Organic Technology

27 Dec 2022

All of my experiences over the past few days have been centered around creating a separation and balance of technology in my world. Where is the right balance for me? Realistically, it is somewhere between throwing away my phone and living in the woods and never removing a VR headset.

While at my Getaway, I read through the founders’ book “How to Get Away”, and it described how to balance technology: create no phone zones, no phones at dinner, pare down tech until it is what you need. I’ve implemented a few of these techniques and already they have been helpful - I’ve noticed a marked difference in how I view myself in the mirror, in how I walk, and my awareness of my surroundings in the city and how intrusive the constant sirens, honks, talking, and footsteps really can be.

On my walk today, though, I had a thought: is there a way to bridge the gap between life and technology? Can technology feel a little more organic?

By organic, I mean can we develop technology into a means that augments the natural world and how we interact with it? For instance, it is well-known that the blue light emitted from screens changes how we sleep, and so blue-light filters were created. This is a simple example, but one that starts to open the door towards what organic technology could look like.

We have these devices on us at all times, basically tethering us to a whole host of distractions: emails, slack, YouTube, Googling random thoughts, TikTok - attention, attention, attention. Engagement, engagement, engagement. Share, share, share. Grow, grow, grow.

What would these devices and services look like if the first thought was: “how can we make this experience augment their current life rather than consume it?” Ads monetization would most likely be out of the question. They profit off eyeballs on the screen, on user interaction metrics, on optimizing the ever-loving-fuck out of knowing where your mouse is at all times and making sure that there is something under it that keeps you there.

It would most likely go to a subscription model for everything. Rare are one-off technology purchases now, and for good reason. Ongoing payment is security for the developer and a sort of contract that there can be ongoing support for the software for the user. The incentive structure for the company is also in line with the user. As its sole revenue stream, the company must continue to develop software that fills the need of the user.

So, bringing it back to organic technology, these “if it’s free, you’re the product” companies, if converted into monthly subscriptions, would allow some to feel as though they are paying for something that adds value to their lives, rather than having just the knowledge that everything they do is being tracked, optimized, and churned for profit on the back side.

But broader than that, these technologies should be something that broadens the human experience and fits into the nature we have developed over thousands of years - not something that targets our most vulnerable tendencies.