Humans don't fit into the human-built world
Technology is said to save time, increase productivity and efficiency. To free us to do more meaningful things. Writer Michael Sacasas shows why these assumptions are wrong.
Sometimes you come across a text by someone and it feels like you have been seen. Like something you’ve been struggling with to make sense of all of a sudden appears in words right in front of you, in total clarity. It an be a very positive experience, but it can also make you feel called out. Caught in the act. Some intellectuals, a select few, have this capacity, to make us see things clearly, even when we might not want to.
When I first stumbled acrosswritings on his Substack publication , I felt this way. Like a door opened to a room I did not know existed, or had forgotten about. I think I needed some guidance about how to think about meaning and how to be a human being, especially in this moment where digital technology dominate our lives more and more. For the last couple of years at least, one of those guides for me has been Michael Sacasas, which is why I’m so glad to have him as guest in my podcast.
We talk about digital technology, the ever hungry machine, artificial intelligence, why time-saving technology don’t save our time, the tyranny of tiny tasks, Ivan Illich and the concept of conviviality, the art of Pieter Bruegel the elder, about how to resist and why Michael wrote that the human-built world is not built for humans.
I will post a transcript of the conversation some time in the following days. An excerpt:
But then there was also this expectation that you would be just simply be doing more. One example of this is in this expression, that may be is a little archaic now, but it's “spring cleaning”.
The idea is that you do this large cleaning in the spring. And this comes from a time when that would have been a kind of annual practice that you do kind of a deep cleaning of the home. But now the expectation is that homes should be maintained at that level of cleanliness – all the time, constantly.
So now you've undercut whatever gains you might have achieved by having certain time saving devices, in this particular case. So I think there are ways in which the the promise never quite is fulfilled. And I think most of us would discover this in our own experience, if we ask ourselves: Do we now have an abundance of of free time?
I think most of us feel kind of hurried, always kind of at the at the limits of our capacities, overwhelmed. Or burnt out, which is now an extremely common way of labeling this condition of just being pushed beyond our limits and not having enough time. Time becomes an adversary. We're always trying to to to save it so we're never really inhabiting it.
So I think there are there are many ways in which that idea that – “oh, these tools are going to save time here, there and everywhere” – it just doesn't pan out in our lived experience.
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Inför varje podd…
Inför varje avsnitt av podden diskuterar jag ämnet med er och tar med era frågor till samtalet. Det ni behöver göra för att delta i samtalet är att ladda ned Substackappen och vara med i Rak högers chatt. Många är redan med, men jag hoppas givetvis på fler.
För att gå med i chatten behöver du ladda ner Substackappen, som nu finns tillgänglig för både iOS och Android. Chattar skickas via appen, inte e-post, så slå på push-notiser så att du inte missar konversationen när den händer.
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