“Wealth is now defined, at least in part, by the ability to be offline whenever you want” Fernando Gros.
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Blog // Thoughts
December 9, 2019

Smart Living And Digital Minimalism

Does digital minimalism mean we have to forgo all the benefits of new technology? Maybe there’s a way to have both.

I have a conundrum. One the one hand, I’m a digital minimalist. I feel like my health depends on limiting the time spent looking at screens. The online distractions. The random morsels of information. The out-of-context, low-quality commentary on the day’s events. And the flatness it brings to our experience of the world.

But.

I’m giddy with excitement about this moment in tech. It feels like the internet of things is finally getting useful. And personal automation – our ability to create algorithms to manage everything from the way our homes are lit and heated through to how we track our work and health – is starting to deliver on its promise.

And there’s more.

For the past 20 years, every home I’ve lived in, across five countries, has been rented. No more. I own this place I’m living in right now. If I want to hang art on the walls, I don’t need a landlord’s permission. Same if I want to tear out the lighting and replace it with smart LEDs. Or rewire the heating so I can control it from my smartphone – or even a smart watch! Oh, the possibilities.

The house has a small garden. Most of it is taken up by a shed which the previous owners used as an architecture studio. The outside is nice, with big, folding glass doors that let in lots of light. But the inside is rough and not my style. Chipboard, white walls, track lighting from IKEA.

So I’m going to renovate it. Fill the walls with bookcases. Add some comfy chairs. And a big desk. To write at. To do calligraphy at. To think at.

While there will be space for a computer and screen, along with screen-based activities like editing words and photos, it will also be a very analogue space.

But I’m feeling the urge to make it smart as well. Partly, it’s the mad scientist in me, wanting to play with new toys. But also it’s a reaction against my environment and the way so much of London feels old and trapped in the past.

So, if I have to install new lights, why not make them smart lights that can change from cool to warm light as the day passes, automated to match the changing time of sunset through the year? Or perhaps flood the room with light on cloudy days to seamlessly ward off seasonal affective disorder. Maybe they can use nearby field sensors to detect my presence, turning themselves on automatically. It might even be possible to get the lights to sense when I’m using Lightroom, or Photoshop, and adjust to the same brightness and light colour every time those apps are open.

Oh my. I’m almost as excited about that as the prospect of lovely new wooden shelves for all my old books!

When I signed onto the digital minimalism movement, it wasn’t because I hated new technology or wanted to reject the digital world. It was because online life was taking up too much time, and there were too many commitments to digital platforms, services and channels that weren’t making my life any better.

The way to navigate the problem isn’t to be anti-technology but rather to be pro-living well.

Responses
Mark Beech 4 months ago

I really enjoyed reading this article. I love technology and for a long while, loved having lots of buttons to press and flashing lights. As I have grown older my love for technology hasn’t changed, but I love everything to be so much more discrete and simple. I don’t want lots of remotes. I do want my lights slowly to come on at sunset without me doing anything. My digital minimalism is to have fewer, but better technology, that is hidden away. (Apart from my lovely Hi-Fi speakers!)

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