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BLOG: Looking Backwards into the Future

AvantiKumar | Jan. 4, 2012
The dilemma of shrinking time that technology was supposed to help us solve.

AvantiKumar, Editor, Computerworld Malaysia & Malaysia Country Correspondent for Fairfax Tech Channels

When flicking through Time magazine, actually I delved into its archives from 24 April 1989, I was intrigued by a report of how technology was expected to deliver more free time that could be put to fruitful use every day. The article harked even further back to a 1967 US Senate subcommittee, which said that by 1985 "people could be working just 22 hours per week or 27 weeks a year and could even retire at 38."  The subcommittee went on to ponder how we would face "the challenge of using all the extra leisure time."

In 1989, the computers were byting, said Time, the satellites were spinning, just as expected and yet a Harris survey showed that the amount of average leisure time enjoyed by the average American in 1989 has shrunk 39 percent since 1973. In the same period, the average working week including commuting has increased from about 41 hours to nearly 47. In some areas, the working week has stretched to more than 80 hours a week.

Well that somewhat depressing realisation occurred about 22 years ago, and the situation has only worsened, especially for our part of the world. Technology makes us work longer, harder but not very much smarter. The enhanced quality of life that ICT seemed to offer seems to be disappearing as we go deeper into 2012.

Recent opinions point to another tough 12 months ahead: recently, some ICT leaders confessed to me over lunch that in an ideal world, Asia would be far less susceptible to the ebb and flow of economic frailties of 'the West'. "The positive signs are there that domestic demand in local markets could augur some level of useful independence from the less desirable aspects of Western finance troubles." Currency issues, when trading around the world, add to a complex, tangled web. One lives in hope.

Let's turn back to the dilemma of 'shrinking time.' I believe this perception has more to do with human rather than technology factors: perhaps we need to be given training -- a kind of inner technology -- on how to secure and fruitfully use all this extra leisure time apparently coming to us as a benefit of a technology-driven society?

- AvantiKumar, Editor, Computerworld Malaysia & Malaysia Country Correspondent for Fairfax Tech Channels


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