Is Technology a Bad Thing?


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Technology is a sexy beast isn’t it? The seduction of an easier way of doing things makes everything righteous. But is technology our friend or has it doomed us to a future of haves and have not’s… a future of no jobs?

In Nicholas Carr’s book, The Big Switch, the current state of technology is compared to the state of electricity prior to it becoming a utility. In those days, if you produced something or had a factory, chances are you were located on a river – or somewhere you could harness power (electricity).

Not only that, but you had to have a competency around electricity; companies differentiated themselves in part based on their electrical systems. Today, many companies differentiate themselves based on their technical systems, their processing and workflow… IT departments today are very similar to company’s electrical departments from 100 years ago.

Once electricity became a utility, manufacturers no longer needed all those electricity geniuses and they simply would plug-in for juice. The same could be true for technology as it shifts to the cloud – as technology becomes a utility.

As these shifts happen, many jobs vanish… just as automation and improvements in technology have eliminated millions of jobs over the years (remember blacksmiths?).

But, is technology a bad thing? Technology, to me, is nothing more than a better way of doing things. If you discover a new route to work, that is an improved process, isn’t it?

As human beings, we have an innate desire for greater expression and expansion – it’s at the core of life… the quest to live, survive and thrive. That’s who we are… so we’ll never stop the technology train as it’s in our DNA to continue to improve life.

But, is technology a bad thing? I once heard an analogy that I thought made perfect sense. Let’s say there’s an island of ten people and each day three of them go off fishing; those three sustain the island with food by casting their fishing lines into the ocean. Then one day, one of the three fishermen invents a fishing net. Now, that one fisherman is capable of providing enough fish for the entire island.

What happened? Well, two of them just lost their jobs. But is that a bad thing? Aren’t these two people now freed up to go and create something else of value for the island… perhaps music or art.

The answer is how the island will support these two displaced workers while they are in transition from fisherman to artist, or whatever their next destiny becomes. If the island-people simply turn their backs on the two, do you really expect the two to rediscover their next step overnight? If they don’t transition quickly, will poverty lead to crime and degrade the entire island’s quality of life?

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In ideal worlds, the island as a society needs to support these two displaced workers while they transition to their next career. I’m not talking welfare; I’m talking support mechanisms like jobs training, education and other aspects of skill development that will aid their transition to the new industry.

Technology displaces workers. There’s no question about that. Technology is affecting change at greater rates than ever before…. And jobs continue to vanish. But don’t blame things on technology. Technology is about a better way of doing things.

The answer, to me, lies in adaptability (another core facet of life) and embracing change.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kevin Graham
Kevin Graham is an author, speaker and expert on empowerment, sales and leadership. As managing director of Empowered Sales Training, Kevin works with organizations to empower sales success. Formerly, Kevin was a top performing sales executive in the ultra competitive technology sector. He's qualified for President's Club status in three Fortune 500 companies, carried the Olympic Torch and played in a national championship.


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