I live in the Bay Area, California, U. S. of A. It is likely one of the most self-involved technology cultures in the world. That’s part of why I moved across the country — to get my feet soaked in this culture. A lot of people around here think that apps will save the world, doing everything from our laundry to setting colored ambient lights in our apartments to delivering pre-selected groceries specific to a single meal.
I personally don’t think technology will save us from this mess we’re in. I think the solution lies in people being able to self-organize at a global scale, making collective decisions, distributing resources to the right spots, and being able to respond quickly and skillfully to situations that arise. But that’s another blog post 🙂
To that end, technology should support us, and when it doesn’t, we should leave it behind. This reminds me of a quote that’s attributed to the Buddha:
My teaching is not a philosophy. It is the result of direct experience.
My teaching is a means of practice, not something to hold onto or worship.
My teaching is like a raft used to cross the river.
Only a fool would carry the raft around after he had already reached the other shore of liberation.
This sums up what I’ve heard called appropriate technology. Here’s another definition from the University of Colorado:
Appropriate technology is small-scale technology. It is simple enough that people can manage it directly and on a local level. Appropriate technology makes use of skills and technology that are available in a local community to supply basic human needs, such as gas and electricity, water, food, and waste disposal.
Here are some of my evolving thoughts on how, when, and why to use technology mindfully:
- With an awareness that the tool needs to be supported by habit shifts, culture within an organization/network/group, and buy-in to make it successful in the long term
- Ideally, in alignment with a vision. Open-source software that doesn’t sell our data is great, and there’s also a lot of super useful platforms that aren’t that. (Google, Facebook, etc.)
- With attention to power dynamics that affect access, use, and integration of technology. Often called the digital divide, it’s the reflection of power imbalances within society that manifest as inequitable access to technologies, different abilities, and, finally, differences in people being able to use technologies toward an end goal. Any demographic factor in society upon which oppression hinges (ahem, all of them) can affect people in this way.
- [Future additions will be made]