One of the common threads in the books we’ve read for Bookworm is the impact of computers on our effectiveness, self-control, and overall happiness in life. Their prevalence and ubiquity in our world coupled with the newness and speed of their adoption has a lot of us wondering and speculating about the positives and negatives of this shift. So I would expect any book written in the last decade to incorporate thoughts on the topic.
David Allen is a big proponent of using the latest technology in creating an external brain. The ability of these devices to manage information and deliver it at will is astounding and enables us to find whatever we want, whenever we want it. David’s GTD methodology (proposed in Getting Things Done) is perfectly aligned with and almost dependent on the mobility and universality of computers.
In The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal explains the neurological processes and chemicals released when using many of today’s most popular applications and social networks. They are a double edged sword in that they connect us with people all over the world, but they also create never ending potential for distraction that we must overcome by developing a level of willpower. This is similar to Stephen Pressfield’s view of Resistance in The War Of Art. It’s easy to let the notifications and possibility of something new keep us from creating our best work.
And if you start asking yourself questions about what is absolutely essential in your life as Greg McKeown suggests in Essentialism, you start to question the necessity of technology in general. Our access to information and interconnectedness are nothing short of remarkable. Throw in home automation and our capabilities are hard to fully comprehend. But to what gain? Are those things indispensable? Do they introduce an unnecessary level of complexity just because we can? Where is the line of too much?
I hate those questions. I have a tendency to adopt new technology because of the cool factor and for the sake of experimentation and knowledge. I want to know how something works and see how I can use it. The pros and cons battle hardly enters my mind. I don’t want to consider its benefits because I’m afraid there are none. And in most cases I know that it will be another thing to maintain and support when it doesn’t work correctly.
For the past year I’ve been without an iPad. For someone in my line of business, that is absurd. It wasn’t a goal or even intentional at first. I left the company I was working for at the time and needed to return the company iPad I had been using. Finances didn’t warrant the purchase of a replacement right away so I was forced to go without an iPad for the first time since they were introduced.
After 12 months without one, I’m seriously wondering if I would ever buy one as a replacement. I can’t find a legitimate purpose for it in my life that doesn’t increase the complexity of what I do and how I work. In other words, I don’t miss it.
It’s this same rationale that I’ve applied to an Watch. What does it gain me that I can’t already accomplish? I already wear a watch and I always have my phone around. I simply cannot justify it.
However, there are a couple areas I would like to introduce a bit more tech. External monitors and an external hard drive for my MacBook would help me out considerably. But even then, I’m only augmenting an existing computer as opposed to introducing a new device entirely.
I don’t think there’s some magical line for technology to which we all need to adhere. The level of interconnectedness and digitization we each desire and can manage in our lives is different. But I think I have my line for now and I enjoy the freedom these limitations give me.