Well John Henry said to the captain,
Oh a man ain’t nothin’ but a man
‘Fore I’d let your steam drill beat me down,
I’d die with my hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord
Die with my hammer in my hand.
~ Henry Belefonte, “John Henry“
Here’s some not-so-new information: We’re living in a highly technology-driven, digital age. We’ve seen an unprecedented proliferation of technology in the last decade. The average consumer is becoming more familiar with more technology—and they’re doing so exponentially more quickly.
At the same time, we seem to be getting no less busy, seeking expedience and efficiency wherever we can find it.
But wait a minute—isn’t the answer to overly busy lives the adoption of more technology? Sure, there should be a correlation between advanced technology adoption and how busy we all feel… but it should be an inverse relationship, right? The more technology we have, the less stress we should feel. I’ve seen The Jetsons, I know how this is supposed to work! So what’s going on?
There has long been a prevailing idea around the world that the more technology we embrace, the simpler our lives will be. The belief is easy to find in our pop culture: In the movie WALL-E, for instance, humans have been reduced to lazy, obese beings that are incapable of taking care of themselves because they have become so reliant on robots to do everything. Turning again to The Jetsons, we hear George Jetson complain about a sore “button-pushing finger”—but that’s about the worst of his worries. The idea is clear: technology breeds simplicity.
But is that really the case?
Think of your own life. As technology has become more powerful and more prevalent in the past decades, has your life become less busy? When you wield the wisdom of the world in your palm thanks to a smartphone, do you feel more empowered to relax?
… Or do you feel like you’re now more easily accessible for the scores of people that want your attention? Do you feel like maybe you ought to send one more email while you have five free minutes?
If you’re anything like me, the answer to these questions is a resounding “Yes”. And I say that as someone that loves trying out the latest gadgets. At the same time, I recognize that as more and more technology becomes a part of my daily life, it’s easier to feel like Charlie Chaplin hustling to keep up with an assembly line in Modern Times than it is to feel like George Jetson.
Looking back over the centuries, it is easy to think of many ways in which our lives have been made easier by technology—inventions of visionaries like Thomas Edison, Nicola Tesla and Alexander Graham Bell quickly come to mind. What we forget, however, is the expectations that come with the efficiencies these technologies provide. Our lives become more efficient and productive, but no less busy.
Today we live in an age of drones and 3D printers. Apps and ATMs. Marketing automation and everything-else automation. With business cost pressures increasing and consumer demand for technology seemingly at an all-time high, our collective trend toward automation probably won’t change any time soon, either. We’ll keep getting more efficient in everything we do, but will we get less busy in the process?
History and personal experience tells us the answer is “no.”
And this is not a new problem. In 1727, in fact, Parliament had to make it a capital offense to destroy machinery because the practice was so widespread among angry craftsmen that felt the machines were threatening their quality of life.
The truth is that the more tools we have at our disposal, the more that is expected of us. When email became a staple of the business world, expectations changed… coworkers, clients and customers expected a more immediate response than what previously could have been delivered. Mobile devices increased expectations of responsiveness even further. People who went on vacation weren’t really out of pocket any more… You could still reach them if you really needed to.
As soon as we are empowered to get more done in less time, this becomes the expectation. Sure, we may get self-driving cars in the coming years, but will that just mean we are expected to accomplish more on our commute?
It’s something to think about.
No one knows exactly what the future holds. All we can do is guess. Most likely, it holds more advanced technology that will enhance our abilities to accomplish tasks… but it probably won’t mean any less hectic lives any time soon. So pump the brakes while you can, especially if you’re taking a vacation this summer. They may not always be there.
– Sent from my iPhone
Lukas Treu is Content Architect at AKHIA.