Living and growing up in Silicon Valley, I've seen the progression and advancement of technology into our everyday lives. After all, I grew up with both of my parents working for high-tech electronics firms, my dad being a master machinist and my mother an electronics assembler. All around me, electronics companies like Intel, AMD, and Hewlett Packard were all too common. Heck, I remember learning to ride a bike in the parking lot of National Semiconductor on a Saturday morning.
Nowadays, I see a preponderance of devices and gadgets being used by folks of all ages. More often than not, more than one device is being used by the same person; bluetooth headset in one ear, earbud from an iPod in the other ear, Blackberry in hand checking email, and a netbook on the table next to a tall latte.
So this got me thinking -- with all of this technology at our disposal, whether with a single device or with multiple devices, has life become better? Has the onset of technology given us the dream of Jetson's-like automation? Do we really have more time to relax and enjoy life because of technology?
Not by a long shot.
We are seeing technology devices that now seem to focus on multitasking; doing more things faster and in parallel to increase productivity, which in turn make us more efficient. This is the concept that drives manufacturing companies who seek to increase profits; if the economy prevents you from raising prices, then increase the amount of work that your employees get done within a given period of time. More gadgets shipped per hour, more lines of code validated per day. But when we take this concept of multitasking and efficiency out of the work environment and into our everyday lives, it feels like we lose sight of making life easier, instead making life a race to see how many things we can get done in a day. We are doing more in the same period of time, than we were just a few years ago. I'm typing this blog, monitoring some Ebay auctions, downloading software updates, and watching Alicia Keys on SNL, all at once -- and some would consider me a lightweight.
Along with the regular tasks we have to deal with every day, we now have additional technology-related tasks added to our routines. I notice today's technology devices require more and more attention - what I call "digital maintenance"; small, relatively minor actions that we perform to make our devices work for us. We plug in the chargers, unlock the keypads, connect the USB cords, push buttons to send laptops into sleep mode, and untangle a myriad of cables. Small tasks for sure, but when you have four or five devices to tend to, it begins to add up. How many of these micro-tasks do you have to deal with, every time you go out of the house, head to the mall, or attend a meeting? How much time do you spend with your gadgets, dealing with digital maintenance? On a recent vacation to Hawaii, I was surprised to learn that my hotel didn't offer wifi (oh, the disappointment). I had to physically attach a network cable between my laptop and the wall connection. Aside from the fact that I was still trying to use the internet while in paradise (a testament to my technology addiction), I really wasn't interested in dealing with all of the digital maintenance that comes with cables.
The next time you're out and about, take a minute and consider how much time you (and others around you) spend in your day tending to your devices. Personally, I don't feel like I have any extra time, nor does life feel more relaxing to me because of technology.
Rosie, where are my slippers?