The world is going through a pretty dramatic technological boom of sorts, these days, with machine learning systems completely transforming the way that various industries work, and technologies such as driverless cars being just on the horizon, and likely to have effects that would be impossible to predict the magnitude of in advance.
With all the different varieties of new technology out there, it would be very useful to have some general principles at our disposal in order to properly calibrate our relationship with these technologies, and gain a sense of what we should and shouldn’t do with regards to them.
In recent times, many people have proposed dangers and risks that might be associated with the increasingly-complex slew of tools and technologies that we are all in touch with to some degree, on a more or less daily basis. Adam Alter, for example, writes in his book “Irresistible,” about how many of the ubiquitous digital technologies of the day are specially calibrated in order to be as addictive as possible.
Then, there’s Cal Newport’s book “Digital Minimalism,” that essentially argues that too much time spent dealing with digital technology can end up significantly reducing productivity and well-being, in assorted ways.
One way or the other, here are a few principles for how you should deal with new technology.
Try to get a really clear understanding of the technology before you begin using itTry to get a really clear understanding of the technology before you begin using it
there will always be a decent amount of relativity involved, when it comes to talking about “understanding” the advanced modern technologies out there today, before using them.
For one thing, it’s obviously the case that the specific intricacies and workings of these technologies are often so complex that it’s virtually impossible to really “understand” them.
All the same, before you start using a specific tool or technology, you should try and get as clear an understanding of how it works as possible, as well as of the various risks involved.
It would be useful, for example, to know something about the risk and prevalence of autonomous car accidents before buying one.
Try to use only those tools that substantially benefit your life, and avoid buying things just because of the novelty factor
Many of the new tools and technologies that are coming out are intrinsically novel, and exciting, specifically because of the fact that they are relatively “unknown” and cutting-edge.
Humans are always drawn to novelty to one degree or another – towards the exciting and the fresh. but just because something is exciting and novel, doesn’t mean you should automatically rush out and buy it.
In “Digital Minimalism,” Cal Newport suggests that we should all make a point of only using the tools that substantially benefit our lives, and where the benefits those tools offer outweigh all the side effects and potential negatives.
In other words, be “minimalistic” with your digital tools and high-tech devices, and be properly on the lookout for the hidden downsides. Then, conservatively use the tools that can really have an outsized benefit to you.
Be wary of planned obsolescence, and technologies that will put you in a spending spiral
One of the problems with many cutting-edge modern tools and technologies, is that they are far more fragile, and far less straightforward to repair, than various equivalent technologies were, not too long ago.
A clear and straightforward example would be the fact that cars several decades ago could typically be repaired at home without too much trouble, assuming the person doing the repairing had a decent basic understanding of mechanics.
Today, cars are typically so full of complex computer technology and electronic components, that getting them repaired often requires highly-trained specialists dedicated to dealing with a particular model – never mind even just ordinary mechanics.
There’s a lot of “planned obsolescence” built into many modern technologies – and even when those technologies are not necessarily planned to become obsolete, they nonetheless may be prone to breaking down far too easily, and leading you down into a dramatic spending spiral.
Be cautious of this, and look for robust options wherever possible.
Weigh up and investigate security concerns for different technologies
Recent years have seen all sorts of scares and revelations related to digital security, and information breaches coming from governments and hackers alike.
Facebook has been particularly implicated in some of the scandals, and so has Google.
Many modern digital technologies handle vast amounts of personal data, and in a way that is so complex and arcane to the average person that it’s often impossible to tell what may or may not be happening with all that data.
Do your best to weigh up and investigate relevant security concerns for any different technologies you are planning to use. Look for privacy assurances, and read negative reviews, too.