#35: Stay plugged in

1-2-3 Tech Miscellany

Hi, I’m Scott Bryan and you’ve (most likely) signed up for 1-2-3 Tech Miscellany, a weekly newsletter about ethics in tech.

Each week, I’ll introduce you to 1 ethical dilemma, 2 good news stories and 3 random quotes, photos or other oddities.

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Reading time: 3-4 minutes

Part 1 - Ethical Dilemma

Anyone mind if I smash my phone and go live in the woods?

The video above depicts a shirtless boy of nine. He's wielding a machete and hacking wildly at undergrowth twice his height.

The boy is my nephew. He’s helping my brother clear land on his farm, high in the Pyrenees, Northern Spain.

You see, my brother’s a bit mad! He eschews the use of modern machinery and technology.

He likes it that way.

A few years ago, he escaped the rat race. Today he’s happy and productive.

And it got me thinking.

For all my blathering on about how the screen tech industry is trying to hack our attention and addict us to their products (which they are), and for all of societies ills, be they technology-related or otherwise, would I ever actually smash my smartphone and go live in the woods?

Simple answer. No, I wouldn’t — even it seems to be becoming a “thing”.

We’re In This Together

We're all part of what Venkatesh Rao calls a "global social computer in the cloud.” And since this digital community's not going anywhere anytime soon, trying to remove yourself permanently from it seems wrong. It’s not only self-isolating, it’s abdicating responsibility — responsibility to the rest of humanity to help fix said “computer’s” many bugs.

If we want to tackle the world’s problems, we must be part of it.

Sure, managing the stress and anxiety that comes with 21st century living is tough. Yes, you can choose to be a Level 9 hyper-enlightened monk living on a rock, able to vanquish bad thoughts on a whim. Meanwhile, here on planet earth, the rest of us are still doomscrolling.

As far as I’m concerned, it should be all hands on deck. And that means plugging in.

Is There Anybody Out There?

If you have a keyboard, you have the chance to speak to people. When the stars align, it could be a million. When they don’t, the only one listening is your doting Mammy.

Either way, there are always people to engage with.

Seth Godin says, “If you can change culture, then you can change everything.” The point is, we’re responsible for our culture and have the ability to do something about it.

What’s missing though, is the ability to navigate the cesspit. We can’t seem to avoid it.

But we shouldn’t necessarily avoid it. We should try to understand it — know how to slide up and down the information spectrum, from the high quality stuff all the way down to Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.

We must learn to manage our attention so we are able to “meditate on the angriest, most toxic twitter stream, consume the bile, and turn it into nectar.” That way, when we emerge from the quagmire, we’ve some actionable insight, ready to be applied, to positive effect, in the big bad world.

A Balancing Act

Ultimately, it’s about balance. But how we do find that balance? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out.

Is it through education, regulation or personal responsibility?

It’s all of the above I guess.

In the meantime, do whatever it takes to bring your best self " to the global social computer in the cloud.”

By all means go on a six-week silent retreat. Or choose to live in the woods for a while. Heck, even smash your phone if you feel like it. 

I know I've poured coffee into my keyboard out of frustration. But my coffee's always weak, you must be strong.

So, when you’re done resetting, be sure to plug yourself back in.

You’re needed in here.

Thanks to Joseph Well’s and his A shower for the mind anecdote for triggering the idea for this post.

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Part 2 - Good News Stories

Climate Strike Software

Our planet is facing a climate emergency, yet oil production is at an all-time high

To accelerate fossil fuel extraction, Big Oil are increasingly using open-source technologies.

Climate Strike Software aims to disrupt this fact, by creating a licence that allows open-source developers to prohibit such companies from using their code. And while the project is still in its infancy, it’s an inspiring example of technology being used to, potentially, make a significant impact in orienting companies toward a more sustainable path.

Read more on Github

No ordinary food delivery app

Goodr helps prevent billions of dollars of food being wasted in the US each year.

Restaurants (only in the US so far), sign up with the app to have their excess food collected and donated to local non-profits and homeless shelters.

Besides the obvious benefits of feeding the needy and reducing food waste, there’s bonus points:

  1. Greenhouse emission from landfill are reduced

  2. Restaurants can improve their bottom line through charitable tax donations

Read more on goodr.co

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Part 3 - Quotes, Tweets And Other Oddities

“The return of print is in line with all the other movements towards offline activities — things like vinyl records, Moleskins, expensive pens, et cetera. Anything that gets you away from the screen has gone up in value.” - Craig Mod

  1. Utilitarianism explained (kind of):


Thanks so much for your time and interest in my writing.

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Have a great week.

Scott