At other times, though, low-tech alternatives may do a better job.