The unofficial psychology blog from Paul Hutchings

Dude where’s my (flying) car… and my stress-free life?

I belong to a generation that was blatantly lied to… by Walt Disney, Tomorrow’s World, and all of those others who tried to convince us that the future would herald hi-tech devices purely designed for our comfort and pleasure. Flying cars would whisk us to work where we would board travelling walkways to deliver us to our desks, robots would do all of the heavy lifting, and other robots would await us at home with a martini and a cooked chicken dinner that it had whipped up whilst also cleaning everything in sight.
Of course, quite a few of these technological advances did occur, if not quite in the way we envisioned them – the gleaming space station from Arthur C. Clarke/Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001’ might, in reality, look like someone has stuck a few cargo containers together with gaffer tape, but at least it does exist. Similarly, things like the microwave and the vacuum cleaner have improved no end, even if you do have to do a fair bit of the work yourself.

The part that really seemed to go wrong was the idea that technology would make life easier. Why is it, then, that we are working more hours and feeling more stress? A lot of this seems to have come from the very technology that was supposed to make life oh so much easier. The communication tools that were supposd to make it easier for us all to stay in touch have made us… more contactable. By our bosses, our work colleagues, our students, our customers. The checking of emails or texts can make us work at all times of the day or night, in any location. With computers and internet access the office can go wherever we go, and so does the work. In essence, technology allowed our work to seep out of the office and into our homes; into the living room which was a bastion of relaxation and enjoyment; into the bedroom which was a haven of sleep (and other things). The technology became the source of stress because it doesn’t let us de-stress.

Instead of the technology delivering us to work in comfort, it allowed the work to come to us more easily. We didn’t necessarily get the payoff the other way though – I still haven’t got my flying car to get me to work quickly and easily.


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Categorised in: General Musings, Psychology

2 Responses »

  1. Awww Paul you sound like my father, he’s always lamenting the disappointment of the Arrival of the computer in the work place! I think part of the problem is that all of the people in ‘charge’ right now. As in making decisions about how technologies are used are not digital natives. I’m forever explaining how to attach a file to an email to people only a few years older than me. On the other hand my two year old daughter is fluent in iPad and can find peppa pig on you tube, and call grandad using skype. In thirty years when that generation is dictating how technology is used I wonder if they will be more willing to use those tools in a different way. On the other hand it could just be that not much has changed from industrial revolution days and squeezing the workers is still the priority…. Steam power to silicon power

  2. Hi Steve, sorry for the late reply but I’ve been otherwise engaged with being overseas and exam stuff.
    It could be that things will improve over time, but they may also change in just the same way that they do now – it might seem like Facebook will be around forever but it will probably be replaced by the next new thing, in just the same way that Facebook replaced the social networks that came before it. And so the new and old generations remain different.
    There is also something to the work side of it – the ability to work outside of work hours starts to become ingrained into people’s work ethic until people simply don’t notice the difference and take it for granted. This, of course, is highly beneficial to employers in the short term – whether it is good in the long run is another matter.

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