Being ‘Mindful’ with Technology

on May 21, 2010

A central theme of this blog is on using technology mindfully. But what does it mean to be mindful? is there a concrete process to this? In fact, there is: it’s the scientific process – the act of questioning things, in this case: technology. We should ask the following questions with any new technology, be it a gadget, a piece of software, or a technique.

What do we gain from using this technology?
Is it something that makes getting things done easier? Does it bring enjoyment? Is it a precursor to something bigger and better? We should be careful not to dismiss technology simply because it seems useless or trivial. Or, if anything, does it serve as a mental training exercise to a new way to think? Most of the time, technology does bring advancement, but this isn’t always the case.

What are the potential pitfalls of using this technology?
Does it make things more complicated? Does it damage social relationships? Can it be dangerous? Does it just push evolutionary buttons. Is it used to mislead? Is it expensive? It’s often difficult to see problems right off the bat. And sometimes even “obvious” problems are of little significance.

Do we, as a society, come off better off as a whole?
Who benefits from using the technology? Who has something to lose? Who’s pushing forward the technology? Who’s trying to dismiss it? We can discern much about the consequences by noting whose interests are at stake.

Still, things aren’t always black and white. A technology might bring great efficiency in some applications but cause problems in other situations, as noted in the case of processing food or with mobile phones. So it’s especially important that we continue to apply the scientific process, as technology emerges and as we use it. A last point is to never accept new things blindly.