Friday, August 14, 2009

Is Technology a Blessing Or a Curse?

Wednesday August 12th was ‘Information Overload Awareness Day.’

I had no idea there was such a thing as Information Overload Awareness Day. In fairness to its creator (or perhaps the word inventor is more appropriate here), Basex -- the self-proclaimed “authority on issues companies face as they enter the knowledge economy” -- this was the first Information Overload Awareness Day.

Ironically, I learned about it through the use of information technology. The event was held via a web conference, from 11 am to 4 pm. There were twelve sessions with sixteen speakers. That’s a lot of information… especially with no lunch break.

But even more ironic is the fact that we need an Information Overload Awareness Day.

My first big use of mobile technology was in the mid-90’s when I purchased a pager to make sure my kids were home safely from school. We had codes. ‘1111’ meant the oldest was home safely. Later on ‘2222’ meant child number two was home safely. That was enough information. If I was in a meeting between 2 and 3 pm. (in the days when we actually met in person), I could see that the kids were home and not worry for the next 3 hours. Incidentally, the code ‘9999’ meant emergency – thankfully that was only used once when my son forgot his keys.

In that same timeframe, I worked for a boss who would tell me “You need to leverage technology more.” Keep in mind that he was the type who was making business calls from his car, before it was illegal and trendy to do so. Every thirty seconds his line would drop and I’d have to wait 3-4 minutes before his assistant would call back and reconnect him.

I remember when technology was not just an enabler, but for many of us it meant freedom.

In those days I used every bit of technology I could. I was an avid user of instant messaging when it was first available. I was thrilled when I could work from home on a snow day using dial-up Internet. I didn’t care that we had to have two phone lines so I could be on a conference call at the same time.

But at some point, does this technology and the information delivered by it become too much?

Jonathan B. Spira sums it up really well in his Huffington Post article on 8/12 --

“How many times have you received an instant message or phone call asking "did you get the e-mail I just sent?" We act as if everything we are doing is both urgent and important; lending a false sense of importance to our mission that causes us to interrupt others with impunity. Clearly what we are doing is far more important and urgent than what others could possibly be doing.”

What do you think?

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