Being old enough to remember some of the forecasts made some 20 years ago, about the lifestyle enhancing ability of information technology, makes me smile to myself about how wrong they were.
Futurists back then were claiming that technology would advance to the point where it would do most of the work. People would only have to work for half a day because technology would do most of the jobs previously done manually. This would mean everyone could devote at least half of their time to recreational pursuits such as painting, poetry and music. Life would become a delightful balance of work and personal creativity. People would do more exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Really.
Fast forward to near the end of the first decade of the 21st century and see what technology has really done for our work-life balance. Technology such as mobile phones, the web and email have made it possible to work 24 hours a day, across many international time zones. Companies with offices across the planet routinely hold teleconferences with moderators being required to work at 3.00am to match other continents. Executives sleep with their Blackberries beside the pillow. People sitting two desks away from each other prefer to communicate via email, rather than speaking to each other. Overtime has gone the way of the dinosaurs you get to work for much longer hours, but its expected and not paid for anymore. Theres an old joke that says when you work for a law firm, your career advancement depends on your ability to stay at your desk until after the boss leaves which could be anytime late at night.
IT and globalization have certainly shrunk our world, but they have also stolen our time. Technology has become more than a tool its turning into a slave driver.
When it comes to exercise, the proliferation of computer games, video, television and movies means most people hardly do any. Children are become so overweight they are at risk of heart attack. They are now being diagnosed with diseases previously only every seen in elderly adults, because they spend hours slumped in front of video and television screens munching fast food that is constantly advertised to them. Video games are almost real. Will thumbs and fingers become the strongest muscles in the human body and our children evolve into digital screen slobs?
People happily establish second lives for themselves on the web, when they havent properly worked out what to do in their first life.
Call me jaundiced, but I believe that most of us me included have a long way to go before we tame the worlds enthusiasm for technology and reach a balance in our lives that allows a more holistic way of living.
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