A few nights ago, I had a great conversation while catching up with an old friend. We started out talking about normal things like how our kids were doing and how things were going at our respective jobs but eventually turned to deeper things. Something I shared was how I was starting a new hobby of woodworking, thanks to the help of another friend.

I have a limited amount of experience on my own but grew up helping my Grandfather with various projects in his workshop, so in part, I am doing this in order to reestablish that connection I had with him and to my childhood. But the main reason I want to learn how to make things is that working in the technology field has left me feeling like I’ve lost a connection to the “real world” in a sense.

My friend recommended a book he has read called, “The Glass Cage” by Nicholas Carr.

In The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us, his widely praised follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-nominated The Shallows, bestselling author Nicholas Carr explores how our ever growing dependency on computers, apps, and robotics is reshaping our jobs, talents, and lives.

 

Digging behind the headlines about artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, digitized medicine and workplace robots, Carr explores the hidden costs of granting software dominion over our work and our leisure. Drawing on studies that underscore how tightly our sense of happiness and personal fulfillment is tied to performing skilled work in the real world, he reveals something we already suspect: shifting our attention to computer screens can leave us disengaged and discontented. Our lives may be easier inside the glass cage, but something essential is missing.

 

From doctors’ offices to the cockpits of passenger jets, from the frozen hunting grounds of Inuit tribes to the sterile landscapes of GPS maps, The Glass Cage explores the impact of automation from a deeply human perspective. Mixing history and philosophy, poetry and science, the book culminates in a moving meditation on how we can use technology to expand the human experience rather than narrow it.

I think I found my next book!

Anyway, I’ll save more of my thoughts until I start reading the book, but I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with technology itself. On the one hand, I make my living because of it, and generally speaking I do enjoy working with it on a regular basis. But at the same time, I don’t like how much and how often it seems to invade my personal life and our lives in general. I see it as a tool that can be used for productivity, but not something that we should be constantly connected to or rely upon like one of our own limbs.

And yet, many people, myself included at times, act in a way that would make the separation from our phone similar to how it would feel to lose an arm or a leg. In times like these, I’m often reminded of a lyric from one of my favorite bands, Switchfoot: “I want more than this world has to offer.”

As great and useful as certain technology can be, it should always be a means to an end and not the end itself. How that may look in the practical sense will be up to us as individuals, but our collective decisions will have a great impact on our and future societies.

What I’m Building Now

For my first project, I bit off quite a bit more than I should have. I’m building an enormous dollhouse for my daughters and their American Girl Dolls. I will publish a post with what I learned and photos of my progress and the completed project once it’s finished, whenever that happens. It’s taking a lot longer than I had originally hoped, but I’m also learning a ton in the process.

More importantly, I’m reconnecting with the physical world, my past, and my future. It’s been fun involving my kids and passing along some of the skills as I learn them.