For some people, technology and IT can actually be a scary and dooming world. This is particularly relevant for those of a certain generation that have not grown up with computers and the internet. Using devices such as tablets and smartphones can seem extremely daunting and many people simply just don’t know where to start.
We think technology is great and we want to convince you that whilst it may cause a certain fear to start with, engaging in the digital world can benefit your life in many ways. We habitually misunderstand the effects of new technology, overstating the potential harm and underestimating the benefits. We also tend not to spot the way in which problems created by one round of innovation are solved by the next.
Apps can change your life
As I write this article, for example, I am planting a tree. So long as I can retain my concentration for 25 minutes — not checking email, Twitter, Facebook or any other productivity-killing distraction — I gain a sylvan bonus. If my willpower fails me, the computer notices and the digital tree withers and dies. This is surprisingly effective. I know the tree does not really exist or matter but its death still highlights my lack of mental muscles, so its survival stiffens them. I got the idea from my undergraduate son who is swotting his way through Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. He plants a small forest every day. My teenage daughter, from a generation supposedly enslaved to Snapchat, has another app which builds houses overnight so long as she does not check her phone. She is now the steward of a small town.
Economics provides another counterweight to the destructive influence of technology.
A forthcoming book, The Calm Company, by two Chicago-based tech entrepreneurs, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, argues that as productivity declines as people get tired, overwork is not a sign of dedication but an act of corporate sabotage that employers and investors should discourage. In their own software business, Basecamp, working time is limited to 40 hours a week and 32 in the summer. It seems to work rather well.
These tricks are not panaceas. Some people will be unable to control their desire for electronic connectedness, just as some people are inveterate gamblers or pornography consumers. But we should not mistake the incidence of human weakness for a trend.
Technology can have ‘bad press’
New technology does raise some daunting political questions. Ubiquitous facial-recognition technology, for example, may destroy anonymity, which we have taken for granted ever since our ancestors started living in cities. Law-governed societies will deal with this one way, with regulations about how such data are collected, stored and mined. Totalitarian societies like China will use it uninhibitedly as a means of intensifying social control.
But human ingenuity has a habit of evolving to deal with the problems that innovation creates. In particular, the fears of job-killing technological change are as overblown now as they were in the days of the Luddites. Robots and software do make some jobs unnecessary, but they also make most of us more productive and more employable. The most boring bits of jobs disappear and we are left with the more interesting ones.
Technology: a case study
A recent case study in The Wall Street Journal provides a vivid example from the banking industry. The arrival of the cash machine in the early 1970s was supposed to decimate jobs. In fact the reverse has happened. The US now has 500,000 machines that spit out cash, accept bill payments and give bank statements. This frees up bank counter staff to concentrate on other, more profitable and useful activities. Their numbers have doubled over the same period.
We want to inspire everyone to engage more closely with the devices and electronics around them to benefit and inspire their lives! We are able to help you understand how to use your devices – just get in touch to find out more!