Sunday, October 2, 2011

Computers and why they don't allow us to relax more

Hi all:

I remember way back in college in the ‘70’s, reading how computers were going to give us so much more leisure time. There was talk that everybody would work 30 hour weeks by the early 2000’s. Well it's now 2011, and while computers have brought tons and tons of change, I don't see anybody actually doing less work. In fact, most people I know seem to be more overworked than ever. I'm interested in finding out why people think this is.

I have a few thoughts. One: computers make us all "experts" at everything. Back in the day, we'd rely on typists and secretaries to do typing, graphic people to design our graphics, and accountants to do the bookkeeping and number crunching. Now, thanks to the ease of word processors, graphics packages and spreadsheets, we can all do much of this ourselves. Our work, therefore, becomes much less specific.

Electronic communication is great. We can now talk instantly to associates and clients and find out what they need from us. On the one hand this is great; we know pretty much instantly what our clients and associates need us to do. On the other hand, this instant ability to be able to assign tasks, or to ask questions, means that, often, many tasks are put into our "queues" before we can finish them, or before the next task. It's easy to become overwhelmed.

Also, email, texting, blogging and Facebook give us instant gratification, and we tend to become addicted to this gratification, wanting more and more of it. Therefore, we spend more time seeking that instant gratification. This is time that could be spent working on a longer range project that would also give gratification, but not nearly as quickly.

I'm just spitballing here. As I say, I’m interested in what others think...

1 comment:

Adrian Jenkin said...

I think this is one of those clasic areas where an idea entered our collective psyce without giving consideration to history.

I remember an episode of the Jetsons where George comments to his wife that 'these 30 minute days are killing me!'

Whilst technology makes once labour intensive tasks (such as weaving) comparatively simple and quick such that one person in one day can do what might have taken dozens to do when done by hand - so we then expand what we want. Demand doesn't only increase to match supply - it also drives increases in supply through competition which then leads to...
Well you know - the pattern is well known.

So with computers - we find ways of making our existing life simpler through computers. This leads to finding other ways that we can use this technology - new opportunities open up and the creators of the technology have to find new uses for their technology to boost innovation and sales.

As the old saying goes - the more things change - the more they stay the same.