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Are you using technology or being used?

I recently read an article which rang very true with me. It was an interview with John Cleese, talking about creativity.


He said: “The absolute killer of creativity is interruptions. You’ve got to get rid of those damn iPhones and open-plan offices….Young people know that technology is the way that life must go, and it’s such crap. Henry David Thoreau [the 19th Century US writer] said that technology is an improved means to an unimproved end. People start out thinking they are going to use technology and they end up being used by it.”

Have you found yourself in these situations?

  • The restaurant where couples don’t talk to each other, but surf and text
  • The London street where people crash into each other because they just can’t pull themselves away from their phones or Kindles
  • The office where people prefer to email neighbours, rather than speak to them
  • The wedding or funeral where the mobile rings….and people answer it

These may be simple examples, but anyone with teenagers must worry about the amount of time our next generation spend on “devices”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of the march of technology and the fantastic improvements it can make to our lives, but the jury must be out about the psychological outcomes of such attachments.

I am, however, concerned where the “advances” really don’t make sense. Isn’t it rather silly of us to keep inventing systems which remove people from the workforce? The promised leisure generation was always going to be crazy and we know how essential it is for people to work, to have a sense of value and contribution to society, to support themselves and their families.

I’ve written in my previous blogs about short-termism and an economic model built only on the next day’s / next week’s share price, which are perfect examples of poor thinking. Unless we allow people to starve, we do need to support our displaced fellow humans to some level – who knows what the next election will bring?

In a work setting, too, many of us are faced with information overload, largely enabled by improved technology. Are the stresses and strains worth it? In the era of “weightless world”, I believe that solid business relationships can only be based on trust, which in turn can only develop when people meet and get to know each other.

People often claim not to have the time any more – I heard recently of a senior executive who receives 300 emails a day, of which she could only deal with 30. This sounds very much like the “unimproved end” to which Thoreau was referring.

As ever, I welcome your views. Do you feel used by technology?


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