Is having control better than having control surfaces?

A while back I calculated my computational power according to screen estate, offering the suggestion that the more I can see (up to a point) at the same time, the more function I can extract from my computers information systems. Before that I’d done a similar thing going through how many gigabytes of storage I had personal control over, the thought being that it described the circumfence of my binary domains. The more storage, the more video I could edit, the more photos I could save, and the more high resolution pirated movies I could keep on hand.

I came to think of this again the other day when I started my migration from many computers onto a home system built around a small M1 Macbook Air. It’s a humble machine which is more powerful than my sort-of-recent i9/1080Ti Windows abomination, and much more powerful than the 5.1 Mac Pro I’m still keeping around because of the RAID and I/O ports, and I’m consolidating all the storage onto a few external enclosures. Turns out, I have some fifteen drives of different capacity laying around, as well as a bunch of USB/Firewire enclosures, and just copying the stuff from one thing to another takes forever right now.

But anywho, my point being that the amount of storage I have no longer feels like a valuable metric of my productive capacity – rather the opposite since my data exists as conflicting versions in many places – and I’m satisfied with my screen real estate (well almost, I’d like a magic whiteboard covering 2×1 meters on the living room wall). So what qualities do I value in my personal computational space today?

I’m thinking that maybe it’s convenience. I’ve become older, crankier wiser, and neither my eyesight nor patience can take as much abuse as it was able to ten years ago. I want to be able to be productive rather than fiddle around with drivers in Windows and I’m more likely to take poor design as a personal affront than a technical challange.

There’s that William Morris quote that you should “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” and perhaps there’s something similar going on here, with a very wide definition of “beautiful” and “useful”. Along those lines, I caved in and bought an iPad to read books on since I tried one out and realised how much slicker the experience is than on any Android tablet I’ve tried.

It’s not that I want a frictionless life. Friction is important, it smooths out rough surfaces, gives us things to hang on to, and provides heat and sparks. But I’d like to choose my objects of friction with more consideration.

There are so many things worth doing in the world, small and grand, and there’s just so little value in putting up with stuff that doesn’t matter. Just write that stuff off and learn to live with the fomo; Smooth out all friction that doesn’t improve your grip on reality, and enjoy a better handle on life.