Why the Hitchhiker’s 3 rules of technology reactions permeate far further

Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, came up with three rules that describe our reaction to technologies:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

These rules also apply outside of technology. Or rather, they apply beyond our typical definition of technology.

The word technology comes from ‘technique’; the way we do things.

So by extension, Adams’ rules can apply to almost anything relating to techniques – the way we do things.

It could be playing Fortnite, drinking Kombucha, or working with an Executive Coach.

When it comes to rule 1 – no problem. These things are just part of how the world works. We grow up into them. (In fact, there should probably be a rule zero: anything invented before we were born often seems clunky, twee, or ridiculous by the time we turn 7 years old)

Rule 2? Perhaps there’s some resistance or lack of understanding, but these things are generally new and exciting – it’s worth trying them, and they may even lead to an interest, passion, or career.

When we get to rule 3 things become tricky. 

Wtf is Fortnite? I’d rather have a nice cup of Earl Grey than Kombu…Cambuche? Kambutcha? 

This gets harder still when the new thing is something personal. Something intimate, sensitive, perhaps at odds with social conventions, or carrying a stigma.

Body art. Coaching. Polyamorous relationships. Digital nomads. Openly talking about mental health. 

This makes it tough for those of us creating new things, especially when we’re creating these things for groups either well rooted in rule 3, or tipping towards it from rule 2. 

As you may have heard – the first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club.

However, the good news is we can gain leverage to bring new things to life by using a different kind of fighting: jiu jitsu.

One jiu jitsu move is embracing stigma, and letting it give us more confidence that we’re onto something. 

What is a stigma today may well soon be revolutionary and exciting, and a few years down the line it may be part of the fabric of life.

Pieter Levels talks about this in the latter third of this talk on bootstrapping side projects

One effective way to mitigate the feeling of something new being against the natural order of things is to try a snippet, a sample. 

Low risk. Limited downside. Find out if it’s for you.

I’m writing this on my 36th birthday. I guess Rule 3 has officially kicked in.

As the world keeps turning and things keep moving, us over 35s are going to need snippets, samples, and tasters for all kinds of things.

And right there is a new, innovative opportunity in itself.

Sampling: You don’t know it until you’ve tried it

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