Tools Building Us

First we build the tools, then they build us.

— Marshall McLuhan

  • maybe the broad term would be "tool determinism" - the idea that the tool you use changes how (and what) you do
  • this seems related to ideas of Linguistic Determinism and language forcing a specific way of thinking

"Around here, that's how we do things." I don't know about you, but that line rings real true for me. Take any technology you work with-React, Figma, Webpack, Invision, Bootstrap, what-have-you—and think not about its specific features, but about how it changes the way that you work. How it structures your work; reshapes it. That technology makes many things possible, sure, but it also prevents you from walking down certain unsupported paths. It's a way of doing something.

The design systems we swim in

  • in some settings, even making own tools is common - woodworking, metalsmith (this is relevant to Tools Building Us, and us building the tools)
  • Bret mentions "thinking geometrically" a bunch of times in this article, I think it's an important insight of feedback loops between tools we use, and styles of thinking that they promote (Tools Building Us)
Szymon Kaliski © 2021
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