Archive for August, 2008


Looking Beyond Tech

Looking outward is not always easy or natural. I see this firsthand through my own life. If something isn’t a part of your day-to-day routine or perspective considering its impact on the bigger picture can be a challenge. Last night I had a chat with Chris Brogan about how the tech community, for example, struggles with looking outward. He beat me to the punch, posting on our conversation early this morning.

Going beyond Chris’s suggestion of solving real-world problems, I wonder why groups are so resistant to recognizing the impact of outside influences. Last year at Gnomedex, a couple of the presentations had political overtones, which seemed to infuriate some of the attendees. Some of the feedback boiled down to, “Why are we talking politics at a tech conference?”

Why not talk politics at a tech conference? Despite our preferences otherwise, the potential impact of outside influences on the tech world is huge. Political issues that directly impact the tech community include: media consolidation, net neutrality, internet taxes, patent applications, and copyright enforcement/duration.

Technology, and every other industry, doesn’t have the luxury of operating in a silo, focusing only inward on the cool toys. Despite our desire to maintain the purity of our sandboxes, too many outside forces are at work trying to muck things up for the rest of us. If we aren’t proactive and willing to address related issues, political or otherwise, someone else will do it for us, often in a way that doesn’t best meet our needs.


The Control Illusion

Within an hour of waking up, I realize that any hope I had of controlling my day is gone. Something, big or small, pops up making it clear that outside events will impact my plans regardless of my desire for control. Today, for example, I had three separate and unexpected events appear before noon. One was resolved successfully, but the other two still have me pulling my hair out.

The idea that I, or anyone else for that matter, have control over life is clearly an illusion, one that I turn to on a regular basis despite how often I’m proven wrong. Sometimes, for short periods of time, I maintain the illusion with success, quickly moving from one project to the next with little interference. Other times, an hour doesn’t go by without some chain of events interrupting my schedule.

When we’re little, we perceive the adults in our lives as having control over our lives. Parents told us when to go to bed and teachers told us when to pay attention. As a kid, I believed that being an adult meant that no one could tell me what to do. I would have the control. Thus, I couldn’t grow up fast enough. Like all adults, I’ve learned the hard way that, in some respects, I have even less control now than I did as a child.

Technology aids and abets the illusion. PDAs, cell phones, email, the Internet, and TiVos—supposedly these items make it possible to do more and manage it better, to be in control. But they only introduce more opportunities to take away control by increasing the points of contact for distraction.

I’m not telling you anything new. If anything, you’re probably mentally adding, “well, duh,” as you read. Maybe the next sentence will make you pause. What might life be like if I/you/we gave up the illusion of control? How much time and energy could be saved if I didn’t wake up every morning anticipating that I would control the events of the day?

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August 2008
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