March 17th, 2008 - by Golgotha

How great are the technological advancements of today?

  • I work for a company is San Francisco and live in Colorado.
  • I run a blog with people in Belgium and England.
  • We can hold conversations with people in Tokyo, Melbourne, London and San Francisco simultaneously.
  • Using RAD software we are able to write, debug and deploy software in a fraction of the time it took just a handful of years ago.

Ah, these are truly wonderful times we live in…Or are they?

According to a study by The United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO) US workers are putting in more hours than anyone else in the industrialized world. ILO statistics show that the average American worked nearly 2,000 hours in 1997 — up from 1,942 hours in 1990, the equivalent of almost two working weeks more than their counterparts in Japan.

WHAT? HOW CAN THIS BE? What about all the technology? Isn’t the whole point of technology supposed to make our lives easier?

Since the beginning of time we invented technology for one purpose and one purpose only: to make our lives easier.

Take the plough (American spelling: plow) as an example. The plow is a tool used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting. It has been a basic instrument for most of recorded history, and represents one of the major advances in agriculture. The plow has changed greatly throughout time, becoming more and more advanced with each iteration, but it’s function is the same – help make our lives easier.

So why are we working longer hours? The whole thing seems counter-productive. Shouldn’t better technology mean less hours working and more time spent doing the things we actually want to do?

Maybe the Amish have it right after all? Why continue to make technological improvements if the payoff isn’t more free time?

I can’t help but laugh at my neighbor each time it snows. I’m out there shoveling my driveway the old fashioned way — with a shovel; and there he is with his snow-blower. The thing is he also has a health club membership to 24 Hour Fitness! Do you see it? Put away the snow-blower and get your Lose Weight Exercise done while removing the snow…

I suppose this post is just a rant, but sometimes it’s enough to make you want to chuck it all and rome the Earth like Kwai Chang Caine. We need to slow down and remove the phones from our ears, which have become an almost permanent limb, and enjoy life. It’s too short and you never get the time back. Stop working it away and go to the park with your family.

10 Responses to “Technology – What’s it Good For?”

1 Jon

People now do less physical work because of technology, but desk based work doesn’t reduce in the same way.

As soon as we find a quick way of doing things, we find more things to do to make up the time.

2 Golgotha

@Jon –

“As soon as we find a quick way of doing things, we find more things to do to make up the time.”

Exactly, then what’s the point?

I suppose it’s just not possible to say to the boss, hey I got my job done in 2 hours today so I’m going to go get 18 holes in, catch you later…

3 Kyle Z

I own a software company that makes software for health clubs. I agree with your blog. There is too much technology and not enough enjoyment of life. Technology can be a good thing, but most of time, people lose focus and continue to work harder with any free time the technology frees-up… I get this, and yet I am guilty of it too from time to time. Alas, there is no technological shortcut on learning life’s lessons.

4 Jack @ The Tech Teapot

Personally I think we’re in a weird transitionary period in which the people before us and the ones coming after us would think us mad.

When we’re fully robotised and software gets a bit more smarts then maybe we’ll start to get some time freed up to enjoy ourselves…til then we’re stuck doing loads of boring drudgery.

My suspicion is that our pre-industrialisation ancestors had loads more free time than we do. All they did was get their day’s food and they were done.

5 Golgotha

@Jack –

“Personally I think we’re in a weird transitionary period in which the people before us and the ones coming after us would think us mad.”

Well I hope you’re right about that. That would mean that the people after us recognized the problem that we have – which is a never ending ferris wheel that seems to just get faster-and-faster and we can’t get off. Some generation is going to have to say enough.

I read in a book (I think it was “The Culture of Make Believe”) that we work harder today than at any other point in history… Not necessarily as individuals, but as a culture…

6 John

Tell your snow-blowing neighbour that he’s not only not getting exercise but he’s contributing to global warming / the energy crisis by using something that could just as easily be done manually.

7 Franca Richard

Tech is everything ! 🙂 I m a Soho as well.

8 Alvin Nyau

We should be glad to be born in this century. Our life is really much more easier if compare to those who hunting foods by themselve in the jungle very long time ago…

9 Jayson

Are less people working? I’m not sure how we work more – I’m thinking that people are working more but are less productive because they’re instant messaging or building their MySpace pages. Does seem silly that we’re so advanced yet so busy..

10 Golgotha

@Jayson – More people are working because of 2 parent incomes.

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