Tech Slaves

Earlier this month I was at the Dev Connections conference in Orlando. One of my most intriguing experiences was seeing a contrast between two of the speakers (sorry, I don’t remember which ones – call them A and B). Speaker A was showing off his latest and greatest combination cel phone – email – multimedia – camera – browser – toenail clipper device. He was describing how it allowed him to make use of every bit of “dead time” for answering Email and keeping in constant contact with work. Speaker B also had a nice phone, but she described how she only checked Email a couple of times a day – that because it made it easier to stay focused on work and concentrate.

The fact that software developers need quiet time to concentrate is undeniable – I think that’s the reason many of us work at night – there are fewer distractions. But what really interested me here was the contrast between the realtionship these two speakers have with their technology.

I love tech toys as much as most anyone, but I’ve become more and more aware of the degree to which the technology owns us, and the demands it places on our time. Cel phones give us connectivity, but also have the power to interrupt our lives multiple times each day. Windows is a powerful OS, but how many hours of my life have I spent installing, updating and configuring it? Frankly, I’d rather not think about it.

Of course, there’s nothing new about this. From cars to homes, we work as hard to keep and maintain them as they do to shelter and transport us. But somehow tech seems more invasive. And where homes and cars have a primary claim on our cash, tech seems to demand time. Time to learn, time to maintain and time to use.

One thing I bet we have in common – we don’t have enough time to learn and do all we want. Obviously, when you’re in the tech business, tech command a great deal of your time. But one can’t help but wonder – are all those extra gadgets really saving time? Or are they actually stealing it?

One Response to “Tech Slaves”

  1. Ralf Says:

    Heh. On my desk I have roughly $9K in consumer-grade workstation gear (quad-processor Intel box, monitors, etc).

    In my pocket I have a cheapie cell phone, the “free” one that came with my plan. I haven’t even bothered to program the voicemail or phonebook, because I’ll probably lose the durn thing or immerse it in coffee accidently within the next year.

    People bitch at me because I don’t “do” voice mail, but when my phone rings I answer it. When I don’t, it means I am asleep, eating, communing with my wife and family, or coding. Once people figure it out, they’re okay with it. I’m weird by their standards, but the vmail is probably the least of it.

    Anyway, your observation about technology owning us is dead on. I tell myself all these toys are really tools of the trade, and in most cases they are, but I can easily see it becoming a fetish if left unchecked.

    And don’t EVEN get me started on the empty-gaze bluetooth borgs yammering into their phones while driving, shopping, eating… *brrrr*

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated - allow 24-48 hours for your comment to appear.