Sunday, June 6, 2010

Technologies & false economies

Do you wonder about the nature of technology as it affects our lifestyle in work? Much ado is made of the labor saving devices like cars, cell phones, computers and other tools which allow us to connect, create and manage not only our lives, but those of others as well. Is it really all that great?

"U.S. labor statistics show that while aggregate output in the banking industry increased from $281,105 to $408,218 million, or by 45%, in real terms between 1992 and 2002, banking employment remained within the range of 3,151 to 3,313 million labor hours in the same period. In other words, the average number of labor hours per dollar of banking output fell by more than 30% within this period (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2005). A similar phenomenon happened in the UK: whereas total outstanding consumer loans increased by 195% between 1992 and 2002, total employment in the banking and finance industry increased by only 39% in the same period (Office for National Statistics 2005). There are two commonly cited explanations for the contraction in banking employment: banking consolidation caused by the deregulation of interstate expansion and the emergence of labor-saving technologies." - (excerpted from AllBusiness a D&B division)

So we have more work being done by fewer people. On the surface, a good thing. Yet, I doubt those people were being paid huge premiums for the quantity of work. Seth Godin, in his book Linchpin, writes a great deal about the change of the human workforce in the factory economy. Many of the things we now own make it easier simply for us to work. At the same time, one of the leading leisure activities is shopping - the acquisition of more "stuff."

Do we need more? Shouldn't we look more to create both greater art / creativity in our work product and be tied down to the "factory" of a process less?

The car lets us run errands, it also obligates us to a variety of departures from our home and office. Our phone has become a tether - no longer simply a device to send or receive calls, it has become a social lifeline. With the advent of the Facebook & Twitter era, our most mundane behavior has become an exhibitionist impulse which must be satisfied. We foursquare, post and tweet about the greatest inane mundanities of life. Has this technology made us more effective or simply more dependent on it and the other "stuff" of our lives?

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