I was having a conversation last week with a few friends at a party.
You know how arguments get more and more abstract the more booze gets ingested? Well this debate was about whether technology improves the lives of human beings or not. Someone eventually brought up World War II (killing the conversation and proving Godwin’s Law once more) but before that, we had a pretty good thing going on.
The focus of my argument was that more information is always better than less, and that more practical information (how to plug a leak/fix a car) is always better than more the abstract kind. My logic was, what good is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to someone who can’t find their next meal? They need to learn how to fish, instead.
I’m on a quest to learn to cook right now (generously helped along by Jamie Oliver) and I have to say, it’s one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. It’s amazing when you learn how to do things yourself– it instills in you this sense of confidence that was previously absent, makes your more independent and capable, which carries forth into other aspects of your life.
I think both you and I are mostly at a self-actualization stage– that’s what I talk about on a daily basis and what interests me. But I think people on the web might forget sometimes that the stuff that’s the most fulfilling can be on the physical side as well as the mental. I know I do.
But this aspect of self-reliance isn’t only present with the physical. If you know how to code HTML, for example, it makes you much more capable on the web than you currently are. You don’t need to be a master, just to know the basics, but it does wonders for the social circles you can travel through as well as the ability to make things happen by yourself instead of being dependent on others.
Every time you ask someone else for something, you foster your own sense of incompetence and feed your own ignorance. It’s likely that you feel very competent in some places but not in others– and rounding it out with new skills will really help you with a sense of who you are, too.
All of this is enabled in such an amazing way by the web. Your access to skill sets beyond those of your own and your friends is unparalleled in all of history, allowing you to become freer than you ever needed to before– and the same with all people, everywhere.
Edit: Here’s a great quote from Maslow I just found:
“If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I must warn you that you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your lives.”