Are you feeling any tech stress? I know that I am. Hang with me for a moment, and I promise there is a happy ending to this post.
Some things I’ve heard authors say recently:
- I’ll never learn all of the stuff I’m supposed to know as an author!
- I thought I could at least handle ____ (social media platform) but now they’ve changed it!
- Why can’t they at least leave my word processing software alone???
Change is the only constant, it seems.
But the problem is: change isn’t a constant. Change is an exponential function!
When I was in college, we talked about Moore’s Law — about how the speed and storage capacity of computers would increase exponentially. Moore thought we would reach a point where they couldn’t get any better. Moore’s Law was replaced by the Law of Accelerating Returns.
Here’s an executive summary:
An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the commonsense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The “returns,” such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity — technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.Ray Kurzweil
That was written in 2001.
Skip the grandiose predictions for the future and just recognize the prediction that the 21st century’s progress will be like 20,000 years of what has gone before. We are living in a time of change so astronomical that it is hard to keep up.
The AI revolution is here, and even the most technically minded and future-looking experts are getting worried.
And despite the requests for a pause, most experts believe that not only will development not pause, it will speed up. AI is the nuclear arms race of technology, and we’re only seeing the first glimmers of the supernova that is coming to our culture.
Let’s talk for a moment about basic survival as artists in times of change. I grew up in a world without computers. I’ve seen a lot of technological change in my life, and I’ve watched a lot of creatives struggle.
When we talk about culture change, writers and creatives are critical in helping the rest of society adapt.
We have two basic choices: to adapt or not.
Do you want to adapt?
This is a nuanced question as each person faces their own limitations and challenges. I know writers who still write with pen and ink. Someone on Reddit accused me of being overly snarky recently for suggesting that choosing not to adapt was an option.
But I was being honest and trying to be caring. It is an option, and, for some writers, a powerful one. I wrote the first draft of this article with a stylus, because I wanted something close to the feeling of a pen. I wanted to slow down and think.
Don’t judge those around us who choose not to embrace the latest technology. They are respecting their creative spirit. They may need to feel the flow of words tactilely.
Others may choose to embrace the change, bringing that new power into their writing. Likewise, don’t judge.
Why? Because the one constant is change. Respecting the choices of others is powerful.
I know a NYT bestselling author who maintains an old version of a word processor on a non-internet-connected machine just for writing. Certainly hasn’t hurt her success.
But what if the change goes deeper than just adaptation? What if you start to feel the walls closing in and the tension building?
You have choices. You can choose to ignore some new technology, wait until it is more developed, or play only with the toys that will make your life easier. Exercise your right to choose how and what you adapt to.
Technological stress is real. Don’t ignore it. Don’t downplay it.
Have a plan.
Step one is often to step away. Get outside. Walk in nature. Take a tech holiday. Tell everyone you’re going off the grid for a bit. A day… A week… Longer if necessary.
As creatives, we must respect and protect our mental health. Writing and creating takes time, and when the world around you is spinning at the speed of a super-computer, filling your mind with every ping of your phone… step away. Take a moment.
If you find you are losing yourself in the day-to-day pressures, do what is necessary to step away.
Like my author friend who picked up a fountain pen to reconnect with his creative spirit, find what you need.
You may find that after a time away, you are more adaptable. Or you may find your priorities are clear and you know this change can wait for you.
Practice Just-in-Time Learning
Just-in-time (JIT) is a powerful technique developed by the manufacturing industry and applied to making parts available for assembly just as they were needed.
The concept here is not to learn what you don’t need right now. If you think you will need to learn how to edit a video next year, don’t study it now. Study it next year. Why? Because technology will change by then, and what you learn today will be obsolete then.
Use this principle to take away some of the “should” stress in your life. When someone suggests that you “should” be a master of advertising on a particular platform, think: do I actually need this today? If not, then you “should-not” study it today. Study it when you are ready to use it.
Here’s a very modern example. Want to automate your social media posts? (By the way: there are reasons not to do this…) How you would do this a month ago is different from how you can do it today.
Give yourself grace. You aren’t behind on your technical skills. You’re practicing just-in-time learning.
Find Your Peace
While the world is spinning faster and faster, don’t be afraid to look to the past for peace. Consider meditation or prayer, yoga, or other options to help you reconnect with yourself and the spirit that drives your creativity.
Enjoy time with your pets. Work on a tactile hobby that you may have set aside.
Remember your goals and what drives you as a creative. This is especially important for introverts.
Connect with Others
If you are an extrovert, connect with humans. Talk about the experiences you are having. Explore options together. Maybe you connect with a group of other writers and each of you commit to explore one new technology and share it with the group. Work together. Also: keep an eye on your friends during these stressful days. Be there to help and encourage each other.
This may be counter-intuitive, but if you see a new technology that catches your interest, play! When I was first teaching computers, I noticed that those who used them to play games became more comfortable with the new technology. When we feel like we must race to learn and perform, play can feel wrong. Play can feel like a distraction. I assure you: play is one of the best things you can do for your stress that will actually help you manage technological change with ease.
The World Needs Creatives
As creatives, we are more needed today than ever before. Our creations can influence change and improve the possibility of a brighter future.
Your pen, your voice, your next AI–inspired creation, could be exactly the thing someone on the planet needs in order to see that brighter future. Or it might be the healing that helps them adapt and survive.
Respect your creative spirit. Know that no matter how fast the world is changing around you, you have control over your responses.
Have you been feeling any tech stress lately? What ideas do you have for survival?
Originally published at Writers in the Storm, April 17, 2023, How to Survive the Singularity of Rapid Technological Change (writersinthestormblog.com)