Technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society, and there’s no going back to the “good ol’ days.” We must take advantage of its usefulness instead of complaining about how it’s taking over our lives.
“Technology is bad. It must be stopped. It’s taking over our lives.” It is almost certain that you have been told this at least once in your life. The catch: Everyone that has told you this has used technology throughout their entire life, especially within the last 15 years.
The gap between human reality and digital reality is slowly closing, and there are millions who wish this not to happen, whether it be because they are afraid the AI will outsmart us, or that we will never be able to perform deep work again. I fully believe that if we embrace technology and use it to our advantage, that soon enough, there will be nothing that we cannot accomplish.
Technology is at the center of big businesses all across the United States. Whether employees are collaborating in open office areas, communicating quickly and efficiently with clients through instant messaging, or revealing much anticipated updates through their social media presence, the amount of productivity has exponentially increased. These are the three business trends explained by Cal Newport in chapter 2 of his book Deep Work, yet according to him, these are not positive trends, and create an environment of “shallow work” rather than one where deep work is encouraged. If we know for sure that deep work is much more valuable towards output production than these trends then why aren’t companies switching their formulas and making their employees explore deep work?
Because we don’t know for sure.
Newport writes about Tom Cochran, CTO of Atlantic Media, who performed an experiment to determine how much time and money was being spent sending and receiving emails. The result: Each email an employee interacted with, whether it was sent or received, was worth $0.95 of their salary (Deep Work, page 54). Cochran was able to quantify how much money was spent per email, but was unable to determine how much value was produced through each email in comparison to its detriment. The inability to statistically measure the amount of deep work compared to distraction is known as the “metric black hole,” a termed coined by Newport. He claims that “none of these [three trends] would survive long if it was clear that they were hurting the bottom line,” (Deep Work, page 56) such as long term success and profitability. If there were experimental proof that performing deep work can generate a significantly higher profit to a big tech corporation than the trendy behaviors mentioned above, only then would it be logical to switch methods. Even if it is not the answer for corporations, can it guide us out of our phone addiction and into a better lifestyle?
We touch our phone’s screen 2,617 times per day. The red notification button and the pull-to-refresh gesture are the most used features on any smartphone app. There is absolutely no doubt that we are addicted to our phones. And why not? Our phones hold our credit card information, our contacts, all of our email addresses and passwords, our access to 911, among so many other features that enhance our experience. Not everything our phone can do is beneficial though. It can distract us at the worst of times, and most people are led to believe that the tech companies designed it that way. Tristan Harris claims that our phone is a slot machine. He explains it like this: every time you check your phone, you roll the slot machine to see what you get. Sometimes you get a cool, exciting reward, and other times it’s nothing at all (Cooper). I would like to disagree with one difference: you can lose all of your money, your entire life’s savings, in one round of slots at the casino. If you check your phone once, no one notices, nothing happens, and life just keeps moving forward.
This is what we must realize: our phones are critical to our lives. We get anxious without them because we feel we’re going to miss something important. When I woke up today, I got a missed call from my mom and a text right after that read “please call me.” Later I got some sad news about my family. Imagine if she called me right after I put my phone away and started a four-hour deep work session. The work I would produce would turn out phenomenal, but at what cost? My lack of connection would cause my mom to be worried about me for most of her day. This is not just a personal matter, either. Humans all over the world are programmed towards connection: to create connection, to grow our connections and to collaborate with our connections. In a TED Talk by Jordan Nguyen, “at the core of humanity is empathy and connection.” We need to keep ourselves connected, especially in this growing age of technological integration within our lives. Jordan is an advocate for positive technological evolution, and displayed a prototype VR headset that enabled him to enter the same space as a digital version of his former self. His mission behind this is to allow families to reunite with loved ones who have passed away through virtual and augmented reality.
Technology does not have to be addictive. It can help us. Companies such as Apple and Fitbit have incorporated gamification features into workout apps to encourage us to stay in shape rather than spend money. Technology can launch us into unforeseen levels of human possibility. If enough people who are passionate towards changing the world get together and perform deep work integrated with technology, who knows what our limit can be. Works Cited
- Cooper, Anderson. “What Is ‘Brain Hacking’? Tech Insiders on Why You Should Care.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 9 Apr. 2017
- Duke, Christian, Adrian Ward, Ayelet Gneezy, and Maarten Bos. “Having your smartphonenearby takes a toll on your thinking.” HBR, 20 Sept. 2018
- Newport, Cal. Deep Work. New York, Grand Central Publishing, 2016.
- “Technology Is Reinventing Humanity | Jordan Nguyen | TEDxSydney.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDxTalks. 15 Jun, 2016.