Are Computers Really Saving Us Time as Jobs Disappear?

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans   Technically, I’m on vacation, which really only means that I don’t have to go into the office to do the same amount of work – or more – from my home. But, since it’s vacation, that also means catching up on some of the scores of life-tasks that I’ve postponed until my vacation, and now am having to squeeze into the work I’m having to do on my vacation. Are you still with me?!?

It’s just hard to keep up. There are expired brake tags on my trucks, that could be an expensive piece of procrastination, if the local police start cracking down some day. Have you noticed that your cellphone screen always disintegrates around the time of a vacation, so that you can look forward to spending hours in some store – over the holiday season to boot – trying to get a phone. It’s so tempting for me to keep the one I have where I can hear the caller, but the caller can’t hear me!

And, this is also a time when we confront the fact that online means waiting online, often the telephone line, or mucking about online to fix this or that problem in L.I.F.E. or even, if you can still believe it, waiting in a real line, as in on-line, like at the cellular service monopoly I just mentioned. All of which makes me yearn for enough real people doing real jobs, rather than pretending that my buddy, the computer, is really saving me time.

I’ve already whined recently about Spirit Airlines making me stay on the computer 40 plus minutes to print a boarding pass last week. Today, I had to scour the Expedia site to figure out how to really change a reservation within 24-hours, then be switched to a call center in India for a half-hour for them to cancel the reservation, so that I could go back online to make a new reservation. Grrrrr!

But, I don’t mean to just pick on the travel sites. They’re all about the same, better at sales, than service. Take the gold-standard, Amazon. You can buy anything in the world on their site and do it pretty darned quickly. To their credit, they also are pretty good on returns, but if you have a problem you better budget some time to figure out where on their websites to ask for help from a real person. Good luck with that!

Here’s my point, and I’m not just whining and ranting on my vacation, but these are real time experiences at the interface of economics and technology. We have somehow allowed corporations in the name of worshiping technology to con us into allowing them to save their money by taking our time, and while doing so taking away millions of jobs from our friends, neighbors and countrymen.

Worse, for the umpteen millions who aren’t as computer literate or connected to the internet, we’re letting them drown at the digital divide and spend even more of their lives waiting in a thousand lines for help from fewer workers ready and able to respond to problems a lot more serious that making and changing flight plans.

It’s just not right, and it’s just not working.