June 4, 2023

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Choices are like coins - they always have two sides, and both sides stack up in terms of the direction we're going.

I think we could do with paying a bit more attention to the choices we're making, why we're making them, and what else is connected to them.  

Here's an example, using a choice that was offered to me recently.

Bing is a search engine owned by Microsoft (you probably knew that already, but I only just learned it). If you have Microsoft installed as the operating system on your computer, it offers a Bing search bar right on your desktop. No need to open an internet browser, you can just search from right there. 

It saves you at least one click. 

When a choice like that pops up, have you asked for it? No. Were you thinking about it before it presented itself to you? No. Did you need it? No.

But when you see it, does it seem like a good idea and that suddenly you DO need it? Oh, yes! The speed! The convenience! 

So, like a good consumer you consent to it (by default, since it's the easiest option). And it stays and becomes your default search engine. Thanks Microsoft. 

Where do you want to go?

Recently, my son wanted one thing (a privilege) but not the other thing that came with it (responsibility). I asked him to bring a coin to the table where we were talking, and see if he could pick up only one side of it.

Choices are like coins: they have two sides. (Actually they probably often have more than two sides, but I'm trying to keep things simple.) When you pick up one side of any choice, you can't avoid also picking up the other side. 

You also can't make a choice without it moving you in a particular direction, and BOTH sides of the coin stack up in terms of where we're going. 

In the Bing example from the section above, maybe the speed and convenience of a search bar on my desktop helps me move in the right direction by making me more efficient in whatever work I'm doing on the computer. Or maybe it just distracts me more, which would have an unwanted effect on where I want to go.

Another side of this choice is that by allowing Bing to take over my internet searching, I'd no longer be using Ecosia.org for my searches.

Ecosia.org is a search engine which (unlike Microsoft or its owner, Bill Gates) respects our privacy, does not try to dictate our healthcare choices, is not-for-profit, and uses the revenue it earns to plant trees.

Ecosia.org doesn't show up uninvited on my desk top. I had to hunt it down. I did so deliberately, with forethought. In the process of finding it, learning about it, and installing it as my default search engine, I subjected myself to a degree of inconvenience.

Was it worth it? In my opinion, it was. 


It might appear that this is a choice about Bing vs Ecosia, and on one level it is. Or a choice between convenience and effort, and on another level it is that, too. 

But besides the search engine of my choice, what else do I get in exchange for going to the effort to do my own research rather than accept a "free" product or service that's conveniently offered to me without effort on my part?

The answer that pops up for me is "sovereignty."

Every time I go to the effort to do my own research and to examine both sides of the coin, I build my personal sovereignty and my capacity to be in charge of the direction my choices are taking me.

Voting for the kind of world we want to live in 

Each choice we make (to quote Charles Eisenstein) is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in. I like to be sure I'm making them carefully and deliberately, and paying attention to what kind of world they move me toward. 

Choosing by default

One last thing to remember is that a "choice by default," where you take no action at all, is still a choice. 

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What do you think? Are you paying enough attention to the choices you're making? Or are you accepting conveniences that are offered to you without thinking about what the other side of the coin is?

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  • Keith Nasman says:

    Kate, thank you for this post. Sovereignty is something we are constantly getting duped out of, especially with technology. I too use Ecosia and enjoy that choice making a positive difference. Big tech is also going to be adding in the AI chat bots by default which has all sorts of repercussions, good and bad.

    I’ve been a long time advocate for open source software and it represents holding onto that sovereignty. Sure, it doesn’t have the latest, flashy software, but do we really need that? Email, web browser, and an office suite (OpenOffice) cover most of what we need. Music and photo software abound as well. Plus, it is community driven not corporate driven.

    Thanks for all you do!

    • Thanks for your comment, Keith.

      I completely agree with you that open source software is a much healthier option in so many ways. It takes more effort and willingness to put in the effort to figure things out or connect with like-minded people to find answers, which is exactly the point – building/retaining our capacity to do for ourselves and do for each other, rather than have it all handed to us on a platter by the Bigs, in exchange for our freedom. Like any other muscle, the mental muscle required is very much “use it or lose it.”

      I made the switch from Windows and Microsoft Office to Linux this year and although its been a very steep and time-consuming learning curve, I have no regrets. I LOVE not having updates forced on me regularly and I also love knowing that the computer itself won’t have to be replaced nearly as often to keep up with unnecessarily flashy software.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I really appreciate your support.

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