Animal you

If you have a dog beside you as you read this, bend down, look into her eyes, and stroke her. Via the hypothalamus inside your body, oxytocin will get to work, and dopamine – organic chemicals implicated in animal bonding – and, before you know it, you’ll be feeling good, even in the dark times of a pandemic. And, as it happens, so will your dog, who will experience a similar physical response to the bond between you both.

This is from The joy of being animal by Melanie Challenger, a great essay on acknowledging our identity as both a mind and a body.

Nowadays, I find it’s easier to see examples of us serving technology, than of technology serving us.

Your phone thinks you should install new apps. Your social network thinks you should follow these new people. Your bank “optimizes” your “client experience” by offering you new services based on what it records of your spending and saving. Gas stations have been tripping over themselves in their hurry to install screens at the pump, so you can be served video ads while you’re stuck in place filling up. Spotify loves Joe Rogan and won’t consider the notion that I might not.

Hi, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

None of this is to improve someone’s life. Individually, they all rank from a minor annoyance to an offensive idea. Together, they make a big tapestry – they’re the everyday, routine pressure of technology used to turn people into optimized consumers.

I like Frank Chimero’s term for how this unravels in digital products: App Sprawl. As a popular utility matures, the pressure for it to grow into something more follows. Unless they’re confident in their values, and content with the fulfilling the actual purpose of said utility, the parent company ends up restless. Eventually, people who show up for a tool’s expected purpose (which they value!) are now faced with a labyrinthine offering of many things they shouldn’t even have to think about.

It’s why I prefer focused tools and services, that do one thing or manage one problem very well, and don’t bother with anything else. Like their physical counterparts, these are things that you pull out when they become useful, and and put back in place once you’re done. It’s technology as a way to amplify capacities, and free up time.

It’s much better to end up with more me time, more outdoor time, more friends time, more dog-petting time. It’s good to use technology that thinks the same.

See you soon!

❤ Loved lately

I’ve been using Michael Villar’s Timer application for a few years now (it’s for MacOS). It’s a good example of the point I’m trying to make in here. It’s useful, then it’s out of the way. As it happens, the app also free and open-source.

Why Russans do not smile, by Natalija Tancjura. A short and insightful explanation of the cultural role of a smile in Russian vs North-American culture.

Oh! And here’s a long-form article about the legal hell that is right-to-repair currently, but from the lens of McDonalds’ constantly broken ice cream machines, and a company trying to address this.