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Technology is making life simpler and allowing people more time for other things. But, do people know what to do with that time?

This is a perennial question around Technology and science advancement. Are we making people dull? Do they really know what to do with the time that technology provides? Where is the society movement to bring purpose into the lives of people who suddenly have free time to think about this thanks to technology?

I haven't found an answer to this question. Particularly to how we as technology providers can at the same time give a complimentary course of action for the free time and enhance the overall quality of life, not only with simplicity and time provision but also with a higher purpose for the newly found space to be filled.

I think without solving this technology is a one way street not a dialogue that might leave people and society at large to hollow to design its own next best form in the future.

Thanks for your contribution to solve this little puzzle in my head!

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    Aug 16 2012: One facet of technology, which allows us to get more done in less time seems to lead to our use of another facet of technology, which allows us to get less done in more time. This happens in a couple of ways:

    1. We use technologies to keep us tied to our work environments longer and more intimately, which keeps us from necessary re-energizing activities and reduces our productivity over time. We actually use what would have been discretionary time to do more work.

    2. We use technologies to socialize or put our minds in neutral during our discretionary time. My initial thought was to say we waste the precious gift of time through this use of technology, but I have been swayed by Lejan's argument. Is filling our time with more work or otherwise productive activities actually a good use of all discretionary time? Is our time previously used to perform one set of activities replaced by technology now being used in ways that drain us and make us less balanced?

    I think I'm leaving this discussion with more questions than answers, but it definitely has made me think in terms of the value I place on activities that may not be overtly productive.
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      Aug 17 2012: I agree, Eric, that there is a modern obsession with productivity. But there is a distinct counter movement encouraging people to stop and smell the roses rather than obsessively self-micromanaging to squeeze the highest possible value out of each moment.
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      Aug 17 2012: Hi Eric, thanks for your post. The value placed and conscious choice of activities is a key realization one needs to be more responsible of. How is that more difficult with technological pace, I think it is.

      How we as individuals and corporate citizens (for me of a technology player) balance this issue in the new technologies and business models of the future, is a very interesting area to explore.
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    Aug 16 2012: First of all, where does this need for this 'higher purpose' come from, which we were to cast in any our 'extra free time'?

    Take cats, for example. Due to their efficiency in hunting (pet cats excluded), they are able to sleep most of the day, even most of their lifes and they seem pretty satisfied with it.

    So if technology enables us to gain 'extra time' why shouldn't we be able to use it as we wish, without being accused of getting 'dull' by it?

    I actually wish we would finally start to use our technology to gain more free time, yet instead we are using it to get even more done in less time.

    Didn't you notice that technologised societies are decreasing the amount of free time which get experienced as such?

    Since the industrial revolution the hamster-wheel is speeding up faster and faster each year to a point where we could already ask ourselfs how we would even manage our days without all of our dish- and washing machines, cars and pre-cooked food.

    So where has all this time gone? Are we really wasting it in front of our TV's and computer monitors or is it just a recreational reaction of a more and more stressful professional life?

    As time has become money, and money makes us keep going, I would appreciate more free time for all of us, spinning the wheel...
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      Aug 17 2012: Hi Lejan, interesting argument. I guess the question would be about conscious choice, rather than just spinning the wheel without a clear direction of where that leads us. You can say is money, but generally speaking, after one has the minimum covered, $ does not provide a purpose fix into someone’s life, is too exterior driven. Thinking intrinsic, and different from many other species, there is an argument to say that we seem to seek this higher purpose as a form of natural selection, where purpose abides a group, keep it together, and make it conquer higher spheres in a much more efficient way than an individual would do, all with the side effect of making the individual grow and filled with meaning in the process. So, in the end I agree we should be looking forward to the free time, however still not clear we are using it or is the free time using us?
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        Aug 17 2012: I think I understand your noble idea about the 'higher purpose' and I do see people striving for and, at times, even achieving it. May this be in their free time, at work, or were one becomes the other. So I agree on the fact that this urge exists and I consider this one among the most valuable sides of humanity.

        Yet unfortunately I do not share the optimism in your argument the moment I take one step back to see this our planet as a whole and in the 'big picture'.

        3.5 billion years of evolution of our species, sexillions of hours time to spent to conquer those 'higher spheres', throughout millennia, centuries, decades of civilisation leading to this very current and final result of: T H A T ?

        No doubt we could have done better. So the question to me rather is: Why didn't we?

        So if free time was using us, it seems it doesn't care about improving things. And if we were using our free time, it seems the same...

        In an ironic or sarcastic view almost all technological advancements we made have been boosted by military applications or by national pride, which, for some reason, does not really match my understanding of some 'higher purpose'.

        So as technology as well as time does not seem to solve our 'world problems' we may better use our time to seek for that what would...
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    Aug 16 2012: I think Technology itself requires time to utilize. Techno-weinies use their time exploring the latest technology. Average, non-technical folks talk more on their smart phones; check their social messages, and surf the Internet. Activity expands to fill the time alloted. Free time is an illusion.
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      Aug 16 2012: Maybe the word "discretionary" is more appropriate than "free"

      ...and great point. Many of us spend both our discretionary and non-discretionary time immersed in technology. We are either users or creators, but few of us in the developed world ever truly escape it.
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        Aug 16 2012: "Free", "spare", "discretionary", "available". It's all time. I agree that time not dedicated to scheduled obligations is discretionary time, not free time. Mr. Lopez is asking if we know how to make the best use of whatever we call the time that might be made available as a result of shortened cycle-times of necessary tasks. For example I don't say, "Wow! It only took me 15 minutes to pay bills online while it once required over an hour of check writing, licking stamps, etc. I think I will volunteer the 45 minutes at the local food co-op!" Cumulatively my cycle-time reductions might add up to 15 hours a week, but I don't balance my time budget that meticulously and my activities automatically expand to absorb the time without me even noticing.
  • Aug 20 2012: Is watching tv, screwing around on my phone or playing video games really better then sitting around the campfire cooking what we hunted and gathered during the day?

    What is the purpose of progress and what are we progressing to?

    Technology has done nothing but increase our life expectancy so we can spend more time doing things we would rather not be doing anyway.
  • Aug 18 2012: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince :

    "This was a merchant who sold pills that had been invented to quench thirst. You need only swallow one pill a week, and you would feel no need for anything to drink.

    Why are you selling those?" asked the little prince.

    Because they save a tremendous amount of time," said the merchant. "Computations have been made by experts. With these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every week."
    And what do I do with those fifty-three minutes?"

    Anything you like..."

    As for me," said the little prince to himself, "if I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.”

    It can't be better put :)
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      Aug 19 2012: Agree, it can't be better put. Only issue is back then a merchant came every once in a while, now comes every minute, and people is buying! Thanks for sending me back to the little prince!
      • Aug 19 2012: We can't stop it, but we can choose not to take part in the current consuming hysteria. It's hardly possible to be totally free , unless you are a zen monk, but conscious choice means something. Maybe it means a lot. We don't know how the physics of collective consciousness works ; how one influences the many.
        At least it is what we all have :
        do the best you can with what you have and stay in peace.
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    Aug 16 2012: Is your underlying hypothesis, then, that pursuing recreation is evidence of not knowing how to use the time?
    Is there a further hypothesis here that depression or drug consumption among working people comes from their not knowing how to use after work time, or are you specifically thinking of the depression or drug use that may be connected to rising unemployment?
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      Aug 17 2012: Hi Fritizie, thanks for your reply. I think more than not knowing is not making a conscious choice on using the time provided for more than just the automatic impulse activities, or what is considered as generally gratifying. There is an argument that when only concentrating on those an individual will not lead itself to long term development and society contribution. Maybe a small problem of purpose for one in the everyday, but a real issue when compounded around society with the pace of technological advance.
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    Aug 16 2012: i'm not convinced 'technology' actually creates spare time for anyone.

    also, people know exactly what they want to do with their spare time, when they can get it.

    so, no, technology is not making people dull.
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      Aug 16 2012: Hi Scott, Thanks for your post, and I agree in regards to spare time, sometimes they do, but on aggregate I believe society has always been impacted by technology. A thought experiment, after the Ford T, which was absolutely less time consuming in transportation than a horse carriage, what did people do with the extra time provided? Leisure activities? Instant gratification ? or Many more church and community activities that they could not carry before? Now compound that with the super-fast crazy technological advancements of today, are we able to catch –up? Or are we left hollow and dull, as don’t know what to do with the extra time provided?
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    Aug 16 2012: Is your question whether people find ways to use their extra time that are satisfying to them? Or are you suggesting that there is inadequate discussion of how individuals can find a meaningful purpose for the time? Or are you questioning whether the ways people choose to use their time seem meaningful to others?
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      Aug 16 2012: I think what I'm trying to understand is this. If I aggregate the amount of time Technology has allowed society to gain back from previously time consuming activities, what has each of us done with that time? Are we using it to enhance the quality of people lives even further, or does it just remain like an empty space that we don't know how to use? Seems to me many advancements in technology provides this extra time, but on the other hand, as we don't know what to do with it, we just fall into more and more quick and easy fillers of this new life provided to us. Some people say, hence the raise in depression (shallowness derived), drugs consumption, media consumption, and easy gratification. Is technology providing the time but we as human beings have not prepared to use it for our society and individual general life improvement purpose?