Shiny, unhappy people

I shamelessly stole this title from an illuminating article in New Scientist (2739/40/41) in which the author talks about the risk of modern man being enslaved by gadgets, technology and (demanding) services. I am old enough (44) to remember a time before mobile phones, email, Facebook and Gowalla – it now seems odd if I leave the house without my iPhone loaded with access to email, Google maps, Gowalla or Twitter. I feel naked.It certainly does seem that we are being drawn more and more into a world of slavery as our gadgets take over and sometimes demand more of us than we want. The tables, it seems, have turned from our technology being there to serve use.

A great deal of technology undoubtedly still helps us and provides extremely valuable support in carrying out our day to day functions, but I strongly feel that in many cases this is overkill and can actually weigh us down. Technology should be able to set us free and complement our work and play time, making us more productive and happier.

This dependency on real-time technology has been bothering me for quite some time and as a result I’ve made a conscious attempt to change my lifestyle and, more importantly, my work style to better deal with these (perceived) pressures. It’s quite simple to create a better, more relaxed framework when dealing with all this modern technology.

(Not so) famously Baz Luhrmann released a song in 1999 called “Sunscreen” where he dished out useful life advice to the young including the need to “wear sunscreen”.

In honour of Baz, I intend to dispense my advice forthwith (sic).

1. Simplify all the technologies you use, right down to the basics. You don’t need most of the very latest gubbins that manufacturers throw at you so don’t use it unless it gives you a distinct and large benefit.

Simple computing is better, simple email is better.

If you can’t use the product or the application without resorting to a manual then it’s probably too complicated.

2. Create a location-free information environment. Not 99%. Ensure everything you need to do for work or play can be done anywhere. This will free your location and your time as you can choose to do work or play or family anywhere. You will note the use of the word CHOOSE.

3. Don’t chase the latest gizmo unless the latest gizmo is MUCH better than the gizmo you have now. If you use an iPhone 3Gs now then you’ll really struggle to find a reason to upgrade to an iPhone 4.

4. Value your learning time. Don’t waste it upgrading applications to add crap features you don’t need, don’t waste it playing Farmville or reading Stephen Fry’s twittering.

5. Read. Books, magazines, blogs, news. Use technology (Diigo, Reddit, Evernote etc) to queue up interesting things to learn and research about; and then make sure you go back and look at them.

6. Social interactions need to be with people. Virtual can work but come at a price not understood yet. Get out, meet people. Go to the pub.

7. Work when you want to. If you don’t feel like working then you’ll produce crap. If you don’t feel like working very much then change your job, or career, or lifestyle.

8. Don’t forget your family. They’ll give you the greatest support and the best inspiration for anything you do in life and you’ll do the same for them – if you find the time.

9. Everything changes and life is not fair. Get used to it. The phrase “move on” means the same as “adapt”. Learn to adapt and make change your weapon, not your enemy.

10. Most advice is bad, including this, but a lot can be learned from watching other people and picking out the bits you like and that fit you. The internet is a great place to watch people.

So there it is, 10 key pointers to a simpler, happier life. I’m probably wrong but I’m certainly correct in saying you’ll need to do something to liberate yourself from gadget slavery. Happy revolution.