September, 2009 Results

Is Technology Making a Difference?

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Is technology really making a difference?

Of course we all love our iPods and Blu-Ray players and doing research before Google came along was slow, often times requiring you to get in your car and go to a library. Anybody remember using library tools such as card catalogs and Microfiche to perform research? Now we can do it from our beds, simply by entering a few words into our mobile device and get instantaneous results; fantastic, no doubt.

Today’s cell phones look like something out of Star Trek. Actually, they look better and have more options.

We truly live in marvelous times. But, what does it all add up to? Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, more productive and in some areas eliminate work altogether. And for the most part I think we can say it’s worked. So how come I, like you, still work forty plus hour work weeks? In fact, since World War 2 the number of hours worked per week has grown. In her recent book, “Willing Slaves – How the Overwork Culture is Ruling our Lives“, Madeleine Bunting states that from 1977 to 1997 Americans working full time have increased their average working hours from 43.6 hours to 47.1 hours each week. (This does not include time required to travel to and from their places of business).[1] How can this be? In addition to working longer hours, many families have both family members working. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics states that between 1950 and 2000 the number of individuals in the active labor force grew 227 percent from 62 million to 141 million.[2]

The whole goal of a software developer is to make someone’s life easier. If we’re successful our software or device will allow a user to be more proficient, saving them time and allowing them to get more work done. But does it really matter if the user is now able to get their work done faster if the end result is still working forty hours? What does it matter if you can get twice the amount of work done? Forty hours is forty hours. I’m sure that by increasing the amount of work we are able to get done each day that someone benefits, someone higher up, but it isn’t you and it isn’t me.

It seems like life just keeps moving at an ever accelerated pace. Like a merry-go-round that started off slow and built up speed. Perhaps it’s moving so fast now that we can’t jump off? Or maybe we still don’t feel we need to jump off?

Author Daniel Quinn in his book Ishmael gives us a parable that may explain what has happened. It’s certainly interesting.

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