No, Technology Has NOT Made Life Better (If You’re Old Enough to Remember the Better Alternative)

The Affordable Care Act was supposed to make medical records readily transferable from one treatment venue to another. Push a button… and the ER uploads the files from your GP’s office. In practice, learning the software is a nightmare for medical personnel, amending and updating it is a hemorrhage within hospital budgets that cannot be stanched, protocol turns out frequently to require the same old paperwork reproduced now from computer files, and the origin of critical errors is often almost impossible to trace. Time and money saved? Efficiency enhanced? What world are you living in?

One is now vigorously urged to liberate one’s investment accounts from paper. Quarterly reports are posted online: don’t forget your password! And just in case the power grid should go down for any reason, you’d better print out a copy of crucial data, or there might be no record at all of your life savings! I’ve been very happy with my TD Ameritrade account… for the most part. But when the lion’s share of my portfolio was shifted to a companion-operation called Amerivest, I continually had trouble finding my money online. I couldn’t remember that I was supposed to log in with the Amerivest username at the Ameritrade log-in box: there was no separate box for the separate entity. Such a simple conflation of procedures apparently needed no explanation to the site’s designers; but to me, whose typical day does not allow time for checking in, the “skipped step” is a perpetual stumbling block. Now that I’ve actually written a few words about it, I’m sure to remember the way in… but how many other such crucial protocols are easily misplaced or obscured because technicians don’t think like ordinary people? The minutes or hours of panic that result may add up to months or years subtracted from one’s time on earth, since our hearts are still flesh and blood.

Your job requires you to employ a certain software program—but the program’s designers have so overloaded it with firewalls and safeguards over the years that it runs like cold molasses when it runs at all. So your organization decides to shift to a different software provider and orders you to learn completely new protocols. Yet the shift will not occur for several months; so the valuable time you spend listening to software gurus explain vital details (as well as dozens and dozens of functions of utterly no interest to you or relevance to your personal tasks) will prove wholly wasted, since you will have forgotten everything when—six months from now—you need to recall it. In the meantime, you do your job a little less well thanks to all the distraction, and the raises that might have helped you keep pace with inflation are poured, instead, into the handsome salaries needed to attract more high-tech gurus to maintain an ever more complicated network.

Where in all this chaos do we find a poster-child for efficiency and competence?

A government mandate requires that you now integrate a, b, and c into your normal professional routine. A government functionary chides you for not fully overhauling your routine in a timely fashion so as to front-and-center a, b, and c. You ask that a, b, and c be settled into a certain available free space… but no, “studies have shown” that a, b, and c are most effective when everything else is organized around them. So, essentially, your thirty years of experience doing what you do must be jettisoned, and you must follow in the footsteps of every other tyro who serves a remote, faceless bureaucracy of power-brokers blissfully unfamiliar with what you do. The “studies” show that the new program of indoctrination indoctrinates better if the surrounding program in which it’s delivered does little but echo its messages. Well, duh.

Yeah, duh. Also know as “efficiency” these days.

Like it? You like this brave new world? You like what’s it’s doing to your nerves—how it bends to your will and rushes in to assist you in tasks that you have identified as important?

My New Year’s resolution to drop f-bombs from my private vocabulary has been bombed to smithereens… and we’re not yet to February! I never used to let loose with anything worse than “damn” and “hell”: now I swear like a sailor as e-life tells me daily, in a thousand subtle ways, that I don’t exist, that my opinions don’t matter, that my contribution isn’t recognized or wanted, and that the fruits of my labor no longer exist. I still run a clean act in public… but secretly, I’m smoldering all the time. It’s the way we’re over-using and abusing all this damn “smart” technology. I’ll leave it at that.

Author: nilnoviblog

I hold a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (Latin/Greek) but have not navigated academe very successfully for the past thirty years. This is owed partly to my non-PC place of origin (Texas), but probably more to my conviction--along with the ancients--that human nature is immutable, and my further conviction--along with Stoics and true Christians-- that we have a natural calling to surmount our nature. Or maybe I just don't play office politics well. I'm much looking forward to impending retirement, when I can tend to my orchards and perhaps market the secrets of Dead Ball hitting that I've excavated. No, there's nothing new (nil novi) under the sun... but what a huge amount has been forgotten, in baseball and elsewhere!

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