Date

You are probably tolerating way too much crap in your life, much more than you really need to. You tolerate the idiosyncracies and downsides of your phones, computers, and other gadgets. There's bugs, crashes, data loss, infections, incompatibilities, strange error messages, lock-in, tracking, and inconsistent interfaces. You know the drill. Sure the situation could be greatly improved, but it's tolerable as it is, you keep telling yourself. Dealing with the people around you also requires a fair bit of tolerance, for obvious reasons. Your life is limping along well enough so everything is fine.

If your personal computer was designed to generate good options for you rather than poor options, the problems and downsides you've come to tolerate simply disappear. When your personal computer provides good options you can take steps toward your ideal personal situation. And when that same personal computer provides you with ever-improving self-knowledge, you'll become less tolerant of the numerous frictions of your life.

Tolerance is not a virtue. You are better off reducing it to a bare minimum, chopping it out of your life as quickly and efficiently as possible. Tolerance should be treated with the same care as a potentially dangerous habit. Ice cream is fine as an occasional treat, but not as a three-pint-a-week habit. You might be happy to let a friend crash on your couch for a few days, but once it goes past a couple of weeks you have a problem on your hands. Tolerance works best in a similar fashion - a small amount applied responsibly is beneficial, but too much for too long is dangerous. A bit like exposure to the sun.

The need for tolerance is a clear indication of a non-ideal situation or a mediocre environment. Often it's necessary to simply get by with minimal fuss for a while, and so you crank up your tolerance meter and get by as best you can. That's fine as long as it's a pragmatic choice and not a default attitude. And it's fine as long as you keep your decision in mind and work hard to either improve the environment or switch to a better one, and thus eliminate the source of that particular tolerance. But that's the best tolerance has to offer, and it only stays that way when it's kept in motion.

Letting it linger to become a part of your identity will cause a permanent friction or problem in your life. At first the tolerance was temporary, but then you left it long enough that you accept it into your reality, and soon enough you are attached to a poor situation. Now you are suffering and you have no way out; what was useful has become an anchor. With only the best of intentions, you've dug a deep hole for yourself.

The strange thing about long-held tolerance is that it fuels bigotry and intolerance. A bigot or intolerant person is yelling out to the world about how much they hate some part of themselves. The issues matter to them because they are deeply attached. For those who have no such attachment there's nothing to say and certainly nothing to be bigoted about. It's likely that this bigot long ago tolerated an aspect of the issue they are on about, let it linger for much too long, and now it's a part of them. A case of tolerance being managed poorly and leading to intolerance.

So it's important to understand that less tolerance is not intolerance. Less tolerance is a worthwhile tactic, but intolerance is not. Intolerance tends to be quite clumsy and destructive. If you see that the downside of personal computers is that they are vulnerable to attack and monitoring, and you react with an attitude of aggressive intolerance, you're setting yourself up for a fight you can't win. You argue, protest, persuade your skeptics, fighting the good fight for a while. You manage to gather a few supporters and have an old-fashioned smartphone-and-router-and-laptop burning. Then what, retire to the hills? Intolerance won't get you very far there either.

There's no limit to the number of opportunities for tolerance. Web-based advertising is somehow tolerable enough for most people to not block every single ad they see, and television advertising hasn't yet managed to drive away absolutely everyone. But let's not delude ourselves into thinking that this situation is anywhere near ideal or that it is going to improve on its own.

Perhaps you've noticed that your morning commute is crowded and stressful and it seems that there is nothing you can do about it. Aggression isn't going to change the situation, whether lobbying or picketing your local government or cursing the cars ahead of you. Passive-aggressive sabotage or interference just gets everyone else angry at you. Assertiveness is ineffectual when nobody is listening. Too many other people have tolerated the situation to the point of acceptance. A hostile commute is accepted as the way things are, and has become the frame of reference for thinking about ways to deal with the situation. It's very difficult to even imagine a situation that is not a linear extension of the way things are right now.

Each person has the latent ability to change their attitudes and their actions, though suffering is seemingly preferable to change. When you are completely unaffected by something, whether because it doesn't exist or you don't care about it, you're not tolerating it - it's simply not your problem. But if it's something you've pushed into the background and internalized, but would be more free and happy without it, that's tolerance.

Tolerate less about your personal computer by blocking web-based ads and/or using only ad-free products and services. Tolerate less by skipping past television ads with your PVR, or else stop watching altogether. Or compromise by streaming or downloading your entertainment, if you must have it. Tolerate less daily bullshit by demanding the level of value and respect you need from those around you, while cutting out negative or parasitic people from your life. If you dare, disconnect from the Internet so you no longer have to tolerate your complete online activity being monitored and recorded for indefinite storage. Life improves when we tolerate less because that means the good options are easier to find.

Despite the depth and breadth of the mediocrity of our personal and social situations, and how unapproachable and impossible these problems seem to be, there is a solution to be found at the intersection of individuals and their personal computers. These closely-connected environments are both mediocre and trending away from any kind of ideal, but both remain highly elastic platforms despite our feelings. Between the two is the way to begin turning things around. A way to provide good options, to require less tolerance, and to help each of us stop digging deeper into our holes of despair and defeatism and gradually getting up toward the balanced perspective of ground level.

Although the solution may seem impossibly abstract, it is not. A personal computer designed to do two primary things - develop self-knowledge and provide good options - allows the person interacting with it to be increasingly capable of directing their life away from other poor environments and toward better ones - they will tolerate less. When this same personal computer is unable to connect to the Internet, both it and its user are immediately removed from a very poor environment - no more tracking, attacks, advertisements, and much less risk. And when the interface between this personal computer and the individual is based on action mirroring, there's a natural fluidity, simplicity, and symmetry that promotes continued interaction.

This sort of idea flies in the face of popular beliefs. When nobody believes change is possible, nothing is going to change. Yet it's not necessary for every personal computer to be connected to the Internet. It's not necessary for our interactions with computers be frustrating, wasteful, overwhelming, or risky. It's not necessary to tolerate as much as we do. At some point we need to work toward our own ideal situations.