Early on, I learned this magical set of features where I could take existing material, copy it, and then paste it to whatever degree required.
That doesn’t sound that magical today, especially compared to augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), or self driving cars! However, it’s foundational. Without that simple set of tools (cut, copy, paste), I’m not sure we’d have the modern conveniences or at least not so quickly. Think of how helpful it is to copy a URL, paste in the browser, and go!
But with all these amazing benefits from such a simple tool, we shan’t ignore how it has changed us. It has, without our knowledge, morphed our thinking and behavior. Making it so simple and easy to use has increased our use of the tool and, thus, has changed our behavior.
The proliferation of copy + paste allows the spread of information (or pictures or…) much more rapidly. The switch to digital cameras, when many started a blog, or others tweeted their opinions. We got a flood of Yosemite’s El Capitan photos, long-form opinions the environmental dangers of pollution, and snarky 140 character (now 280 character) societal remarks. These aren’t bad in themselves, but a lower entry barrier means more noise. If copy + paste were compared to television, it may be like cable TV with over 1,000 channels with nothing to watch.
Barriers can be a good thing. A rock barrier protects a lake or ocean bay from rough waters. The emotions with writing a post (this one, as an example) of fearing “that’s stupid!” Or “you missed a comma, dummy” or “how trite” can be a good thing. Writing whatever comes to mind may be your ideal, but isn’t your readers.
In the modern world, it is so easy to send an email, schedule a meeting using Google Calendar, or send a text or Slack message. Lacking intentionality, the quality can be subpar and demand more mental energy or clarification from the recipient. What would it look like if it took me an extra 15 clicks to send an email, or if I had to draft a proposal for a meeting? What if that proposal had to be so clear that I would be proud — rather than terrified — of sharing more broadly for critique? Would I be proud of my work? Or would I find that I’m trying to move too quickly and not only creating an uncreative solution, but I’m also putting the onus and unnecessary extra work on others?
This modern world has necessitated creating strategies for Inbox Zero and we celebrate 5pm because our calendar is finally free to allow “the real work” to begin. Effectively, we create strategies to overcome the efficiencies we created. In our mad desire for even more efficiency, we’ve lost our ultimate desire: effectiveness.
I’m not suggesting good is the enemy of the perfect; however, we need to live responsibly and see the implications of our tools. The goal is the goal, not doing it faster or cheaper — it’s great that I can efficiently order dinner from an app, but the ultimate goal is to nourish my body. The easier something becomes for us, the more we use it, the more it becomes our default, and gradually it changes who we are. There are many implications like this in life. It’s up to us to evaluate our lives, examine our habits, and ask ourselves if we are who we say we are and want to be. When we confuse what we need with how we get there, we will perpetually frustrate our own objectives and apply patches of all sorts without stopping to reevaluate the real problem. As Emperor Augustus desired and ancient Romans said, Festina lente; in English, Make haste, slowly. Sometimes you need to slow down to go faster. The quickness of copy + paste isn’t always that quick.