50 years ago, the World's Fair promised a life of leisure. We're still waiting


#1

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#2

It's a great big dangerous tomorrow
With a lot of pointy nasty things

It's a great big dangerous tomorrow
With all of the unpleasantness it brings


#3

It's true that technology has a cost, but often this is less the fault of technology in itself as the way our brains work (and the way we let technology exploit that). People still play meaningless online games and comment about stuff on blogs or Facebook that really don't matter, even when nobody's making them do it or they're actively being told not to. (There's nothing wrong with those things, but entire games like Farmville and Candy Crush Saga are bad around urgency, obligation and addiction and take up a lot of time despite being unnecessary, unproductive and not even relaxing in many cases).

There's less of a sense of time online and the Internet doesn't conform to your circadian rhythm, so you have to impose limits yourself. Take a day or evening away from the computer every week if possible. Set up an automatic reply system. Think about how valuable your major time sucks actually are when compared to other things you could be doing. There is a problem with overwork, but many times the opportunities to relax aren't being taken. If you are contacted about work out of hours, you can often challenge the assumption that you need to reply immediately. I don't want to deny that there's a huge potential for abuse, but often we don't help ourselves by allowing this kind of BS urgency to take over.


#4

So is the Internet being the Wild West a source of endless horror, or is it something we should fight to protect?

Or is it both?


#5

Fighting to protect today's endless horror for posterity! Are you doing your bit?


#6

So people were overworked before technology, and people are overworked after technology. But somehow the conclusion is that we aren't using the right technology, or we aren't using the technology in the right way.

Maybe technology has nothing to do with it. Maybe it's something more fundamental. Maybe the underlying economic system, or the whole idea of economics, intrinsically works against the idea of allowing the average schmuck to have an excess of leisure time.

This, of course, drifts dangerously into the idea of classism and hence we do not discuss it.


#7

The Carousel of Progress, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Whirling Teacups were my favorite things at DisneyWorld when I visited in 86 or 87. Really? The Whirling Teacups? Maybe the Haunted Mansion. I dunno. I spent more time in Epcot, to be honest. But I loved the Carousel of Progress. There was that hint of unfulfilled promise about it....

NB: not a response to @peter_milley. clicked the wrong button.


#8

"Like a stick in your eye
or a stone in your pie
It's the real world after all"

I wonder if the architects of the pictured GE pavilion (which apparently went on to become the "Carousel of Progress" in Disney World FLA) gave any credit to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Pictured: David Wright House, one of several spiral buildings designed by F.L. Wright


#9

GPS is systematically exterminating our sense of direction.

It's given me a sense of direction.

When I first started driving in 1990 I was making wrong turns in my hometown on a regular basis, and couldn't tell you whether the roads I was on went north-south or east-west. Having a GPS actually helps me learn these things so that, after a few trips with its assistance, I have a much better sense of where things are relative to other things and how to get there with or without GPS. And it gives me confidence that, if I do take a wrong turn and get lost, I can get back to familiar territory and turn it off again.

We are offloading some of our processes to devices that are better at it. How is that a bad thing? Does the author also believe calculators were a mistake, accounting should be done with an abacus and paper-and-pencil ledgers, and people with poor vision shouldn't wear corrective glasses?

“a world in which knowledge is limited only by one's curiosity / a virtual Wild West, where the masses indulge their darkest vices

It's both. Any predictions that it would be some kind of pure and innocent intellectual utopia were foolish and ignored history, basic human nature, and the predictions of several science fiction writers.

As far as technology enabling overwork: no. I work 8 hours Monday through Friday and I go home and it doesn't follow me. The only time I am contacted outside of work is by telephone, telling me I don't have to come in due to inclement weather.

The internet doesn't bring interruptions unless you let it. Twitter is entertainment, not a drop-everything emergency. Email can wait, that's one of its virtues.

The reason we have overwork and unemployment is not Snapchat or voicemail. It's capitalism. For good or ill, we can't ensure that everyone has what they need and then relax -- we have to make increasingly more things to be consumed or until the whole system falls apart. Leisure is not a virtue in our economic system, sadly.


#10

Arg, another "Technology is ruining your life" article.

My gripe with tech ain't the tech per se, but rather the way that capitalist interests intrinsically subvert the possibilities that everyone has an intuitive grasp of.

Take ebooks: the process should be:

1) Search for book
2) Click "read"
3) Start reading book

Every additional step inserted into the above direction set exists because someone, somewhere wanted to make money.

Revenge porn, identity theft, patent trolling, fraud, privacy violations, warrantless spying, unfair labor expectations, and on and on and on... They all share a very common denominator: the expectation of making more money (or protecting that right).

The bigger problem with the Internet is that it has allowed us to be our natural selves even more efficiently.


#11

"..waiting at the end of the day!" I remember the song quite well from the exhibit in '64. The "lifelike" and hokey presentation by the animatronic families in each time period settings were unforgettably cheesy, even in that pre-ironic era.

BTW-your phone has an OFF button--try it!


#12

I intentionally abuse this feature all the time. It drives the people I ride with nuts. But I like it because it means essentially risk-free exploration. I will happily trade an additional 30 seconds on my trip to see a new side street.

I also think the people in that UK study were tasked with driving in unfamiliar areas and told to follow the GPS. In that context, who is going to pay attention to trivial shit like flower shops?


#13

I concur that GPS has actually given me more freedom to explore, whether in a ca or on a hike. I can always, always get to my destination no matter if I wander off the trail or decide that this side street looks interesting and I have the time.

Smartphones didn't take away my weekend, they let me communicate more efficiently with friends and family when we're meeting up on weekends. There is literally no law that says you need to answer that work e-mail, and my concern with not waiting to respond on Monday is that we're going to turn it into a discussion and ruin the weekend for both of us.

Technology is not the enemy, it's in how you use it. People used to spend six hours a day tending the stove at home as a source of cooking. Now we flip a switch and turn a knob, but most people typically spend five of those hours now watching television. Does that mean TV's should be taken away because we're not always watching moon landings or Cosmos?


#14

The workforce productivity has increased drastically since 1964. Wages, not nearly as much. If the 1% would only be content with 1964 profits, we could probably be working two day work weeks. Or making much more money. Or both.


#15

I agree with you on the GPS. I use my GPSr on almost every trip, criticized by people who think that my reliance on the tool impedes from learning my way around... but they're wrong. I tried that in the years before GPS became available. I'm not going to develop a sense of direction by giving up my GPS any more than I'm going to learn how to see by giving up my glasses.

Regarding work, working from home is somewhere between 'discouraged' and 'illegal' (due confidentiality and security concerns) so we aren't pestered at home. But there's still a culture of overtime work and many of us are still at risk of losing our vacation time by the end of the year because we haven't had a chance to take it (and this is US vacation time). So I don't think technology is the cause of the problem, but it hasn't delivered utopia either.


#16

One way to do this: companies will assume that technology is a great benefit to you, then provide the technology and deduct the benefit (because they only pay you for the work, not productivity!). In the current environment, it's basically against corporate ethics to do otherwise: it's inefficient to 'waste' potential profit by allowing money to trickle down, although that process should be held up as the carrot for the workforce at the same time as it's being undermined.

You get the same thing with tax cuts, tax avoidance strategies or anything else. It's more than managers being greedy, it's the nature of the game. The system will actively promote corporate feudalism and punish sharing of wealth. Technology just makes that more efficient.

http://www.zdnet.com/uk/googles-schmidt-very-proud-of-tax-avoidance-scheme-7000008733/

In an interview reported by Bloomberg on Wednesday, Schmidt said the company was simply engaged in "capitalism".

"I am very proud of the structure that we set up. We did it based on the incentives that the governments offered us to operate," Schmidt said. "It's called capitalism. We are proudly capitalistic. I'm not confused about this."

The Independent also reported Schmidt as saying the company was only paying the British taxman what it had to.

"To go back to shareholders and say, 'We looked at 200 countries but felt sorry for those British people so we want to [pay them more]', there is probably some law against doing that,"


#17

But we did get a lot fatter, so at least that's something.


#18

My major beef with technology is that it so often fails to do what it says on the tin. Networks don't connect, printers don't print and phones don't sync. Important features are buried in sub-menus. Most of my complaints about technology stem from the fact that it hits the market before it is truly finished and then updates itself into oblivion. Rushed technology has added a great deal of unnecessary complexity to our existence. Here's a concept for you all to chew on as consumers: If something doesn't work within an hour of plugging it in, send it back. I don't care how technical you are -- you're doing somebody else's work and paying for the privilege. Don't do that: Send it Back.


#19

Yes, while I got out of a lot of hassle for things in my current server support role (get it built and make sure things are good then break fix can have the headache), the guys who do patching are a 6x24 team for the most part and the answer not more heads cause that cost more money or at least be less money for profit, but the problem of 60 hours of work/person is still that no matter how much you shuffle things around and that was a thing when I started out doing desktop support and actually got overtime and there was complaining about overtime costing the company, etc, but really the workload at the time was such that we had our regular shift of support full of stuff to do then the special project stuff in the evenings was OT and moving hours around meant that we were not there to do the things that needed done during the day. Then later on it just turns out that OT was cheaper than more workers and now I do the same work with a different name on the paycheck (yay outsourcing) and get no OT as I am properly salaried and now I just go oh look 5pm, quitting time most days, barring rush things that have short deadlines and then I am usually taking long lunches the next day.


#20

I think you've misidentified greed as capitalism.

A capitalist does not want to impede your process, because that lowers return on investment. The capitalist wants to put X amount of money in up front (i.e. "make a capital investment") and receive X+something in return (i.e. "make a capital gain"). He's an opportunist.

A greedy person does not care how much your process is buggered in order to continually, relentlessly extract the maximum amount of what's in your pocket and put it into his own. He's a sociopathic vampire.

You can certainly be a greedy capitalist (and today Americans hold that combination up as some sort of heroic virtue, worthy of awards from public coffers) but it's not actually necessary to be greedy in order to be a capitalist.