Tools

When I look at my old photos I find that the digital camera completely changed how I work. If you are an amateur photographer you’ll find this familiar. In the days of film, you took few shots, since each was relatively expensive, and you had to change rolls every 36th shot. Digital cameras changed things quickly. I see that within months I’d started to take photos of things I wouldn’t have thought of as photo-worthy before, and in less than a year I’d begun taking multiple shots of the same thing, trying out angles, framing, aperture, exposure. As a result, my technique changed quite rapidly. And with that came new subjects and new ways of looking at things. With film I used to take more photos of places and people, but with digital I started taking more macros and nature. And this changed my holidays; suddenly I was interested in wildlife and mountains, forests and birds.

So do tools change you? Children with IPads certainly spend less time outdoors, and (on average) have more difficulty with weight than those without. Teenagers on TikTok seem to have slightly different interests than those on Instagram. Adults spend more time on their phones than is good for them. The first pandemic after the completion of the Human Genome Project has seen three vaccines within a year with about thirty more in trial. These are unthinkable changes, on par with the way tool use changed hominins. Every piece of technology is social engineering.