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.