Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Technological Change–Above and below the water line

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

In the final instalment of our systemic view of the changes that surround us we com to the area we talk most about, but perhaps understand the least – how technology has changed around us.

When I started my career (and I suspect it is the same for many of you), the only place I would see a personal computer was in a place of work or a place of study. Think about how different that world is now. We are surrounded by technology, much of it has become so pervasive to our everyday lives that it has started to become invisible.

When was the last time you thought about how the internal combustion engine actually works? Apart from a few petrol heads which are undoubtedly reading this, what do you do when you get in your car? Do you sit and think, <nerd voice> well, turning this key activates the fuel pump which even as I sit here is preparing the correct amount of fuel to be compressed in the cylinders and ignited at precisely the right moment, the resulting explosion creating sufficient force to drive a powertrain supplying the correct amount of longitudinal force to each of the driving wheels </nerd voice>. Of course you don’t, you get in turn the key and crack on with getting to your destination.

TechChangesmIT is becoming no different. Although the way in which we use it becomes increasingly sophisticated, we care less (or we should care less) about the specifics of what makes it work. This is a good thing. In my book, a minute spent thinking about the tool is a minute wasted as it should have been spent thinking about the task.

I like to think of it as a water line that we continue to push up as we are able to effectively “commoditise” the core elements of technology. Above the water we see the graceful, pretty technology that helps us be productive. Below the water, we know there is a complex eco-system that drives it, but we don’t necessarily need to understand every intricacy of what makes it work.

Increasingly, understanding and using this commoditisation will be the difference between success and failure.

Is technology always good?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I just read an interesting piece of research about the future of work life balance and our work habits in general. As I was reading I wondered what work must have been like 30-40 years ago, without all the technology we have today. As I have grown up in a world where computers and the internet is pervasive I really couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to write reports and documents with pen and paper. The thought of not being able to communicate through IM, mobile phones, email and even Facebook is just unthinkable.

These thoughts entered my brain again a few days ago but from a different angle. It was 11 o’clock at night and I was responding to a bunch of urgent emails when I suddenly thought that if I didn’t have the technology I wouldn’t feel the need to write emails late at night. The ability to “always be connected” has increased our expectations around work but also socially. I often feel that my friends expect me to respond (rapidly) to their messages, comments, tweets and pictures online. If you don’t respond online people will try your mobile phone. Too often I feel like there isn’t enough time to manage it all but I guess that it all becomes part of a routine that you don’t think much about.

computer-hooked8The amount of unpaid work hours has soared over the past decade and the amount of time we spend with our families has decreased. It is clear that technology  has imposed new burdens on families and individuals and there aren’t many signs of improvement. The big winners are of course the companies we work for, as we can now work from anywhere at any time. Work and private life are becoming increasingly integrated but it seems like work is eating away at life at a rapid pace.

I not right to put all the blame on technological advancements but it is of course part of the problem. It is also important for us to remind ourselves that no matter how much technology moves forward, human beings still have rationale and ability to make their own decision on what is right or wrong, that is something technology can’t replace. Employees and employers will need to take more responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t spiral out of control because that is where we are heading. A glance at government statistics shows that “over-work” is one of the primary causes of growing ill health, both physically and mentally.

These thoughts made me think a bit differently about technology and maybe technological advancements aren’t always positive. The ability to “always be connected” has definitely eaten in to the amount of time people spend together but does the buck stop with us or is technology the one to blame?  Or maybe it’s just that our economy has become more demanding?