Master of none

The idea of a changeable-bits, screw driver is brilliant. There were dozens of different screw-driving tools that varied only in the shape of their pointy end; their handles and other properties were identical. This was the perfect opportunity to create one tool to perform many functions.

You might wonder whether life is really simpler this way. Wouldn’t it be far more convenient to use a single device to accomplish all of these tasks?

Technically, yes. Psychologically, no.

While there’s an undeniable ease-of-use factor to housing a phone, internet browser, entertainment center, camera, and GPS in a lightweight rectangle that fits inside my pocket, the proximity of each of these tasks to one another leads, inevitably, to constant distraction. If you’ve ever tried to find the perfect angle for a photo while your Instagram post is blowing up, or answer a work email while your mom is calling you, you know what I mean.

~ Talia Barnes from,


I agree with Barnes, and her point about proximity is one I’d not seen clearly expressed. And there’s a more obvious argument for digital minimalism: It actually works.

The multi-bit screw driver works exactly as well as the dozens of tools it replaces. But my “smart” phone is a less capable phone, a less capable camera, a less capable correspondence tool, etc. Yes, clearly, it’s more convenient. But “the best camera is the one you have with you” is only true if your definition of “best” is: I captured the photo. “The jack of all trades is master of none.” holds true. If instead your definition of “best” is: I did the thing well. Well, then, you need the right tool. And the right tools—the right technology, is calm technology.