Saving Time and Labour with Technology

Saving Time and Labour with Technology


by Peter Stuart

I just love this Post-Modern world we live in: The other day at work here in Quebec City, our computer server crashed and we were, for all intents and purposes, screwed. This much-ballyhooed technological solution which was supposed to protect all of our data and information from harm and overall human ineptitude had developed some sort of techno-glitch of its own, and now we could not type letters, access files, send or receive messages, or much of anything else. We were completely at the mercy of this technology and its human-designed flaws.

This brought to my mind some reflections of just how dependent we’ve become on machines, and just to what extent they’ve made our lives more complicated and frustrating, as opposed to simplifying them, as we were originally told they were going to.

As it stands now, I feel that myself personally, today, compared to when I was a child growing up in the 1960s and 70s, as well as many of my peers,  find myself far more pressed for time and in a state of impatience than I ever was growing up. It would appear that as every new device comes out that is supposed to make us get our desired outcomes faster, the faster our expectations of the outcomes in question become, to the point whereby we’ve begun to outstrip even the most time-honoured concepts of space-time constraints which leads us to expect a desired outcome almost instantaneously as soon as we press a button, or click on a mouse button.

I even find myself getting upset with my computer when I click on an icon and the machine doesn’t process my request fast enough for my liking and I begin to wonder if the stupid thing understood what I told it to do. So I click again and again, until the darn thing has a brain fart and freezes on me and I end up no further advanced than I was before.

Same goes for when I heat up my food in the microwave. God, three and a half minutes now seem to be an eternity for poor me who’s starving and wants to chow down NOW, and satisfy my hankering for nourishment. I can remember quite vividly in the 1970s when microwaves didn’t exist, and my mother still had her 1950s era Frigidaire stove, in Sillery, with the burners that took forever to heat up. I’d reheat some of Mom’s delicious homemade stew for lunch on a Saturday, and would actually have to heat it up in a pot, and would have to make a point of cutting the big pieces of potato into smaller chunks so that they would heat up in a decent amount of time. Somehow, I always got through it, though, and ended up sitting down to a nice hot meal. Or if I were at school or work, my stew would be kept warm in a Thermos. Remember those? They kept your meal nice and hot, and you didn’t have to wait in line in the staff lounge to heat up your meal in a plastic container with a splash guard on it that apparently gives you cancer because the plastic container melts and mixes in with the fat globules in your food and makes you die prematurely! (Isn’t technology marvellous? I just feel all warm and fuzzy inside already. Must be the fat globules mixed in with the plastic zapped by the microwave radiation…)

It just seems that the more time and  labour-saving devices that we invent to ‘simplify’ our lives, the more complicated our lives get, the less time we have to spend doing things we really want to do, and the more labour we seem to put out on satisfying the imperatives of these devices’ never-ending demands for us to process ‘inputs’ into them, in the form of figuring out how they work, fixing them when they don’t, and generally obliging their every technical/procedural whim before they will deign to produce an ‘output’ or outcome for us.

And people still ask me why I collect books and have a separate writing desk where I actually write letters with a pen and paper: The book won’t ‘crash’ on me, or tell me I’ve committed a ‘fatal error’, I can just pass the book to anyone I want to without having to compress or reformat it in some sort of PDF, RTF, or Windows or Mac-compatible file format, and I can sit anywhere I want to and write a letter without worrying about finding a WI-FI connection, logging on to the service, getting a user name and password, lugging an I Pad or lap top around with me that I’m afraid I’m going to drop or get stolen, and so on.

I believe in penmanship, and actually being able to write legibly, which seems to be an increasingly lost art in these days of instant text messaging, and all manner of twits tweeting all over the place. So long live low-tech old school antediluvian dinosaurs such as myself. I’m more than willing to blow my own horn and to have my ideas propagated in this mad mad Post Modern world of techno-overloaded overlords.

Bring on the Robots. Watson, whoever. I don’t care if he’s made in Bromont, QC, or Timbuktu: Can he appreciate Mom’s homemade stew, and be willing to stand there by the old stove and chop up the big chunks of potato into little chunks? Will he ever have the spiritual ability to appreciate such a Zen moment on a Saturday afternoon in February in Québec City, much less be privy to the wondrous olfactory sensations which pique his sense of anticipation of sitting down in a sun-filled dining room and regaling himself with some of the best home cooking in this world, whilst eating off a snazzy 1970s vinyl floral print table cloth with his brothers and sister and parents all around in a scene of perfect domestic tranquility?

I think not. I think I’ll save time and labour in other ways, and do without so much technology. After all, technology has now advanced so far that it now has the ability to move so fast to be able to control us. Should we therefore not be all the more aware, ready, willing and able to use our God-given free will to control it and take back what is truly our own: Our liberty?
Article: Peter Stuart

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