Modern tools are overrated

{Bump} Take an inventory of your modern tools

Wanted to bump this up in case you missed it. An editorial about modern times and the “tools” we use. Some people are very quick to come to the defense of these “modern miracles,” yet not enough people take a step back and wonder if they just dumb down the population. A nation of whining brats.

Ask yourself a true question. Are the modern conveniences GOOD or QUESTIONABLE on a longer timeline?

(Most) Modern Tools are overrated {vastly}


In an editorial about Bike Sharing last week, a Hoboken411 reader made the claim that modern tools (like apps, on-demand services, and other things) are a necessary part of human progress (To paraphrase…)

And this got me thinking about what human “progress” is exactly. And it requires a person to look back in history to see where we came from in order to compare achievements of the past with those of today.

Tools were invented out of necessity.

axe hand toolLet’s talk about a few of the very basic set of tools than mankind invented over time.

These are tools that helped them perform a task they might have been unable to do without them. Period.

Think axes (chop trees, defense) or hammers & nails (to bond objects, build structures).

Sure, instead of hammers someone could have used string or bamboo reeds to build a hut.

But the basic hand tools did not take away the effort one had to make, nor did they perform the task for you. It was merely a newly discovered efficiency that did not come with a pricetag on your brain.

It was also purely individual (until tool companies were born).

Industrial tools – pros and cons

agricultural toolNext came what I’ll call “industrial tools.”

These were tools that allowed you to mass-create something. Like an assembly line, large farming equipment, etc.

The good part is, that those industrial tools scaled well – which allowed for keeping up with ever-increasing demand (as the population was growing rapidly)

At the same time, they also eliminated jobs, and created monopolies – as larger equipment was not cheap, and only a select few could pull it off.

The early adopters got rich. Which is true for most businesses that succeed first.

And don’t get me started with how bad “food” has become on this planet!

But what we’ve mentioned so far fits the basic premise of finding a solution to a true need. (Need being the operative word).

Today’s modern tools not only don’t fill a need – they create useless people

what good do these modern tools doMy whole point about the flurry of “apps” and other “sharing” models is that they’re not really tools that fill a genuine need for ANYONE!

Sure, one can argue that they might make your life a little “easier.” But what is gained?

For starters – the average person watches five hours of TV a day. So making your life easier lets you sit in the sofa for one extra show a day?

And as many apps or products do as they make your life easier – they also cause your brain to atrophy. By leaving the “hard work” of thinking up to a robot application or some kind of external service you are no longer exercising the brain – not to mention probably paying a nominal fee for it as well!

How is sharing a bike (which will end up costing you more) better than owning your own?

Was browsing Amazon Launchpad the other day. They now help “startups” sell their products online. A few of them stood out to me quite glaringly.

Hiku The Shopping Button

Hiku shopping buttonOne was the Hiku The Shopping Button. It’s a wifi connected “button” that has a barcode reader in it. It also has voice-recognition. The basic premise is that it helps you create your shopping list.

Run out of milk? Scan the barcode and it gets added to your list. Just bring your smartphone to the store – and you can summon your list. The list also is automatically grouped by product type.

A lot of people love it. (Those people also embraced the “IOT” (Internet of Things – connected home, thermostats, lamps, etc.))

So for $60 bucks you have another device that needs to be managed, charged, and so on. You now also have to schlep your phone with you (monthly costs, constant upgrades), and fiddle with that app. People with families thought it was handy as everyone can add to the list.

What ever happened to just keeping a paper list? Why allow the robot to do the thinking, organizing and remembering for you?

And at what expense? So your shopping habit data can be sold and marketed to some other company? Does it really save you that much time and energy? Will it kill you to forget the milk? It certainly won’t help you to remember to add it to the list!

Mark One Pryme Vessel

mark one pryme vesselHoly crap this is up there. The Mark One Pryme Vessel.

What is it? It’s a 12 ounce “connected” jug you drink water out of.

For $100 it tracks your water consumption.

If you remember to drink SOLELY out of that.

And then the “app” NAGS you if you haven’t imbibed enough water for the day.

It also nags you if you drank too much.

Then it creates reports about your water drinking tendencies.

While I agree that water consumption is a crucial part of human health, I truly do not understand whatsoever WHY anyone would spend the money to micro-manage personal hydration (on top of the plethora of other things your “external brain” tracks.)

Are people so stupid they cannot remember to “drink your water” without a gadget telling you to do it?

What happens if the gadget breaks, do you die of thirst?

General modern tool “categories” we shy away from

There are tons of new gadgets, apps, and other “modern tools” coming out each day. But we have some general categories we just stay away from in 2016:

“Wearables”Smart watches and any fitness or activity tracker is off our list. We tried that stupid “FitBit” a few years ago. Was more of a mental nuisance than a true motivator.

“Virtual Reality” – Those goggles dopes are wearing are an embarrassment to mankind. Even if porn will be the number one use.

Smart Phones. (And tablets) In particular, for children. I know it’s hard to withhold them especially today – but starting porous minds off so young with technology is not a good idea.

Almost all social networking. Being connected to 50 social mediums cannot be sustainable long term. Conversations have become almost non-existent. Everything shrunken down to bite-sized nuggets and at a break-neck pace! Have you seen teen kids in the supermarket with mom? Heads down non-stop! How is that helping move society forward?

There are some modern tools that are okay (for now)

Not every new modern tool is bad per se. We obviously haven’t filled all the gaps or perfected our lives.

Power tools. Yes, it might be hypocritical to be a proponent of battery powered hand tools when we could always do it manually like they did a few decades ago – but they’re still hand tools. And require the human mind to operate.

Drones. While I have mixed feelings about drones becoming easily accessible by all the idiots out there (perversion, invasion of privacy), I still think the “magic” of flight is important. Until we have personal flying jet packs – the need for the perspective that flight gives humans will remain important. Drones like the DJI Phantom 4 give amateur filmmakers the ability to create cinematic scenes previously unavailable to the “general public.” Plus it’s good for understanding your surroundings and other things. Until of course, some dope flies it into a jetliner engine…

Internet Maps. While we rarely if ever resort to in-car GPS, digital online maps still have huge benefits. They’re a convenient way to survey areas you’ve never been to, and even getting a quick snapshot of the traffic situation before you embark can be of some help. I’ve used them quite a bit in the past to go “exploring.” Even though I still like discovering new things entirely by accident – you can find some neat places to visit by zooming in and out of new places. Studying maps in general and strengthening your “in-brain navigation” is a good idea.

Personal transportation. Individually owned bikes, cars, skateboards, whatever. They’re yours and no one can decide to take them away from you. Socialized transport like trains, bike sharing and others – can be terminated just because someone else thinks they should. Do you want to relinquish that control?

There are many other “advancements” out there that we embrace. LED lights, magnifying glasses and cameras. Heck we even have some “precision instruments” like microwave and radiation detectors.

It’s not black and white, and doesn’t mean we need to head back to the stone ages without electricity. But…

There is a limit to true progress

Yes, one can argue that even the most mundane modern tool, app or gadget out there is a net positive if it “improves” your life in some way, shape or form. Like they say, “individual results may vary.” Sure.

And I might even agree with that sentiment – if it didn’t come with a real obvious downside.

Yeah, you can say that the power screwdriver is great – “but you’re not strengthening your arm muscles!” Fair point, that is indeed a drawback of automation. No doubt.

But arms are one thing, but the human mind is 1000x more important to preserve.

I think as these powerful computers crossed a certain “line in the sand,” that it became a valid reason to “take a pause” (sort of like out of control immigration).

Once these tools crossed that line into privacy, centralized data collection, lack of any effort and almost total automation – is why we took a step back.

Whether it’s learning things by experience instead of Googling, or patience and contemplation instead of “instant answers,” word of mouth (or experimentation) instead of online reviews – there is something profoundly and deeply satisfying doing things the hard way on purpose.

Your brain will thank you at some point in the future.

modern tools and technology

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Sunday, April 24, 2016 11:43 pm

I tend to agree, to a point. Social networking is absurd, VR is creepy – though I can see it as an interesting way to teach topics or use in medicine, but other than that, Matrix watch out here we come.

The one that upset me the most is self driving or autonomous cars. I love driving, I love how scary it can be, I love seeing how my new Pirellis are hanging in there on a tight corner, I love seeing here the redline auto-shift happens all with the sun out and music playing. If you don’t want to drive, lobby for more trains. Leave the rest of us alone!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 11:20 pm

Wow. You really are a cranky curmudgeon when it comes to change! Everything that’s different is bad and no matter how it benefits people, you complain about it – even if you directly benefit from it! I agree that tools are built out of necessity but what it appears you fail to realize is that the “tools” you deride solve real market problems and solve needs that people have. Yet, you dismiss them because they’re the newest tool to come about. Fair warning… this is going to be long: Let’s first talk about the industrial tools you complain about. The tools initially increased output so much that a few things happened: 1. Farmers could produce more. More output = more money. Only those that didn’t change were left behind… you know, the curmudgeons. But, 2, increased output lowered the cost of food for the people. This addressed some starvation issues but it also freed up income to spend on other things like clothing, more tools, education, better varieties of food, and eventually leisure activities. The industrial tools also lowered the cost of producing other goods and services. Clothing and, eventually, the car all benefited from increased output and lowered costs that industrial tools provided. But beyond output/cost changes, industrial tools also reduced death, disease, and fatigue. Canning, freezing, and vacuum sealed jars prevent spoilage and bacterial growth. Machines do the work that people could die performing. That’s not possible without industrial tools. So what if a few “monopolies” came up… Read more »

Reply to  Hobbes
Thursday, April 14, 2016 1:09 pm

one sided. Marketers rely on this type of thinking.

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