Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bad Robots and Mother's Day

Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species' ability to control and adapt to their natural environments. The word technology comes from Greek, meaning "art, skill, craft". The term can either be applied generally or to specific areas: examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology. 

I remember when I was young, I did not need an alarm clock, or an online calendar, or buzzers or beepers to remind me that I had a hot date that night. There was a good chance that I was thinking about that upcoming event all day - there was very little chance that I was going to “forget” that I had a date later that evening. When you are getting ready to leave for vacation, it is highly unlikely that you need an electronic reminder to prevent you from driving to work that day, but to drive to the beach instead. Here is my technology epiphany for this wonderful Mother’s Day:

If it is important, technology can remind you.  
But if it is important TO YOU, no technology is required.

I have missed more meetings because I put the reminders into my online calendar, and then I was not near my computer for the reminder.  Reminders in a smart phone are of no use to anyone, when we start ignoring them. If you have to “think” about the technology - if you have to convince yourself that you need it, or why you need it, then there is a good chance that you don’t really need it.

My best business presentations took place, when my PowerPoint failed, and I was forced to speak directly to and connect deeply with the audience.  The best events in my life, did not require an electronic reminder. I did not need an electronic calendar to remind me to show up for my wedding, or to show up for my kids graduation, or to show up for anything that was truly important to me.  

If the XYZ Project at work has a hard deadline for Monday, it certainly would not hurt to have that in your Google Calendar, synced up with your smartphone and laptop. But, if the project was really important TO YOU, then you really did not need that electronic reminder, right?  You probably knew all too well (all weekend long) that Monday is the big day at work; no beeping or buzzing or vibrating devices required.

If you are late getting to work because you forgot to set your alarm clock, it not the alarm clocks fault. I say that your job is not important enough to you. If you missed a deadline at work because your online calendar failed you, I contend that the project in question was not that important TO YOU in the first place. The project might have been very important to your boss, and it might have been very important to your team (your co-workers) but it was not very important TO YOU.

I don’t know if we are going to have personal robots in my lifetime, but they are coming.  iPhones and iPads are early versions of personal robots, and they would be impossible to even accept just ten years ago. Now we take them for granted. Are you telling me that you are still getting lost, or that you are still showing up late for important meetings at work, or that you are still forgetting birthdays or other important events, even while owning a smartphone?  These missed events may be important to someone, but they are obviously not important TO YOU. The best technology (light bulbs, traffic lights, water filters, air conditioning, etc.) require no thought at all - they just make life better, period. One day in the not too distant future, I am sure that we all will be saying the phrase “Bad Robot!”  Will it really be the robot’s fault, that we missed the meeting, or forgot our wedding anniversary?

My mother passed away when I was 23 years old, after fighting cancer for many years. I now have lived more Mother’s Days without my mom, than with her.  My wife and I have two beautiful sons. Everything in my life that is good and important to my world is directly connected to the celebration of Mother’s Day. I do not need a battery powered reminder in my iPhone or computer or technology of any kind to remind me that today is a most special day. I live it, no batteries required.  

Happy Mother’s Day Everyone.

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