Books: Better Off

A couple of quotes from the book “Better Off: Flipping The Switch On Technology” that I thought were important enough to note here:

… tricks like these remove much of the onus from manual labor and add to the sense of physical effort a much finer satisfaction: the magisterial feeling that comes with wielding means precisely fitted to ends. Here, perhaps, is the first of all lessions in the use of power, whether technological or physiological: trimming back the means until only the essential remain; weeding out obstructions, man-made or not, to our goals.

(page 27)

Modern technology, I suspect, far from being neutral in its effects, has more than one purpose or built-in tendency: besides reducing the need for physical effort (a kind of material surrender), it helps us avoid the need for cooperation or social flexibility (a kind of social or metaphysical surrender). All too readily it countermands the uncertainty that goes with Gelassenheit. Cars, telephones, message machines, caller ID, and e-mail grant us unprecendented powers to associate with whom we want, when we want, to the degree we want, under the terms we want, finessing and filtering out those we don’t want — and thin out the possibilities of social growth accordingly.

(page 80)

… in true leisure there is mastery. If the enemy of self-direction was passion and impulse, its ally was quiet repose, mindfulness, perceptivity. Yet the act of reflection transcended the rational; it followed a course that could not be entirely foreseen, yielding conclusions that could not be reached if too deliberately pursued.

(page 133)

For those who would outstep and outsmart machines, a broad suggestion: remember the principle of minimation. Technology undoubtedly has, and will always have, some role in making life easier or better, so one shouldn’t exclude it. But the role is supplemental. Technology serves us, not we technology. The principle of minimation can be roughly stated thus: other things equal, it is better to find a non-technological solution than a technological one, or failing that, a less technological solution than a more technological one.

(page 229)

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