Jennifer DeLeo is the associate editor of PC Magazine
over tHe years, people have treated technology like a family mem-
ber: coddling it, caring for it, protecting it. there’s nothing wrong with
that, because technology has bettered our lives. many activities—such as
writing a letter, booking a vacation, doing research—can be performed
either digitally or online, saving time and, in many cases, money.
take e-mail, for example. messages can be sent instantaneously. you
can add multiple recipients to these e-mails, so that you don’t have to write the same message
10 times. Communicating through e-mail is nonintrusive, and is quicker and easier than
picking up the phone.
there are online alert and reminder services, such as remember the milk (
themilk.com) and google Calendar (
calendar.google.com), that will automatically remind you
of what needs to be done every day. who wouldn’t want a personal digital assistant to help you
organize and stay on top of your daily life?
trips to the grocery store are now replaced by online grocer services such as Freshdirect
www.freshdirect.com) and Peapod (
www.peapod.com). thanks to a few mouse clicks, you never
have to leave home to stock the refrigerator; the groceries on your list can be delivered right
to your door. that leaves extra time to do other things around the house and get more stolen
moments with the ones you love. that’s a huge incentive in my book.
some would argue that watching tv is a waste of time, but not if you own a digital video
recorder (dvr). with it, you can pause, rewind and fast-forward your favorite shows (and
bypass those long commercials). Forget rushing home to catch American Idol, when you can
simply record it when you’re not at home and watch it when you have some downtime.
and you don’t have to worry about getting lost anymore when there are gPs devices that
map out the route, tell you where to turn next and even inform you if there’s traffic ahead.
that means no more wasting time trying to read a map, or getting wrong directions from the
gas station attendant. gPs devices help you get to your destination safely and on time.
technology was put on this earth to improve our lives. It can be frustrating, but when you
look at the big picture, technology is an innovation that will continue to benefit everyone. C
from an expert in the field:
Lowell Monke is associate professor of education at Ohio’s
Wittenberg University, and has published articles challenging
the value of technology in education.
HIgH-teCH gadgets save time for particular tasks. But if you
want to know if they add time to your life, you need to also examine the
indirect consequences, such as:
How much time do you have to spend retraining, upgrading, trou-
bleshooting, etc.—all the time-consuming activities necessary to keep
these gadgets running and yourself capable of running them? How many frustrating phone-
support sessions does it take to eat up the bits of time these devices save?
How many extra hours do you have to work to pay for these expensive gadgets and all the
service fees, repairs and upgrades that go with them? If people threw all of their timesaving
gadgets away, many would save enough money to spend a week at the beach.
you might also want to ask what these devices save time for? sure, I can save time sending
e-mails to my colleagues, but all of that time is gobbled up sifting through scores of worthless
e-mail I get in return. I can save time leaving messages from my cellphone at the airport, but
if that means I spend all evening responding to text messages at home, am I really freeing up
time in my life? there is a reason these devices have been called time sinks.
and then there is the issue of who benefits from the timesaving. school administrators
were cool toward computers until they discovered that networked computers allowed them
to pass off data-entry responsibilities to teachers. Likewise, high-tech phone companies save
time and labor by wasting people’s time dealing with their labyrinthine automated answering
systems. stores that no longer hire enough checkout personnel now offer customers the time-
saving option of doing the work themselves. we always need to consider whose time is saved
by these devices and who pays for it with theirs.
when I lived in ecuador, no one worried about not having enough time. why is it that only
in high-tech cultures is there a scarcity of time? It’s fine to prefer the more frenetic pace of our
high-tech society, but it is simply wrong to believe that all of our gadgets give us more free time.
Finally, here is the obvious question for all of you timesaving gadget lovers: why, if these
gadgets save you so much time, do you feel compelled to be on them all of the time? C
MAY DEBATE RESULTS:
Should government regulate
for air travel?
Percentage reflects votes
received by May 8, 2009.
APRIL DEBATE RESULTS:
Should we remove the income tax on
unemployment insurance benefits?
YES: 74% NO: 26%
Percentage reflects votes received by
April 30, 2009. Results may reflect
Debate being picked up by blogs.
Opinions expressed are those of the
individuals or organizations represented
and are presented to foster discussion.
Costco and The Costco Connection take
no position on any Debate topic.