We choose the harder path

It seems counter-intuitive, but as human beings we are hard-wired to reject the easy path. There’s a class of things we value that are easy: comfy chairs, take-away food, spas. And there’s a class that is hard: having children, climbing mountains, learning the trombone. It’s possible to value both, but those things that are hard tend to rise to the top of the list. 

Modern technological society is ordered around the competitive drive to offer ever more convenience, but technology is not inherently about the easy path. And we might form a value system of technologies that do the opposite. Tim Wu, writing in the New Yorker

The project of self-evolution demands an understanding of humanity’s relationship with tools, which is mysterious and defining. Some scientists, like the archaeologist Timothy Taylor, believe that our biological evolution was shaped by the tools our ancestors chose eons ago. Anecdotally, when people describe what matters to them, second only to human relationships is usually the mastery of some demanding tool. Playing the guitar, fishing, golfing, rock-climbing, sculpting, and painting all demand mastery of stubborn tools that often fail to do what we want. Perhaps the key to these and other demanding technologies is that they constantly require new learning. The brain is stimulated and forced to change. Conversely, when things are too easy, as a species we may become like unchallenged schoolchildren, sullen and perpetually dissatisfied.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with WordPress.com.