I’ve been watching Youtube videos with people restoring old computers to full functionality and using outdated equipment to perform tasks, and it’s been bothering me for non-obvious reasons, and I was thinking why that is.
Why use a i7-6700K when a Q8200 will do? Why use a modern smartphone when a 5 year old device will do?
It will do exactly what? Just now, I took an old netbook from my “outdated shit bin”, installed a modern version of Linux on it together with all essential apps in order to test whether it will “do”. The touchpad is shit, the display is shit, it is slow and although it does perform basic functions, like writing documents, answering mail, watching videos and playing music, it does everything poorly and with delays. So yes, it will “do” if you can’t afford a modern well made device, but if you can, by all means do because it’s worth it. Elimination of all those delays and nagging flaws has a very liberating psychological effect akin to removing painfully tight clothes or shoes; you don’t know how much it was bothering you until it stops. So one thing that was bothering me with the concept of reusing outdated equipment was the concept of deliberately putting up with bad things that can be avoided simple because you rationalized the good thing as “too expensive to be worth it”. It’s too expensive to be worth it if it gives you no actual benefit (like a gold-plated phone), but this excuse seems to be overused in order to rationalize not being able to afford things that are quantifiably better. I’m often not able to afford things, but I try not to resort to a “sour grapes” excuse. Instead I usually say something like “yes, x would be better but I can’t afford it so I use y, which is cheaper, not so good but I can get the basic functionality out of it”.
The other concept that’s bothering me is that I can recognize some urge to use minimalistic tools, the worst possible stuff that still gets the job done, in order to avoid the trap of the law of diminished returns that always rears its ugly head when you try to use the best possible tools to do the job. That makes sense when you just need a good hammer, not the best hammer in the world, because you occasionally need to hammer some nails, not do it all day, every day, for a whole year. But the problem with this is that when you try to buy the least expensive tools, they occasionally fail, and they always fail when you need them. Even if they don’t fail, they usually do a shitty job. I have a pair of cheap water pump pliers that keep slipping and performing poorly, and I never get to actually replace them because the good ones are more expensive and I’m not sure they will perform better. But I use those twice a year on average so it’s not a big deal, it’s just evidence that there indeed are bad tools and that being cheap can bite you.
There’s more, of course. There’s also a question of “why try to be rich when you can do everything with less money”, as a rationalization for staying poor. There is a limit, of course, where additional money doesn’t really get you any additional real quality of life, because you simply run out of useful things to buy. This amount of money, however, is huge; it’s probably in a billion-dollar range, and even in the open-ended range you can use the money to influence the entire civilization, by financing things that would otherwise make no economical sense, like spaceflight or pure science.
It comes down to “why would you need a car when you have your feet”, or “why would you need a forklift when you have your arms”, and, essentially, to “why do you need power”.
You need power because being limitless is better than being limited, because being powerful is better than being powerless, being great is better than being small, and a wonderful thing is better than a shitty thing, although a shitty thing is often better than nothing at all.
People love fast cars not because they couldn’t do everything with a slower and cheaper vehicle, but because a fast car gives you the feeling of unrestrained freedom that reminds you of the state in which you existed before you were born in this limiting existence. People love power because it reminds them of freedom and the joy of not being restrained in everything you attempt. That’s why settling for the inferior things disturbs me – because it looks like giving up on ever being able to see God again, and be free and unrestrained and powerful. It looks like the final acceptance of defeat. Of course, things will not give you that which you lost, but once you start giving up on greatness, you might actually mindscrew yourself into ultimate spiritual failure.