On Wednesday on ReadWrite Pause, I wrote a story called Do You Need To Go Cyborg To Keep Your Job? It's about the freaky and real trend of using technology, including computers, prosthetics and performance-enhancing drugs to become a more productive member of society. In the story, I worry that if too many people opt to enhance themselves with technology, people who don't want to go that far won't be able to compete withe these cyborg superhumans in all aspects of life, especially in the workforce.
I got an amazing response by email from Sean Canton, a Web developer, designer and musician. He agreed to let us publish his message in full. Tell us in the comments if you find his words as deep and provocative as I did:
You raise a very interesting point, one which professional organizations and educational institutions already struggle with: At what point does cognitive enhancement become the expectation, rather then the exception. We are (I am) already highly dependent on caffeine to keep our focus levels high, and we use technology as both our liberator and our master.
I was reflecting a while back, as I invoked upon my 10th hour of work in a day ( web developer @ startup ) that perhaps the slaves of Egypt weren't slaves, but instead, were beholden to a technology so great they wanted to serve it.
I think the solution lies in disconnecting from the screen and re-connecting with our bodies. I try to meditate and do yoga daily, more often fail then succeed, but the days I manage this, I need far less caffeine, my focus and concentration is worlds better and I more easily enter into a state of flow when my mind is clear of junk.
The end result of our enhanced workforce will be very similar to what we see out of the Chinese and Indian educational systems. Fantastically great at churning out knowledge workers who can solve problems in a linear fashion. Terrible at non-linear thinking and creative problem solving. Those who have mastered their mind and body can do more with less time, but those who rely on enhancement will always fall short, for in the end, enhancements wear off, gadgets break or become obsolete, and we will always have to sleep and eat.
We have had commercial Internet available for almost 20 years, I still can't work from home, or using a standing desk, or when my energy levels dictate I can do my best programming work. Business doesn't give a SHIT about how healthy their workers are, most of the businesses I've worked for revel in how stressful and unhealthy their workplace is, because they equate burnout to productivity. Business will burn through workers while the economy is bad, because they can, and they believe it's how to remain competitive, because that's what everyone is doing. It's a cultural problem.
If there's anything I've learned in 30 odd years of being human it's that we will keep doing our bad behaviors until the repercussions outweigh the benefits. That's why I don't think the situation will change, it will get worse until we learn, as a species, how to slow down, how to cooperate and how to accept being bored once in a while.
Thanks for reading this, that's what you get for writing articles like that. :)
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.