Google Productivity Pad: Choosing the Least Invasive Technology

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Choosing the Least Invasive Technology

In the medical field there is this idea of minimally invasive surgery. Do the least amount you have to in order to achieve the desired result. I have been bouncing this idea around for a while of how that relates to technology usage. See technology invades many of our situations, as well it should, technology is meant to mediate between us and the world around us. It should, however, only mediate or invade as much as we need it to in order to achieve the result we desire.

I call this idea: Least Invasive Technology (LIT).

So in order to choose a technological tool according to LIT you would first consider whether or not it can do the job you need to get done. For example when I need to do some coding if I were to want to use my iPad instead of my laptop it really wouldn't be feasible because most coding programs don't run on an iPad and it isn't really capable yet of the kind of multitasking you need in coding. Therefore I would need the laptop.

The second consideration, invasion to human interaction is a little trickier, but it cannot be answered until the first one is. For example a whiteboard is a piece of technology, we don't normally think of it as one, but it is. Both a whiteboard and a mirrored iPad can be used the draw visuals during a class, so they would both pass item number 1 if we were considering them. But which one causes more invasion to the human interaction?

That is a little harder to say because a whiteboard causes you to look away from students and to be at the front of the room, whereas an iPad can allow you to face anyway you want and be anywhere in the room you want. However people may be more comfortable with the use of the whiteboard than they are with a mirrored iPad because they are use to it.

Familiarity can make a technology less invasive than it might otherwise be. Novelty on the other hand can make technology more invasive than it might otherwise be. For example, my Pebble smartwatch is about as least invasive as technology can get, far less invasive than a phone being pulled out of a pocket or purse to check a notification. At least it is until somebody notices it, at which point it invades because of the novelty and becomes at least for a time the focus of conversation.

Invasion for novelty's sake will eventually wear off as a technology becomes more ubiquitous. And at least this type of invasion keeps you centered on interacting by conversation with person, it just may not be the interaction that you intended. That makes novelty something to consider when choosing a technology, but not the controlling factor.

I think the most important factor to currently consider when practicing LIT with electronic technologies is screen size.

Apple Products, conveniently lined up by size

When the screen is creating a barrier between you and the person you are interacting with, than the smaller the screen size the better. For example, if you can use either an iPad or a MacBook to take notes at a meeting you should choose the iPad. The iPad creates a smaller barrier between you and the others in the meeting and it can be used lying flat on a table or desk some of the time, making it the least invasive technology for the purpose.

When, however, the screen is facilitating interaction between you and another person the larger screen size may actually prove less invasive to the interaction. For example if I can video conference on either my iPhone or my iMac I will choose the iMac because it creates a better interaction with the other person.

We appear to be on a rapid march towards mainstream adoption of internet 3.0, the internet of things. In this new phase of the internet and technology more and more things will become connected. More tools will mediate between us and the environment through electronics. In this world being able to practice the philosophy of Least Invasive Technology will become increasingly important.

I hope something I have said today has sparked your interest, and I hope you will share it with someone else. I would like to see this idea be spread far and adopted by many. I hope it can help us to remember, to live better.

Icons made by Freepik from is licensed by CC BY 3.0

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