Discuss the phrase: “Machines don’t serve us we serve them.” Explain and give examples on your position.

By Thomas L. Friedman
In the early days of the computer revolution, most managers didn’t go near high-tech machinery. Today a PC is standard equipment on the desktop, and most executives carry several digital devices when the travel. In this article from the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman comments on the down side of this techno-trend.
AVOS, Switzerland – The Davos World Economic Forum is always useful for gauging global trends. In recent years much of the buzz at Davos was about what technology will do for us. This year, more and more, the buzz has been what technology is doing for us. If Davos is an indicator, there is a backlash brewing against the proliferation of technology in our lives.
When participants arrived at Davos this year they were given yet another gadget to communicate with other participants – a Compaq pocket PC. As I fumbled around trying to figure out how mine worked, and interfaced with the complex Davos e-mail system that you access with abadge, the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen , who was trying to do the same, said to me: “I have so many devices now to make my life easier that I need someone just to carry them all around for me.”
Then there was the panel about the 21st-century corporation, during which participants described this age of digital Darwinism in chilling terms: the key to winning business today is adapt or die, get wired or get killed, work 24 hours a day from everywhere or be left behind. Finally, during the question time, Howard Stringer, chairman of Sony America, stood up and said: Doesn’t anyone here think this sounds like a vision of hell? While we are all competing or dying, when will there be time for sex, music or books? Stop the world, I want to get off.”
To be sure, this is a developed-world problem. In much of Africa you don’t see executives walking around, as you do in Europe, with so many beepers, phones, pagers clipped into their belts that they look like telephone repairmen. But with the cost of this technology rapidly decreasing, it will spread faster than you think. And so will the social stresses associated with it. Apropos of the future, I heard a lot of new phrases this week: “device creep”, “Machines don’t serve us, we serve them”, and “My identity is now less important than the data that is stored about me”. Have a nice day.
My favorite, though, was that we now live in an age what a Microsoft researcher, Linda Stone, called continuous partial attention. I love that phrase. It means that while you are answering email and talking to your kid, your cell phone rings and you have a conversation. You are now involved in a continuous flow of interactions in which you can only partially concentrate on each.
“If being fulfilled is about committing yourself to someone else, or some experience, that requires a level of sustained attention,” said Ms. Stone. And that is what we are losing the skills for, because we are constantly scanning the world for opportunities and we are constantly in fear of missing something better. The has become incredibly spiritually depleting.
I am struck at how many people call my office, ask if I’m in, and, if I’m not, immediately ask to be connected to my cell phone or pager. (I carry neither.) You’re never out anymore. The assumption now is that you’re always in. Out is over. Now you are always in. And when you are always in you are always on. And when you are always on, what are you most like? A computer server.
They say these devices will eventually be invisible but for now they feel in your face. And here’s the scary part: It’s just the beginning. By 2005 we will see a convergence of wireless technology, fiber optics, software applications and next-generation Internet switches, IP version 6, that will permit anything with electricity to have a Web address and run off the Internet – from your bedroom lights to your toaster to you pacemaker (which will report you heart rate directly to your doctor). This Evernet will allow us to be online all the time from everywhere. People will boast: “I have 25 Web addresses in my house; how many do you have? My wired refrigerator automatically reorders milk. How about yours?”
The problem is that human beings simply are not designed to be like computer servers. For one thing, they are designed to sleep eight hours a night. So there is a big misfit brewing here. I still can’t program my VCR; how am I going to program by toaster? As Jeff Garten, dean of the Yale School of Management and author of a smart new book that deals with some of these themes, “The Mind of the CEO”, said: “Maybe it’s not time for us to adapt or die, but f or technology to adapt or die.
1. Discuss the phrase: “Machines don’t serve us we serve them.” Explain and give examples on your position.
2. Explain how partial attention affects your productivity.

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