Dan Benjamin on computers as tools


Another theme of mine of late, most recently discussed on my own show, is navigating that fine line between work and hobbies, when they so often intersect. Dan had this great thought on Back to Work #433:

Dan: We don’t really think of computers as tools, or where as friend of the show Horace Deidu says, that “we’ve hired to do a job”. If you had a nice set of tools—a hammer, some wrenches, stuff like that—you wouldn’t go out to the toolbox and look at them, and say “give me something!”, you’d say “I need to go build something”. You’d grab the tool you need, you’d use it, and you’d put it away when you’re done, hopefully. That’s not how we think of computers, even though most of us are developers, designers, writers.

Merlin: Even if it’s a socket wrench, you’re not gonna spend ten hours just turning it because you have one.

Dan: Right! But how much time most of us spend in front of our computers, not doing work, not using them as tools, but simply saying: give me something fun to think about, or read or do.

And then he drops this:

It’s very hard to define that line between working at the computer, and I’m browsing or diverting to refresh my mind. We’re locked in.

The irony isn’t lost on me that I spent part of my lunch transcribing this quote on my work computer.

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