My prediction is things like digital minimalism are going to become much more popular. When I say “things like digital minimalism,” I mean named philosophies of technology use. I think the right analogy is food and fitness. If you look at the 20th century, we had this influx of highly processed food and fast food, and, as a result, we had a large increase in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome. At first, the way we tried to deal with these was with tips and good intentions: "Try to eat better, try to move more. Here's a food pyramid, look at this. This will tell you what to do." But it was really ineffective. As people got more and more fed up with being less healthy, now we're starting to see changes. But if you ask yourself who's the healthiest person you know, almost certainly they subscribe to some sort of named philosophy that helps them make consistent and value-driven decisions about what they eat and how they move. Maybe they're vegan or paleo. These named philosophies emerged as a response to, "There's a real health issue, and the forces behind it are too strong for just good intentions and advice to solve it."

    How would you define techno-maximalism?

    Cal Newport: It arose in the 1990s. The basic idea is that technological innovations can bring value and convenience into your life. So, you assess new technological tools with respect to what value or convenience it can bring into your life. And if you can find one, then the conclusion is, "If I can afford it, I should probably have this." It just looks at the positives. And it's view is "more is better than less," because more things that bring you benefits means more total benefits. This is what maximalism is: "If there's something that brings value, you should get it."


    [Maximalism] ignores the opportunity cost. And as Thoreau pointed out hundreds of years ago, it's actually in the opportunity cost that all the interesting math happens.

The article is a bit run-of-the-mill "I have a book to sell"-piece, but I've been thinking a lot about this topic and whatever neo-Luddism means lately. More and more I shun any tech that tries to influence me, and my life is much more...zen? because of it.


    More and more I shun any tech that tries to influence me, and my life is much more...zen? because of it.

I'm just curious as to your perception. Do you see yourself as shunning tech or learning to do without? It seems like there's a real distinction between the two, the former being fear driven and the latter being healthy lifestyle driven. I think like this article is talking about, more and more people are deciding what technology to allow in their lives being motivated by health, but their behavior is painted by others as fearful shunning.

posted 518 days ago