Harnessing Technology to Simplify Your Life
“Men have become the tools of their tools.”
— Henry David Thoreau
Joel Bowman writing about technology…
What is it about the “system” that keeps honest, hard-working folk from enjoying the kind of life they want.
As far as we can tell, few people want to wait tables…or work in a cubicle…or receive “late notices” on their bills.
They’d rather be golfing…or reading a good book…or hanging out the gone fishin’ sign.
And yet, restaurants are full of waiters. Cubicles are crammed with workers. And bills pile up under fridge magnets across the country.
First, we wonder, was it always this way? Forever and ever? Amen?
People have always worked, of course…but surely the technological advancements of the last 10…20…50 years have “liberated” us from the hum-drum tasks and thankless chores of yesteryear.
In a way, this is certainly true.
Back in the “olden days,” folks didn’t have washing machines and microwaves and electric milk frothers. Instead, they had to do their own washing and cooking and…frothing.
There was no internet back then either. It didn’t even exist until the 90s. At least, not as anything like its present form. (Before its commercialization phase, it was mostly a tool for academic and military networks.)
Point being, people couldn’t just “google” their way out of any old problem. Instead, they had to set their minds to thinking it through. They had to visit the library. Do some research. Ask friends and family for help.
Often, they had to actually learn something.
If a bicycle needed fixing (for instance), they couldn’t just “YouTube” up a solution. They had to work out how to fix it. This process often involved things like “tools,” “sweat,” and something called “elbow grease.”
Also, it involved mistakes. Sometimes costly ones.
The whole process surely took time. More time, at least, than it takes today.
So, with all these new minutes and hours available…with all this “spare” time on our hands…what are we doing with ourselves? Are we enjoying easier, stress-free days? Are we harnessing the vast complexity of technology to simplify our lives?
Or have we become, as Thoreau foresaw, the “tools of our tools.”
Our research is anecdotal…and the results subject to change. Herewith, a few thoughts…
On the one hand, it’s easy to romanticize the past. It’s where the younger, slimmer, better-looking versions of ourselves reside, after all. What’s not to like?
Nostalgia has a tendency to wash away the tears and bruises…and to replace them with rosy memories of better days. And modern technology can be scary. Worse, it can deaden the senses to the “real” world around us.
A Nielsen Report study conducted last year found that the average American adult spends 11 hours per day in front of various screens… T.V., laptops, smart phones, etc. Another study estimated that people spend 90 minutes on their phone…equal to 23 days per year…or almost four years of the average person’s life.
Is that a good thing? Who knows?
Maybe people are using this technology to stay in contact with distant friends…send pictures and video of precious moments to family abroad…to skype into business conference calls…to compose new music…write and share new novels and poetry…to crowdsource funding for new projects…to post recipes and gardening tips…to raise awareness for important social issues…to discover the classical texts…
…or they could just be looking at nudie pics and zoning out on Facebook.
Yes, technology can be misused and abused…
But do we really yearn for a time when tiny hands cleaned the chimneys and worked the mechanical looms? Or are we grateful that technology has “killed” those jobs? That now children (in the developed world, at least) are largely free to pursue education and play with their friends…even if some of that does take place online?
Verdict? We’re still reckoning it over…
But that’s all we have time for today. Our taxi has arrived…and we’re due to board a flying metal tube that will transport us from one end of the Americas to the other in under 12 hours…with free WiFi!
Until next time…
Procrastinate Productively Online
By the Staff of The Savvy Retiree Daily
From the flat, blue plains of Facebook to deepest, darkest trenches of its most questionable content, the internet holds seemingly unlimited potential for procrastination. But it’s also home to a wealth of valuable resources for learning and self-improvement—many of which are free and almost always a much better use of your time. Here are some of our favorite free, productive sites that will trick your brain into learning a thing or two:
Learn a language: Duolingo is a free Rosetta-Stone type service that teaches you a new language through interactive exercises. Languages available include Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Irish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and English. There’s now a Duolingo app, available on Apple and Android, so you can bone up on your Portuguese while waiting for the ônibus (bus).
Take up an instrument: There are thousands of videos on YouTube that’ll teach you how to play anything from violin to Tibetan singing bowls. But if you want to play guitar, and are after something more structured, justinguitar.com has over 900 free guitar lessons, covering a range of different styles and techniques. It also provides you with a learning schedule to help you stay the course and make sure that the guitar doesn’t end up back in the closet with your purple cords and electric keytar.
Become a speed reader: According to Spreeder, the speed at which we read is dictated by the speed of our inner voice. Spreeder teaches you to read without the aid of that inner voice, which will have you tearing through books at a speed you never thought possible. Maybe you could give Moby Dick another chance.