We all know people in our life who have decided to deny themselves technology, as if they’re being dragged through the 21st century, kicking and screaming; the friend who doesn’t have a television, the relative without a cell phone, or the coworker who won’t use IM because he prefers to send you 15 four-word emails every day. These people generally wear their technology aversions like a badge of honor, as if the rest of us are sheep and they’re free-range free thinkers. Well, may I speak for the rest of us when I tell those people… we’re not impressed. Living tech-free is not like living in heaven.
Last week the Huffington Post ran a list – no, not of Kim Kardashian’s 10 Best Looks (actually, they probably did), but a list of 12 incredibly successful people who shun technology. The assumption here is that you, too, could be successful by using an abacus instead of Quickbooks, and like much of what the Huffington Post publishes, it was incredibly misleading. The list includes some surprises (I would think Karl Lagerfeld is a Twitter addict, but I guess not) and some non-surprises (Warren Buffet has been loaded since before computers, so why would he need them now?), but these were my favorites:
Cowell, in between paternity tests, recently told Forbes that he doesn’t use a computer. I have to admit, that surprised me – you’d think that a man who made a fortune in the teen pop business would be in tune with the communication methods of his audience. But apparently just because you assembled the group that sings this video, doesn’t mean you have to watch it on YouTube. I sure wish I hadn’t.
According to the New York Post, the new owner of the Brooklyn Nets doesn’t own a cell phone, prefers handwritten letters to email, and doesn’t enjoy spending time on a computer. How charming. I guess, when you have an army of underfed Russian prostitutes at your beck and call, who needs technology, right? Mr. Prokhorov made his money the old fashioned way: Using his personal connections with the Kremlin to take control of a state-owned nickel mining company for hundreds and hundreds of millions below its valued price (and a competing bid). Or as the Russians call it, capitalism! Not for nothing, but maybe if he did use a computer he would’ve been able to Google the ages of his team’s two new superstars. They seem to be as excited to be there as Mr. Putin at a Pussy Riot concert.
Despite being someone that has never used email, Selig has served as commissioner of Major League Baseball since 1992. He has overseen the entirety of the steroid era, arguably baseball’s most atrocious time period since segregation. While other sports leagues like the NBA and NFL have grown in popularity as they’ve embraced technology, the MLB maintains it’s archaic principles and sentimental longing for the past as it has put its head in the sand when comes to performance enhancing drugs. Mr. Selig may propose instant replay now and wants to make an example out of Alex Rodriguez, but it’s all too little too late. If he had used email in the last 20 or so years, someone could have sent him a photo of Sammy Sosa’s enormous head growth when he was en route to breaking Maris’s homerun record or emailed Mr. Selig a video of this play as an example of his failure. Oh yeah, but at least he’s managed to keep Pete Rose away from the game, that scourge!
Adelson is the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and inspiration for Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life, doesn’t even have a computer. You might remember Mr. Potter, I mean Mr. Adelson, as the man who more or less funded the Romney presidential campaign all by himself. Whatever your politics are, you have admit that it wasn’t a great investment. It’s hard not to think that had he owned a computer at the time, Mr. Adelson would’ve been able to see this and saved himself millions of casino chips.
There’s an underlying theme to all these guys (and, save for the three female justices on the Supreme Court, they’re all guys) and their take on technology: computers and the connectivity they provide create distractions that we’re better off without. But if you read The Verge’s Paul Miller a few months back after he returned from a year without the internet you learned a tidy rebuttal to that idea. The gist of his experience was that, while the lack of internet initially inspired him – he lost weight, read more, wrote more, etc. – eventually he became less active and less connected with the people he cared for. Ultimately, the problems he had in his life remained, they were not caused by the internet at all. They were his problems.
The idea that you don’t need to embrace technology in order to be successful is ridiculous. Yes, as we live more of our lives online it’s important to find balance, to truly live in the real world, even as the World Wide Web summons our attention. But denying ourselves tools to be successful, to stay in touch, to communicate, isn’t the way. And those searching for truths would have better luck listening to old guitar players than casino magnates.
Or as Townes Vad Zandt said, “Heaven ain’t bad, but you don’t get nothin’ done.”