Something Happened on the Way to the Future

I’m not sure what’s less normal: Playing a video game while eating and watching TV on 1.5x speed, or the fact that in many a modern household, this behavior is considered normal. I’ve done the former, and I’m not proud.

In the 90s, Wall Street traders would stare at two screens while talking on the phone. Back then, people thought it was the most stressful job in the world. Now most of us create such environments from scratch – in our spare time. Our jobs are even busier still.

Stephen Hawking said: “When I was younger, the rise of technology pointed to a future where we would all enjoy more leisure time. But in fact the more we can do, the busier we become.”

In the 50s, most families couldn’t afford a dishwasher. They were thrilled at the prospect of rinsing fewer plates by hand, car windows opening automatically, and slices of toast popping out of a device hot and crispy.

If you had told these people that, 70 years later, we’d all carry devices in our pocket that hold a million times the power of the technology that would – 20 years from then – enable us to go to the moon, they’d not only have called you crazy, but they’d have imagined that, by then, not a single human on earth could possibly have to do any work.

Yet here we are, working more than ever.

What is it for? That’s a puzzle each of us can solve only individually, but sometimes it seems that, collectively, we have forgotten how to ask the question. Maybe it’s time to bring it back – back to the future, so we may figure out what happened along the way.