Your Design Pundit is feeling a bit crabby.
If you were of age when computers were coming available, you will recall that they were supposed to save so much time that we would be wondering what to do with madly-accumulating leisure time. Indeed, the flurry of idle time was seen as a sociological time bomb. Seriously.
A 1978 Time Magazine cover story asserted that “The computer revolution may make us wiser, healthier and even happier”. I remember well the consternation over surplus leisure time that was sure to overwhelm us, bringing with it massive social upheaval as we searched for ways to occupy ourselves. A huge new volunteer class was envisioned, among other solutions.
Has that happened? It hasn’t, has it? In fact, Americans work more hours now, for less money, than anytime in the past 40 years. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, ‘US productivity growth doubled from 2008 to 2009, then doubled again in 2010’. Real productivity has increased 300% since 1947, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while family income has increased about 121%.
Recent news reveals that had the minimum wage simply been inflation indexed, the hourly wage would be $10.67 per hour. Hello? Bloomberg reports that “after adjusting for inflation, the federal minimum wage dropped 20 percent from 1967 to 2010, even as the nominal figure climbed to $7.25 an hour from $1.40, a 418 percent gain.”
Instead of doing 40 hours’ work in 30, we now do 60 hours’ work in 40, but the paycheck is sinking or at best static.
More Work, Less Pay
What has actually happened is different, isn’t it? Technology has aided us in countless ways, yes, but has become an intrusive burden,too. Where is it written that no matter what I am doing I have to stop and answer the phone, at any time? True, caller ID could have minimized the issue, but instead of not taking that call from annoying Uncle Jack, now we can pick up the phone with a cheery “Hi Uncle Jack!”, an emblematic human behavior that indicates how we’ve internalized technology.
We are losing control of our lives at the behest of technology. Remember how television used to work? You would either plop into the la-z-boy and order the kids to find NBC, or you would walk up to the set, and turn it on, and wait for the picture to come up, and then adjust the rabbit ears, all the while worrying at the ‘wasted’ 60 seconds or so. The delay was driven for the most part by vacuum tube technology, but the invention of the silicon diode allowed these tubes to operate at partial voltage until desired. Why? Because somewhere in the human heart is the desire to be productive.
Anyway, everything now is solid state, which allows instant on without troubling electricity wastage.
“Did you get that email I sent you”? Is there any more annoying phrase in the English language? Other than the Four Most Dangerous Words (“We Need To Talk”)? If I had received your email, my friend, I would have responded, with the timeliness I judge appropriate, unless of course you forwarded the hundredth copy of delightful cat photos, in which case I mentally count the key strokes needed to reply in some withering, witty way, compared to simply reaching for the delete key and audible sigh. The delete key invariably wins.
Email is seen as a time saver, isn’t it? And it is, properly used. But the time saving aspect disappears if we have to talk about it. Doesn't it?
And now texting, which I admit to using. Why? Because your Design Pundit does not like to talk on the phone, that’s why. Ever. Even to Mrs. Design Pundit which predilection, he admits, leads to awkward situations and, sometimes, the dreaded Four Words. Texting is enormously freeing: ‘Running late be there at 4’. Perfect! No phone call, no ‘how are you’, and best of all, no interruptions.
Oh. And one more thing: Get off my lawn.