When people are given a task to complete, be it read the news or write a paper for a class, they use a tool for the job. The tool can be a pen, pencil, news app, website, or a word processor like Microsoft Word. Most people don't seem to consciously care about the tools they use for the job. They want to get the job done, and will use anything that will get it done. I think this type of thinking should change.
A tool is a piece of art. Even something as simple as a rod of graphite in a wood casing has had years of research into it. Every step of the process of designing it has also involved multiple humans making decisions, something that injects a tool with creativity. What should the shape of a pencil's lead be in order to be smooth enough, while simultaneously having enough friction to leave a residue of graphite onto a page? What must the composition of the rod in the casing be in order to acquire a mark of the right color? How thick should the wood casing be in order to prevent writing fatigue? What should the shape of the casing's outside be in order to make writing a comfortable experience? Even choosing the type of wood would require a creative decision, because a pencil needs to have a sturdy feeling in the hands of the user without having an abnormal center of gravity. It should also be able to sharpened easily by using other tools that cut wood, so weight and strength are also considered. Economic considerations also take place, as the perfect wood for the job might be too expensive or too far away from the preferred production site.
Yet, pencils are everywhere and synonymous with the modern world. Humans have made all these hard decisions and have organized systems that allow for them to be mass produced so that billions can use these art pieces to complete those pesky long forms or draw the next Mona Lisa. People use them everyday without giving a thought to the amazing things that allow them to write words on to a page. Well, people who are traditionally considered artists are more thankful for the tools, but everybody should be.
I personally am grateful for all the tool creators, and this post is a way for me to thank them for their efforts. People use tools a lot more than they look at pictures by Leonardo da Vinci. From the alarm clock you use to get up in the morning to the button you use to fasten your shirt around your body, you use these pieces of art all the time. It can be argued that artworks that are the most pervasive in society are some of the greatest pieces of art because a lot of people have had access to them.
The fact that tools are everywhere isn't the only reason that make them great. The design process involved in tools is where the creativity really comes out. I hate Apple, but I will admit that their tools look absolutely amazing and that the aesthetic choices probably result in people having a better day. They make the usage of complicated technological concepts easy to use and appealing, resulting in people doing a bit more work or sleeping a little less annoyed that they had to write a 5 page essay in a day. While these tiny benefits to life might not seem like much, they are being enjoyed by 100s of millions, making the benefit almost akin to saving lives.
Good tools make work more efficient, and even a tiny improvement in efficiency adds up and results in millennia being saved. Let's think about a hypothetical scenario. A good spreadsheet tool helped a person save 1 hour of their day because it automated most of the hard work. That person was then able to go home and spend 10 more minutes with their family. This increases the trust and love their children have in them. In the future, they listen to advice not to do harmful drugs or something life threatening because of this increased trust. Indirectly, a tool was responsible for saving lives just by being pleasant to use.
I'm obviously not talking about tools like scalpels which directly help save lives. People realize that, but tend to forget when the association becomes more blurry.
The increase in efficiency would help people get more free time and enjoy their lives more. They make the world a happier place, and might even make the work itself enjoyable. I'm liking writing this post because the vim editor makes it so easy to edit text. Maybe I'll be able to convince somebody to make good tools and then indirectly save the lives of others.
Now some of these amazing tools are very expensive and limited to use by privileged people who able to afford them (or even allowed to buy them). That would mean that some tools are helping expand the disparities that exist in the world. That is why I think it's of utmost importance to make tools that need physical resources cheap and make tools that are digital absolutely free. There are a lot of underprivileged people in this world, and they have every right to use the tools you are able to use to make their lives more pleasant or better. In terms of art and knowledge, that would mean using Creative Commons. In terms of digital tools, that would mean making free (open source) software. This post was made entirely using free software and you're accessing it because of free software. I'll make a post about this in the future.
If you have access to a dishwasher, you would be saving a lot more time, allowing you to relax and listen to that album you've always wanted to listen to. This would reduce the amount of chronic stress you're experiencing and makes it easier for you to concentrate and think better. Meanwhile, those who don't have those tools would face lower and harder educational and economic outcomes.
Since almost most of the future's work would have be done using computers, the digital aspect of this is very important. Getting all of the world free and fast internet access should be a priority. Then they can get access to amazing tools for free by just typing in wikipedia in their search bar for example.
Think of the tools you use. Think of the all the decisions that were made. Be thankful. If they were free, be even more grateful for people who volunteered their personal time for the altruistic act of making your day better. And when I ask people what they used or how they did a certain thing, even when I don't understand the thing itself, now you know why. Tools fascinate me.