Tag Archives: Technology

Does Technology Ease Work?

81% of U.S. professionals say they work harder today than they did five years ago–because of technology. —Entrepreneur Magazine

I seem to recall that when the “computer age” hit the main stream we were told that our work would get much easier. Computers would do all the work; we would become a paperless society and the 30-hour (or less) workweek was just around the corner. What happened?

Well, if we take a look at the typical U.S. Professional’s inventory of time-consuming technology, would we find?

  • Multiple computers–at work and home (including a laptop they lug back and forth to work).
  • Backlogs of emails on their computers–much of it spam or just unnecessary.
  • Skype–with video, so they can see callers when they chat.
  • Several social media accounts on their computers, or iPhone, or Blackberry.
  • Multiple cell phones (at least one of which is an iPhone, Blackberry, or other media phone).
  • Backlogs of text messages.
  • MP3 players (at least 2)
  • Multiple televisions (at least one HD).
  • DVR’s.
  • DVD/VCR players (with all the associated media to catalog)
  • Wiis.
  • Video game players (and the required latest game).
  • Kindle, or other book reader.
  • Fax machine (they still seem to be a necessity).
  • Miscellaneous gadget accessories.
  • The next new gadget that comes along…

Then, of course, there is the whole social media gambit. This technological arena consumes more and more of a person’s time, and today much of it is business related, so now it is nearly impossible to know when this activity is necessary for work or just another meaningless demand on an already overloaded schedule.

Many of the technical gadgets allow their owners to use them like an extension of their office–ergo; their owners never “leave the office.” Consequently, it is difficult to tell whether a person is “working” at home or just interacting with more technical gadgets.

No wonder so many U.S. professionals work harder today than they did five years ago–technology has stolen part of their daily lives.

Does anyone relate to this situation?

What is Business’s Responsibility to Society?

“Children born today, on average, won’t live as long as their parents. That’s the first time in our society that has ever been forecast.” These were the words of Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne in a speech to the attendees of the 2007 National RV Trade Show in Louisville, KY. He was referring to a recent report by the U. S. Surgeon General, which pointed out that illnesses due to physical inactivity—type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity—are a growing crisis.

Kempthorne expressed special concern for our children’s loss of connection to nature. The secretary pointed out that technology is keeping our kids indoors and sitting on the couch playing virtual games instead of being outdoors playing real games. Their are too many kids (and adults) that need to put down their Blackberry’s and go picking wild berries.

I wonder…when a company develops a new time-consuming gadget—from cell phones to the latest game-player—do they ever give any thought or consideration as to what physical effect their new gadgets will have on the users, or society in general? Apparently not, according to Alan Cooper, a highly regarded development engineer in Silicon Valley. In Cooper’s book “The Inmates are Running the Asylum”, he presents the premise that “…despite appearances, business executives are simply not the ones in control of the high-tech industry. It is the engineers who are running the show. In our rush to accept the many benefits of the silicon chip, we have abdicated our responsibilities. We have let the inmates run the asylum.”

As long as the engineers are developing “things” that sell well, the executives are happy—delighted, in fact. The possibility that these “things” are contributing to the potential breakdown of mankind—both socially and physically—is totally ignored, as long as the money keeps coming in.

Do you know what the highest grossing entertainment product in the world is? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the highest grossing entertainment product in the world grossed $310 million in 24 hours—it was a video game. I also just saw that the number one Christmas gift this year is…video games.

It is easy for all of us to say, “It’s the parent’s responsibility to oversee their children’s lifestyle and activity.” Yes, that is true, up to a point, but through aggressive advertising, PR events, and peer pressure, it’s not that simple. The cell phone companies are constantly adding new features to attract kids, video games are getting more realistic and exciting, Blackberrys are de rigueur to a younger and younger group, computers are now a necessity for most school kids—and then, of course, there is television.

Where does the responsibility of we business people enter into this picture? Shouldn’t we consider some of the real impact of our products on society while we are developing them—or not?

I would really like to hear the views of others.