Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

27 May 2014

There’s no doubt about it: technology is great. I can talk to several members of my family anywhere in the world – and at the same time. I can see my mum, who lives across the Atlantic, instantly (and in a resolution that is almost better than reality itself). Plus, we can all agree that ordering your take-away with clicks is just easier than rambling over the phone to an impatient waitress.

Our recent technological strides are truly amazing – but I just wonder if we know where we are going. The initial point of tech innovations came down to efficiency: to save us time on those mundane tasks such as going to the post office or supermarket to be able to invest in quality activities such as being outdoors, spending time with the kids and playing music or sport.

There seems, however, to be a relentless, and irrational push to save yet more time. We don’t seem to realise that the precious minutes we do shave off are often just wasted in the virtual world.

There are two reasons to worry about this. Firstly, the way I see it, things like online shopping don’t need to be any easier than they already are. Why do we want to spend just one minute on something (through texting, in this instance) that only takes two anyway? What’s the rush?

Secondly, most of that supposedly saved time is spent browsing other quick and easy purchases or trawling through other people’s lives on social media. The saying “Time is money” used to be about saving our hard-earned cash; now more time just makes us bigger spenders.

There is a widely held expectation that technology will get ever better. My fear is that it is too easy to forget the advantages we already enjoy and wind up in a cycle where we want things better and faster for no real reason. Everyone needs to take a step back and remind themselves what all these astounding inventions are here for: to aid us, not to stress us; to make things more efficient so we can live better and have the quality time to do so.

Admittedly, I am something of an outsider to this world – I’m not on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Nevertheless, it has become increasingly clear to me that some of the key aims of new technology have backfired: as it becomes more efficient, I fear we are becoming less so.

Gaia Lutz is a researcher for Monocle 24.

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