I recently purchased an Apple Watch. As always, when these new devices come out, I’m really excited about the functionality and all the things that I think I’ll accomplish with them.
In the beginning, there’s always a wide-eyed outlook that promises the new device will ensure you’re one of those people who won’t miss out on anything that happens. And, that your life, compared to the next, will be more streamlined, informed and productive.
The Apple Watch tells me a lot of things. I can keep it on at night to monitor my sleeping habits, and during the day to monitor my activity. It will remind me about that presentation in the morning and the meeting at lunch. I’m swimming in a veritable pool of big data that’s all about me. But now what?
Does this information – this connectivity – improve my life?
Has Connectivity Improved Our Lives?
In so many ways, yes, being more connected to everything has made our lives more convenient. But at what price? My Apple Watch can monitor sleeping patterns and quality of sleep, but it can also remind me of something work related when I’m trying to relax. The level of connectivity people face today is a constant reminder of everything we do and have to do.
Research at the university level is demonstrating that the human brain isn’t benefiting from this level of connectedness and multi-tasking. In fact, according to the research, it’s too easy on the brain, and makes us more likely to be distracted. If you’ve found it tougher to sit through entire books and movies in recent years, you’re not alone. This is one result of over-connectedness.
Of course, we’ve long known that too much time spent with technology also means less time being physically active, which contributes to rising levels of obesity and poor overall health. In this sense, connectivity is not improving our lives.
Of course, fitness apps and other functionality that tracks our activity level are really meant to give us data we can act on, but we’re so busy that we’re not always following the signs.
Can Automation Make it Better?
On the flip side, connectivity paired with automation can improve our lives when we’re trying to save precious time. For example, if you don’t like going to the grocery store, you can sign up for online grocery subscription and delivery services that help streamline the day to day.
But the rate of automation is not growing at the same rate that connectivity is. As we deal with more and more services reminding us of what to do, we hope automation catches up and provides us with the “how to do it” part. Until then, connectivity can only take us so far in making our lives easier.
For example, imagine you’re at work and it’s four o’clock. In the midst of trying to get everything done for the day, your watch is going off, reminding you to pick up your child from school. As most of us don’t have a nanny or driver service to take care of that for us, the technology only serves to make us think about all the things we have to do, rather than streamlining the tasks for us.
A more ideal situation could potentially be your watch sending a notification to an Uber driver (or even your driverless car) to go get your son from school. During which time, your child’s smartphone tracks his geo-location until he is safely dropped at home when you get a notification the door has been locked behind him.
More Automation = More Quality Time?
So let’s say we did get that automated driver service to cut out the five hours we spend thinking about and traveling to and from our child’s school every week. Technology has, in this case, sufficiently created more time for us. So that means we can spend time doing something more enjoyable, right?
According to a study out of Stockholm University in Sweden, more connection does not equal more leisure time, but rather more ways to squeeze in extra work. Home connectivity in particular makes it easy to do quick updates after business hours, and those quick updates add up to a lot of extra “on the clock” time.
Some also argue that automation is creating laziness and incompetence that is detrimental to our ability to be creative, make decisions and have a sense of accomplishment.
And what about the fact that driving your kid to and from school is perhaps a treasured opportunity to spend a little extra time with them? It might not be the most fun thing you do together, but it’s still face time.
What Does the Future Look Like?
It’s never easy to predict what the future will bring, though the stuff of science fiction is regularly brought into our reality.
Discussions are happening not only about devices being implanted into the brain (which has happened for years for medical purposes), but also those brains being connected to the internet. Such a level of connectivity is hard to imagine, but perhaps closer than we think.
As I get older, I realize how much more intuitive this connectedness is for younger generations. That means the learning curve for people in the older generations is going to be steeper if we don’t intentionally master new technologies.
As a digital marketing professional, this means always striving for innovation in how the message is delivered. Think about how complex it is to merely implement and track multi-channel advertising campaigns, let alone keep up with the advertising of the future, when everything is connected.
Ultimately, we can’t deny that connected and smart technology does a lot of good in our lives, but it seems to be evolving faster than we can adapt to it. Since tech adoption doesn’t come with a handbook, we’re all frantically trying to find the meaning in it, and figure out how to ultimately create more value than the price we have to pay for it.