Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Illusion of freedom

We tell ourselves that technologies like the Internet, email, BlackBerry’s and mobile phones have given us more freedom. I believe that the situation is actually the reverse, that we have allowed technology to enslave us in a ways that we simply fail to even acknowledge now.

 

Don’t believe me? Well consider this situation and what would be the standard reaction (even more so in the current economic environment).

 

- You receive an email at home from you boss or a customer at 9.17pm on a week night.

 

what would be the most likely response do you think?

 

A. Ignore it.

B. Reply saying that you only deal with such matters during normal office hours.

C. Snap to attention and complete whatever the email asked.

 

I think most people would agree that in today’s environment option C. is going to be the likely course of action. Doesn’t that seem to indicate that the loss of boundaries between work and leisure? How has that happened? Because we have allowed technology to take control. We are no longer in control, we are no longer free to make our own choices. We ‘think’ we have more freedom but it is an illusion.

 

Here’s another analogy that I read recently. Imagine the reaction back in the mid 1950’s if you had tried to make an airline reservation and been told:

 

- You need to purchase a computer and set it up inside your house.

- You also need to pay for the electricity to run it.

- You also need to buy a printer, the ink to print and the paper that it uses.

- You now need to use the computer to do the work airline reservations people used to do since we don’t employ them anymore.

- Now, make your own reservations, print out your own ticket all on YOUR time.

 

Back in the 1950’s people would have thought this to be completely unbelievable while today we simply refer to it as ‘progress’! Isn’t the reality that you are now working for the airline to which you are also paying money?

 

So now you are working during the day, answering and attending to emails after hours (i.e. still working), then working for the airlines as well when do you get down time? How has you life been made better by technology if you are now effectively working from the moment you wake to the moment you fall asleep? How can you honesty say that technology like a Blackberry has improved the quality of your life? How can you say it has given you greater freedom? It hasn’t. It is all simply an illusion that we have allowed ourselves to believe.