The new tools and the big questions

The artist rarely says, “I’d like to do less.” Instead, she wonders how to contribute more, because the very act of creativity is the point of the work.*
(Seth Godin)

Throughout history, skilled labourers have applied sophistication and scepticism to their encounters with new tools and their decisions about whether to adopt them.**
(Cal Newport)

Everything is story.

We can change our stories and our stories can change us:

Reading changed my life. Writing saved it.^

This blogpost is really a story about a consumer and a maker and the part new technology plays.

These are one person trying to make decisions about how to live their life. The big questions of the title are Who am I? and What is my contribution, or work?

In his blog about learning, Seth Godin continues:

It’s way easier to get someone to watch – a YouTube comic, a Netflix show, a movie – than it is to encourage them to do something. But it’s the doing that allows us to become our best selves, and it’s the doing that creates our future.*

There’s a fundamental change we can make to our story when it comes to new technologies which Cal Newport proffers. It is to begin thinking of the these as tools, for that is what they are. When we do this, we’re able to change our position from consuming to making.

Godin points out the pressure of reality we’re facing:

It turns out that learning isn’t in nearly as much demand as it could be. Our culture and our systems don’t push us to learn. They push us to conform and to consume instead.*

When technology controls us, we are de-skilled, but when we see tools instead of technology, we give ourselves opportunities skill ourselves up, to become artists.

Over thirty years ago, Bill Moyers was recording a series of conversations with mythologist Joseph Campbell:

Everything was taken care of because the story was there. Now the old story is not functioning. And we have not yet learned the new.^^

Campbell replies:

The relationship of myths to cosmology and sociology has got to wait for a man to be used to the new world that he is in. The world is different today from what it was fifty years ago.*^

When technology de-skills us, we dull our ability to respond to the two big questions and, so, lose our ability to create, to make, to produce our art.

Our new stories will be critical for how we understand and use the new technologies that are really tools, the difference being whether we serve them or they serve us.^*

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: But what could you learn instead?)
(**From Cal Newport’s Deep Work.)
(^From Judy Blume‘s letter to young readers, in Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being.)
(^^Bill Moyers, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(*^Joseph Campbell, from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^*At this time of Covid-19 lockdown, I believe we’re seeing many of the positive benefits of these tools as they make it possible for us to keep in contact with loved ones, many to continue to do work and for some businesses to keep going.)

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