18 Traditional Skills That Are Sadly Being Lost to Technology

Mass-produced food, goods, and entertainment have led to a decrease in traditional skills that were once commonplace. The ease of modern life has negated the need for skills that date back centuries. From calligraphy to bookbinding, here are 18 traditional skills that are being lost to time.

Handwriting and Calligraphy

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In the digital age, emails and texts have taken precedence over handwritten communication in the office and personal correspondence. Britannica defines calligraphy as the “art of beautiful handwriting”; once a highly valued skill, it is now seen as a niche, artistic endeavor rather than the practical necessity it once was. Still, some value the personal touch and individuality conveyed through handwritten letters.

Map Reading and Navigation

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GPS and digital mapping services have largely replaced the need for traditional map reading skills, leading to a dependence on smartphones and satnavs for navigation. Understanding topographic maps, compasses, and orienteering are now rare skills mostly used for specific outdoor activities.

Analog Photography

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The convenience and immediacy of digital photography on smartphones have overshadowed traditional analog photography, with its processes of developing and printing in a darkroom. Skills including understanding different film types, exposure, and the manual settings of analog cameras are less common than they used to be. However, as DW reports, there is a renewed interest in analog photography that can be seen on YouTube, Reddit, and Instagram.

Hand Sewing and Tailoring

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Inexpensive, mass-produced clothing is widely available and has diminished the demand for hand-sewing skills. As office work moves to casual attire, the need for custom tailoring has decreased, with people only wearing suits and other smart clothes for special occasions like weddings and funerals.

Woodworking and Carpentry

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The rise of flat-packed furniture popularized by IKEA and a decline in woodworking education in schools have decreased the general population’s woodworking skills. Manufactured solutions have removed the general population’s need for knowledge of joinery and hand tool techniques.

Gardening

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Gardening is less popular than it once was, with a shift toward urban living and reliance on supermarkets in the West leading to a decline in home gardening and the knowledge of plant cultivation. Despite this, UC Davis reported in a 2022 survey that people turned to gardening during the COVID-19 pandemic “to relieve stress, connect with others and grow their own food in hopes of avoiding the virus.”

Mechanical Repairs

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As modern technology grows in complexity and the trend toward disposable goods continues, basic mechanical repair skills have declined. Professional services and replacements are replacing the ability to troubleshoot and fix household items, from kitchen appliances to vehicles. The cost-saving aspects of DIY repairs are increasingly overlooked, contributing to a culture of waste.

Bookbinding and Papermaking

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Digital media consumption, ebooks, and audiobooks have decreased demand for physical books, impacting traditional crafts like bookbinding and papermaking. Paper books’ tactile experience and durability are at risk of being lost to digital alternatives. Publishers Weekly has reported that, despite the “2023 sales drop of 2.6% and the more pronounced decline of 6.5% between 2021 and 2022, print unit sales in 2023 were still 10% ahead of the last pre-pandemic year in 2019.”

Herbal Medicine and Foraging

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Over the past century, widespread reliance on pharmaceuticals and a disconnection from the natural environment have led to a decline in herbal medicine and foraging knowledge. Understanding plant properties, seasonal cycles, and sustainable harvesting practices has become increasingly rare.

Blacksmithing and Metalworking

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Modern manufacturing processes have replaced the need for hand-forged metal items, leading to a decline in once widespread traditional blacksmith skills. The ease of mass-produced alternatives has pushed aside the uniqueness and durability of hand-forged items, but there is still a niche market for traditional metalwork.

Analog Clock Reading

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The prevalence of digital time displays on smartphones, computers, and public transportation has decreased the ability to read traditional analog clocks, especially among younger generations. A 2018 report from the U.K. revealed that many schools had replaced their analog clocks with digital versions in exam halls because students could not read traditional clocks.

Handmade Pottery and Ceramics

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Inexpensive, mass-produced ceramics are widely available today, leading to a decline in pottery making as a common skill. Working with clay is a rare hobby for some who enjoy the therapeutic and creative aspects of the kiln firing process.

Traditional Fishing Techniques

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Knowledge of local waterways, fish behavior, and sustainable fishing practices is declining worldwide as commercial fishing replaces smaller, independent fishermen. Fishing today is mostly a hobby, with sport fishing subduing a hard-fighting fish being a popular pastime.

Handcrafted Toy Making

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Mass-produced, often electronic toys have dominated the market for decades, leading to a decline in handmade toys. Traditional wooden toys and dolls encouraged imagination and a personal connection that’s often missing in modern toys. Today, handcrafted toy making is a niche occupation.

Cooking from Scratch

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The convenience of pre-packaged meals, fast food, and delivery services has led to a decline in the percentage of home-cooked food in people’s diets in the West. Health argues that “cooking at home is the more affordable option compared to dining at a restaurant or ordering takeout.” Many people still prize home cooking as a healthier, cheaper alternative.

Natural Dyeing and Textile Arts

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Synthetic dyes and materials have largely replaced the need for knowledge and practice of natural dyeing and traditional textile arts. Skills including spinning, weaving, and dyeing with plant-based materials are rare, with traditional handmade clothes being a hobby for some.

Storytelling and Oral Traditions

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Digital entertainment, from televisions to video games, has led to declining oral traditions, including storytelling. Storytelling has traditionally passed on cultural values and enhanced listening skills but risks being lost to passive consumption, with oral traditions being undervalued in the digital age.

Traditional Games and Sports

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Video games and structured team sports have led to a decline in traditional games and sports, which often require minimal equipment. The skills that traditional games like backgammon, chess, and cribbage develop, such as strategy and patience, are being overshadowed by digital alternatives.

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