There are no solutions, only trade-offs
"There are no solutions, only trade-offs" - Thomas Sowell, economist
"Once I fix this issue or solve this problem or purchase this product, my life will be sorted" - Everyone else
We humans are remarkably susceptible to the concept of a magical remedy which will free us of all suffering and discomfort. There's always the lingering promise of a panacea which, when obtained, will enable us to finally live our lives to our full potential.
Buddhists have long recognised this notion as a fallacy. They know that the inherent "unsatisfactoriness" of existence is revealed in the impermanence, pain, and perpetual incompleteness that is baked in to life.
There will never be a moment in your life when you've got it all right: When all of your problems have been solved, and you are free to bask in a state of bliss and tranquillity.
We are all susceptible to this idea: utopia is a destination, and I can get there. This notion continuously proves itself to be a waste of time and energy, which can only leave us feeling disenchanted. Alas, the pursuit is fruitless yet addictive.
One limiting factor on our ability to obtain everything that we want is "opportunity cost".
Whether addressing a problem, or making an important life decision, to vote for one thing is to forego another - if you gain something from a solution, you will miss out on something else.
What solutions do we come to with respect to our smartphones, and what do we trade-off?
To purchase a brand new, top-end smartphone such as an iPhone 14 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S22 will grant access to the highest quality display and camera on the market, with a more extensive list of features than any of its preceding models. A premium phone is a status symbol - an indicator of social and economic status to be admired and honored by peers and strangers alike, who may hold you in higher regard than if you were still wearing last years model. But enjoying this luxury comes at a price. A high-end device will set you back between £800 and £1600. You could have used that money to buy a mountain bike, refurbish the kitchen, pay off some student debt, invest in stocks, or donate to charity. That money could have been utilized a million different ways; and we seldom know in the moment which of them will serve us best in the long run.
Switching to iOS introduces you to the Apple ecosystem - a place where all of your devices function in harmony. Your calls, messages and photos sync across your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and MacBook. iMessage and Facetime work seamlessly with all of your friends and family whom have also be indoctrinated into the Apple ecosystem. But to be tied into such a system can leave you feeling trapped, unable to try an alternative product, which you may in fact be better suited to.
Android is an open-source platform. It offers more freedom and customisation options than iOS, which is a closed software system. This allows users to enjoy a wider variety of apps and third-party programs such as ad blockers, TV remotes, call recorders, live wallpapers, and multi-task windows. However, the presence of more third-party apps comes with increased security risk. Apple closely guard the iOS source code, and tightly regulate the App Store, meaning that developers must meet certain requirements in order to have their apps approved. By placing restrictions on third-party access and customisability, iOS remains the most secure mobile platform.
Technology has given us many powerful tools, which we can leverage to build our communities and networks with markedly greater efficiency than ever before. But as we discovered in a previous post, when we substitute physical relationships and interactions for digital ones, we start to run into problems. Studies have proven that the presence of a smartphone during conversation makes us less empathetic. One study on young adults aged 19–32 found that people with higher social media use were more than three times as likely to feel socially isolated than those who did not use social media as often.
We have unfiltered, round-the-clock access to information - which is great! We can respond to client emails, or grind on some spreadsheets at 4AM from a cafe in Bali. The internet (TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify etc.) provides an unending source of entertainment. Nevertheless, if you're paying attention to your phone, you're not paying attention to something else, and who knows what you could be missing. It's nice being able to zone the world out in a busy public space - but at what cost? An interaction with a friendly stranger could provide some wisdom, create a new friendship, or simply brighten your day. We can get more work done, but being unable to switch off from work could leave one feeling stressed and consequently less productive in the long run. Perhaps constant stimulation isn't a good thing: If we don't spend any time daydreaming, alone with our thoughts, absent of external input, we might stifle our creative thinking; coming up with less of our own ideas. It's easy to procrastinate on something important, or to avoid confronting our emotions when we have a phone in our hand. When was the last time you just sat and really took in your surroundings?
As we always seem to conclude, technology can and should make your life better, if used mindfully and appropriately.
Remember this: every decision you make and every action that you take is at the expense of something or someone else. We have tens of thousands of thoughts every day. Of those, we make more than 100 conscious and informed decisions, which we can never go back and change. To prioritise something is, by definition, to deprioritise other things, even though we might also want those things, which is why we will never have everything that we want, and why we will never feel completely "sorted" or satisfied. It's an unavoidable fact of life: there are no solutions, only trade-offs.
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