I’ve been obsessed with technology ever since I was a kid. But the question:
What do I really want from technology?
Well — I want a lot of things. Let me try to outline some of my thoughts:
First of all, technology is a bit of becoming a human-cyborg hybrid. In some ways technology is a way to turn us into a Robocop. I see technology as having the ability to augment my human abilities– but further.
For example, let us take writing for an example. Writing isn’t natural to humans. And I like to write as a form of technological “meta-thinking”. As I write, I can better think and flesh out my thoughts.
And with technology (laptop, tablet, phone), I can write my ideas more efficiently than I could hand-writing them. Furthermore, digital technology (internet, blogging, website) allows me to publish my thoughts and ideas with limitless scale. In theory, millions of people can be reading my ideas con-currently. Publishing on the internet augments me almost infinitely.
Therefore perhaps one thing I want from technology is this:
To scale beyond my mere human body. To be able to be simultaneously in many places at once. To augment my impact unto other human beings.
2. Artistic creation
Considering that photography is my passion, I need technology (camera) in order to make my art (photos).
We photographers are obsessed with technology. Why? It is integral to our art-creation! There are so many forms of technology associated with photography:
- The camera
- The lenses (focal length)
- The monitor we use to view our photos
- The technology we need to store our photos (hard drives or the cloud)
- The technology we use to publish/share our photos with others on the internet
And all of these technologies are in flux. In my short life, I’ve already seen camera technology evolve greatly. Same goes with photo-storage (cloud storage). Same goes with photo-sharing (I’ve seen photo sharing services come and go).
I think what we want from technology in photography is generally a “durable” solution for the future. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to upgrade our cameras so often — ideally, we want just one camera and one lens that should be able to last us a decade. Furthermore, we want durable forms to store and archive our photos. Every photographer is also a historian of their photos.
Not only that, but we also want an edge— many people tend to feel that photography is a competition, thus we want better equipment to give us an advantage compared to other photographers. Or we want certain equipment to differentiate ourselves from other photographers (buying a Leica camera to differentiate ourselves as being more “cultured”, rich, or experienced).
But anyways, we ultimately want technology in order to make art.
In the context of photography; how does better technology help us?
Well, better cameras allow us more flexibility and freedom. For example, if a camera has superior high-ISO capabilities, we can shoot more in low-light situations. In this way, better camera technology helps us make more aesthetically beautiful photos. Perhaps this is the mental shortcut:
Better “image quality” in newer digital camera augments our ability to create MORE BEAUTIFUL photos.
Thus the goal is to create the maximally beautiful images. And as photographer-artists, we want to create the apex beautiful photograph-arts. Thus, by upgrading our cameras and technology, we are constantly striving to always make more beautiful images.
Thus what we want from technology:
To assist us in making MORE BEAUTIFUL art-works.
I know for myself, I want the most aesthetically-beautiful devices. Part of the aesthetics is also related to the function.
For example, Apple genuinely makes the supreme products. The simplicity and minimalism of their products ain’t just the exterior veneer; the software is also more simple and minimalist.
For example, many companies are trying to copycat Apple by making minimalist and beautiful devices. But they always fail. Why? The core is important. The core and passion for simplicity and functionality is integral to Apple and Steve Jobs’ initial vision. Unless other companies can make their core about simplicity, the exterior won’t matter.
What do I want from my devices and tools? For myself, I want the minimal distractions and maximal focus.
For example on the MacBook, I am a HUGE advocate of the ‘IA WRITER’ app. I’ve written probably a trillion words on it. It is maximally minimalist, and using the ‘markdown’ language has helped me write numerous blog posts and books. The more minimalist and simple my tools, the more creatively productive I’ve become.
Thus in technology, it seems the simpler the software, the better.
4. Do we want the best technology or do we desire to differentiate ourselves from others?
I’ve discovered that ultimately with technology — much of it is ideological. For example, if you’re for open systems and the hacker ethos, then Android is probably better for you than iOS. But if you want something that “just works” and has better synchronicity between all your devices, than an iPhone is probably best.
Nowadays with smartphones and other devices, much of it is fashion. If you own the newest iPhone, you seem more fashionable, modern, and successful. If you use an older Android phone, it ain’t as sexy as a new iPhone. And perhaps–
The sexier the device we use, the sexier WE become.
Thus perhaps some of technology is to make ourselves seem and become more beautiful. We want to be perceived as more beautiful, worthy, and “cool” by strangers and our peers.
Thus perhaps technology is a form of social hierarchy-building. If we desire to climb higher on the social hierarchy, we buy the most fashionable, functional, and new tools.
I think this is the problem:
More technology is often worse.
And the tricky thing to figure out:
What is the best technology to keep and augment, and which technologies are BAD in order for us to remove?
Let me give you an example:
- Social media is a patently BAD technology: The upside (connection to others is outweighed by the downside) which is fucking with your social self-esteem, and distraction.
- Uber is a good technology: Allows us to NOT own cars. Makes our daily life easier and more convenient.
- Blogging and websites as good technology: To augment your creative ideas and share it with a wide audience.
The problem with a lot of us moderns:
We get FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to any new technology.
The best way I can describe this fear-based purchasing of new technology is almost like the “Sneetches” (story of Dr. Seuss). The Sneetches are so desirous of social status that they’re throwing out cash in order to add stars to their bellies. Then the “rich” Sneetches start to REMOVE stars from their bellies to distinguish themselves. I almost wonder if this is the same way how the poor-turned-rich start buying designer goods, whereas the rich are starting to REMOVE luxury goods from their lives– opting for more “minimal” high-quality goods WITHOUT brand insignias on the outside.
With technology, I almost wonder:
If the rich of the future are going to start REMOVING technology from their lives (we already see the Silicon Valley tech elite sending their kids to schools WITHOUT technology and computers).
There is a reason why Steve Jobs refused to let his kids play with iPads at home — he knew what it could do to children.
6. When in doubt, subtract.
I follow Nassim Taleb’s prescription:
Generally with health, science, or technology — when in doubt, subtract.
Also, perhaps we can follow the “Occam’s razor” for technology:
Make the technology in your life as simple as possible, but not any simpler.
And this is where great wisdom and experimentation is necessary:
How to keep subtracting technology without subtracting the ESSENTIAL technology from our lives.
And who is to decide this? Only you.
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