Beware the Seductive Power of Technology

I Like Technology. I’m conceding all the good and fun things that computer-based technology has brought into our lives; I’ll not fight that battle. Not only would I lose any argument against the wonderful additions technology has made to our lives, I would be fighting against myself. I love it that I can flip open a Star Trek “communicator” and talk to almost anyone, anytime. I love the very idea of having a communication device out in my back yard, near the bird feeder, that is communicating with a satellite in low earth orbit. Wow! And do I ever love my computer-oops, computers. As in many computers. In fact, my job is strongly tied to technology and I love to get paid. However, this article is a warning, a plea to open our eyes wider than our big screen TVs, to step back out of cell phone range, to put down our PDAs for a minute and look at what has gotten a hold on us.

Technology is Seductive

Technology has the power to draw us in and cause us to lose perspective about what is happening. Just try talking to your child (or maybe your spouse or best friend) the next time some slick TV program or commercial is shimmering across the screen and you’ll see what has all of their attention. Technology draws us in. But if we’re drawn in, we’re also leaving something behind. We could be abandoning loving or developing relationships or the quiet time necessary to think purposefully about our lives, where we are going and how we want to live five years from now. To continue this idea, that technology is seductive, let’s look at the natural progression of how we respond to new technology.

Technology as a Toy

All new technology comes to us in the guise of a toy, thus its initial seductive pull on us. No matter the age, the new technology feels like a toy. It is smooth, pretty and flashes little lights. It makes cute sounds and we respond to it from the childlike (or childish) center of our being. It is not the sophisticated 35 year old business executive that is responding to the new all-purpose, highly-evolved technology thing, it is instead the seven year old child inside that is gushing and filled with Christmas morning lust. We might not even have any way to use it yet, but we play with it. We turn channels, set the volume on the 96 surround sound speakers (yours doesn’t have 96?), take pictures of our toes with it, and enthusiastically pursue carpel tunnel problems as quickly as our thumbs and fingers can fly over fun little colored buttons. It is a toy. But it does move evolve into our next category and that makes us feel a little better about it and helps us avoid the fact that we just spent a year of future retirement on a toy.

Technology as a Tool

The toy usually becomes a tool. In our strong desires to justify the purchase of the toy, we look for things it can do. Ah, it keeps my calendar. Cool! Now I won’t have to keep track of my $29.00 day planner and worry about losing it. I just need to worry about losing my $495 PDA. But it can also take pictures. That’s important. It’s also good that it can erase them because I find I take a lot of pictures that are really crap and now I not only spent time taking the pictures, I also get to spend time erasing them. But the toys often turn into very serious tools. I may continue to use my cell phone toy as I unconsciously blow through red lights and make turns without signaling (need that spare arm for the cell), but I also realize this toy is a serious safety tool. I don’t want to be broken down on the highway and not have this link to help. The same 50″ flat screen wall hanging that is a toy is also a tool to be aware of threatening weather and important current events. And the notebook computer that empowers me to look at pictures of potential Russian brides helps me write this article and project investment returns. Toys have the potential of becoming tools. From puppies to working dogs. But there is a third and more dangerous level.

Technology as a Tyrant

Dictionary.com offers one definition of a tyrant as, “a tyrannical or compulsory influence.” Wow! Think cellphone, e-mail, Skype, compulsive checking of forums, chat rooms, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other current flavors of Turkish delight known as technology. These things can be toys (relatively harmless except for what they might be replacing), they can be tools, or they can become tyrants. When deeply engrained into our work or social structure, they change from being puppies or work dogs and become pit bulls that can bite and clamp down so that it is very difficult to dislodge them. I used to be able to keep up with the demands of my job. Once upon a time I actually had a little time that I could budget weekly that was “walk around and get to know everyone better” time. No more. Now I am constantly juggling attention among appointments, drop-in unannounced visitors, snail mail, phone calls with the pink reminders, cell phone calls, and e-mail. I can never get one caught up without intrusions from all of the others. The first four were barely manageable, with cell and e-mail added, I’m no longer in control, the pit bull is. So, what happened?

How Did We Get Like This?

Okay. Here is the crux of this article. Technology is on a different evolutionary rate than us humans. It reproduces faster than mice and changes species with each generation. We were enticed, and continue to be enticed, by technology due to its seductive dark side. It beckons to the seven year old inside and draws us in. As a tool, technology is embraced and embedded into our lives, seemingly as a partner, one called alongside of us to help us. But, without an understanding of the evolutionary path of technology, we do not control its place in our lives. It becomes a tyrant that bullies us and pulls us around on its lease instead of the other way around. Because of the initial seductive nature of technology, we don’t easily see that it will tend to take us to where we don’t want to go and make us pay more than we first thought we were willing to pay. So, what shall we then do?

What We Must Do

I’m not offering a plan but an approach. The approach depends upon fully understanding what has gotten a grip on us. I suggest the following critical pieces for beginning to manage technology and protect our humanity:

  • Clearly see that technology is seductive and separate out and control the childish reactions to the initial toy aspects of new technology. Gratification can be delayed (an adult response) and toys can be both played with and put away.
  • Think through both intended and unintended consequences of bringing a shiny, new technology toy into your life. What is it replacing? How will you control it so it doesn’t put you on a leash?
  • Do not assume that a new technology tool is better than an older one that worked well for you in the past. I have a colleague who keeps in a pocket a little list of things to do, thoughts, and insights. His pen and paper list worked a lot better than my PDA when when my technology tool lost both primary and backup batteries and I lost passwords to multiple accounts and forums. Which is better?
  • Many new technology tools cannot be avoided. However, they can be managed. Think of ways to limit their use and how to communicate your policies for your use to your colleagues, family, and friends. For example, I check my email once a day and make it clear to my colleagues that I am not sitting at my computer all day waiting for the chime (evidently, they are).
  • Finally, pay attention to the things that technology tends to replace and redouble your effort to work on relationships so you have no regrets.

To rewrite a common adage, no one’s last words are likely to be, “I wish I had purchased the 60″ HD instead of the 54”.

Technology in the Year 2020

Imagine this for a second. The year is 2020 and you walk into an office, similar yet different to the one you may be in right now. Structurally, the features are similar to your 2009 office, there’s a desk, a chair and a window with a view. Yet, there are noticeable differences. Gone is your clunky PC. The telephone is also nowhere to be seen. Books? Nope. Newspapers? Magazines? Nope. Nope. Instead, using a wearable device on your finger, you conjure up a hologram of a blank screen above your desk.

“Computer on,” you state. Appearing before you is a virtual computer. You use voice demand technology to bring up documents, email your friends, write reports and check stocks on the internet. Then you decide to read a copy of the January 2020 issue of Exec Digital and relax. Welcome to the not so distant future.

WEARABLE COMPUTER

The above scenario is an idealistic view of the future created from the mind of a 23-year old science-fiction fan (yours truly). While predicting future technology is never an exact science, I went to the minds of people who might have an idea of what technology might look like in 10 years.

While my potential technology may be a bit idyllic, it is not far off from MIT’s Wear Ur World. The WUW is a perfect example of potential future technology, very much inspiring my own tale. Developed by the MIT Media Lab and simply known as ‘Sixth Sense’, the wearer uses a small projector, a webcam and a mobile phone, ultimately allowing you to turn any flat surface into a computer.

Using hand gestures, it can do anything from tell the time to make a phone call. (For example, drawing a circle will prompt the WUW to show a clock). To get an idea of WUW, just imagine Tom Cruise using the Standard User Interface in Minority Report. Of course, WUW is a bit more high-tech than Cruise’s SUI.

Smaller, faster and much more efficient is very much the ideal of tomorrow’s computers, as is mobility. A number of industry experts say the idea of increased mobility technology is nearly certain in 10 years. A report from Pew Internet Research polling 1,000 technology execs indicates by the year 2020, mobile technology will be our main access for the internet. Furthermore, the same experts say most communications appliances will come with voice-demand technology.

CARS

Smaller and faster machines with increased mobility and efficiency aren’t just the themes for future computers. Those qualities represent the cars of 2020 as well. Mitchell Joachim, co-founder and partner of Terreform 1, the New York based ecological non-profit design collaborative, designed a car for urban societies conceptualising this very thought. Joachim designed the City Car and Stackable Car as transports strictly for the city.

“One concept of the car was soft body, where it could adhere to gentle congestion. You wouldn’t move in a shiny, precious metal box. It’d be more human like, you’d move in flocks or herds where it’s okay to scuff against neighbour. We also thought of stackable cars that stand up and interlock in oddly directional ways. There’s also a Hondagreat social aspect to the City Car. It doesn’t tell you things like miles per hour. You don’t need to know that in the city,” says Joachim.

Designer Stefan Mathys led a team of visionaries to design a similar type car. The City Transport Cell, is a battery driven, zero emission car, which can easily navigate an urban society. It was built specifically for the year 2020 and comes with removable parts. It should be noted, most of these cars are the size of go carts.

ROBOTICS

In every futuristic vision, there are always robots present. From the Jetsons to Terminator, robots have always been a part of our foreseen future. Therefore, no technology in 2020 article would be complete without a mention of robotics. A few years back, the Japanese Ministry of Trade and Industry (METI) set out a plan to introduce intelligent robots by the year 2015.

The Japanese Robot Association came out with a report indicating robots of all kinds would be present in the home and office by the year 2020. The Japanese, the leader in robotic technology, have predicted robots will be used to assist humans with everyday tasks and keep them company. They’ll also be used for labor purposes. By 2020, robots may even be set into outer space to explore the moon and beyond. The Japanese government has developed a programme to achieve this very goal.

Whether its robotics, cars or toys, there truly is no telling where technology will land in 10 years. Think back to the turn of the millennium. Flat panel displays, iPods, DVR technology and commercialised GPS were still mostly visions not yet conceptualised. Mass-market commercial hybrids were still in their infancy and digital technology was unbeknownst to most people. There’s no telling where we’re going.

Multiple Streams Of Income – How To Leverage On Technology To Make You Easy Money & Save Time

In my previous articles, I have strongly encouraged the concept of multiple income. In our uncertain economy with no job security, multiple streams of income is a MUST. Now, it does not matter what you have been doing with your life, or what you do for a living. Chances are, you have probably learned something. You will probably even have a story to tell, even from your failures. You may not realize what it is yet, but I guarantee you, there is definitely something you know that others will be willing to PAY to have YOU teach them.

Now with this information content in hand, how will you like me to share with you a unique opportunity to leverage on technology to make easy money and save time? This definitely helps, because now you know something that someone else does not know. Let me show you now how technology can help save you much time and earn money easily!

1) Make use of text- to- audio software

Do you know that you can easily convert text into audio materials? In our current day and age, people are extremely mobile and time- pressed. There is an increasing population of people relying on audio materials to learn. Imagine the vast amount of potential customers you can serve when you convert your text into audio materials!

In fact, in the Macintosh Operating System, there is a built-in Text to Speech converter. One use of the Text to Speech feature is as a screen reader for those whose vision is impaired, but the speech program can also create audiobooks from any text file. You could convert a presentation to an audio file and listen to it on the way, in order to prepare for the speech. There are many public domain books out on the Internet, and if you have e- books you would rather listen to instead of read, converting those to audiobooks is a cinch. Using Automator, a powerful and simple scripting tool in the Mac operating system, you will be able to create a “plug-in” that will create an audio file in the format that you can play on an iPod or most other media players.

For others who are not using the MAC operating system, alternatives can be found online. AT&T Lab has been exploring to deliver the best natural sounding computer voices! Now, do you know which is the best website that has Text to Speech voices easily available? I will share this secret with you on my blog. This certainly represents the cutting edge. In the website which I will introduce, you can even check out the samples to hear. You will be amazed at just how good your computer can sound. Remember, the importance in selecting a good text to audio software is choosing a speaker with a lovely voice, not one that drones your listeners to sleep.

2) Make use of audio- to- text software

Instead of hiring a professional transcriber, you can leverage of audio- to- text software which will do a professional job at half the cost! For excellent transcriber software, you can find this in my blog which will share a popular technology website. This established website for people who are interested in the latest in technology, complete with both the professional and users reviews to give you a balanced view. By making use of such software, you no longer have to spend additional effort and time to prepare text materials!

3) PDF and make professional e- books

You have the content ready. Now, apart from the above mentioned tips, you can start working on professional looking e- books, all with the click of a PDF button. Install the PDF function and you can also make lots of money by packaging your knowledge. Once you have your professional e- book ready, you can mail it to your mailing list that may have a few thousand people, at almost no cost.
In conclusion, start experimenting with ideas and turn them into e- books, audio materials which costs less than nothing to produce, workbooks, reports and a host of other formats that will convey the knowledge you have to offer. With cheap technology easily available today, it is getting easier than ever to do. Make money easily by leveraging on the available technology now!

This article has shown you that all you need is a great idea! With the advent of technology, you can easily explore other mediums that have you save time and more importantly, make money. Your exposure to your audience has now increase tremendously. Imagine, instead of just an e- book, reaching out to 1000 audience, you can now use e- book and audio materials, with one click and reach out to twofold or threefold audience. In fact, there is no limit, for the world is your oyster!

For ease of reference and to give you a head start, I will compile the best websites and software for you in my blog. Happy exploring!

Technology and Innovation Management

TEACHER: Hello, Student. Our discussion begins with the description of two important concepts: know-how and can-do.

Technology means knowing how to do something: the know-how. Every commercial enterprise needs to possess the know-how of some process, no matter how simple it might be.

But to actively participate in the market, know-how must be complemented with the ability to apply the technology, the can-do.

Can-do is a must. A firm may have the technical knowledge of a given productive process, but it can not apply it profitably without the means to perform it effectively. Can-do includes availability of trained personnel, capital goods (machinery and installations), and also the means to market the goods.

STUDENT: How can a firm acquire know-how?
TEACHER: The basic ways to acquire technology are:

· Hire personnel with expertise in the field.
· Purchase know-how from other firms through license and/or technical assistance agreements.
· Receive it from the manufacturer of specialized equipment installed.
· Perform in-house research and development (R&D).

It is important to mention the need of a Technology Strategy.

In all firms, from a shoe manufacturer to a chipmaker, some type of Technology Strategy must be in place to stay competitive and spot opportunities

STUDENT: Can we discuss and example of such strategy?
TEACHER: Sure.

Elements of a Technology Strategy

I. Awareness

· A firm must be constantly aware of the existing and upcoming technologies in its field, be it from external sources of from within the company. The ways to do this are many, from scanning trade magazines to attending trade shows to efficiently managing of the in-house pool of know-how.

II. Assessment

· Decide which technologies may impact the business.
· Quantify potential of these technologies to affect the business positively or negatively.
· Analyze the firm’s capacity to incorporate these technologies effectively.

III. Implementation

· Maintain a priority schedule based on potential cost-benefit and viability.
· Organize to permit incorporation of new technologies.

STUDENT: Many times, in relation to a company’s capabilities, one hears about invention, creativity and innovation. Can you please elaborate?

TEACHER: Gladly. We must try to define and distinguish between these three activities, which are the motors of technological change. Of course the meanings overlap a lot, but still there are basic differences. A firm must be clearly aware of the differences.

I. Invention means discovering something radically new.

· To invent something in today’s environment is difficult and very expensive. An intensive and costly R&D activity must be present.
· Many inventions take place “before their time” and can not be implemented profitably in existing market conditions. Normally inventions carry patent protection, but for a limited time only; a long delay in practical application can make this protection useless.
· In spite of the previous caveat, sometimes an invention can be a hit and be tremendously profitable. We hear of this with certain frequency in the drug industry, carrying familiar names such as Upjohn’s Minoxidil, Eli Lilly’s Prozac or Pfizer’s Viagra. But it must be realized that the investment in R&D behind any of these hits is enormous.

II. Creativity is devising a novel combination of existing technologies or practices.

· A new product composed of existing elements (as the first Apple computer).
· An original way to exploit an existing technology (as using the Internet for a new service -i.e., a site publishing and selling “electronic books”).
· Creativity can be expensive and involving a lot of high-tech R&D in sub-technologies (as in developing a faster, smaller computer chip) but sometimes it may be cheap and very profitable This happens many times in manufacturing when an employee thinks of an improvement in the production process.

III. Innovation can be defined as the practical and profitable implementation of the ideas originated by invention or creativity; “converting ideas into value”. In commercial firms, the objective of innovation is:

· To bring new profitable products or services to market.
· To improve competitiveness through lower production cost.

STUDENT: As in every aspect of business, there must be a need for managing this innovation process.
TEACHER: Innovative ideas flow continuously to management from external and internal sources. Some may be good, others not as good. The key is, simply put, to identify the ones the company should invest in and eventually implement.

This flow of ideas should be encouraged, never discouraged. The source of all ideas are people.

STUDENT: A truism, of course. Obviously, machines do not have ideas!
TEACHER: Yes, but a truism frequently forgotten by management.

A large proportion of new ideas comes from internal sources. An employee may have an original idea, or may bring up an observation he made at a trade show.

STUDENT: What can management do to encourage people to contribute their ideas?
TEACHER: Let’s see. A company must:

I. Motivate employees to communicate their ideas. People should be recognized for this, regardless of whether the idea is judged a bright one or a dumb one. No one should ever be criticized for their ideas; no matter what management thinks of a suggestion made by an employee, they should be commended by the simple fact of communicating it.
II. Good ideas can come from any part of the company. Flow of ideas should not be limited to coming from specialized sources. An idea about a new product or an extension of the product line will probably come from a marketing specialist, But a clerk may also have a useful idea about marketing; after all, he is also a consumer.
III. Ideally, employees should receive financial rewards for good ideas that are implemented, especially in case of suggestions coming from people not specifically employed for that purpose such as R&D personnel. Leading companies such as IBM have had this type of programs in place for decades and while many employees received substantial rewards, the company profited by using the ideas.
IV. Criticism about a new idea should be postponed. No idea should be discarded at first sight. There should be a systematic approach to evaluate suggestions by a formally organized group or committee.

STUDENT: OK, now a company has selected an innovation project with good potential. What comes next?
TEACHER: Now the company faces a very important task: implementing the innovation.

Deciding to invest in an innovation is tricky. It is one of the areas where management insight is very critical. Still, some objective factors must be considered:

* Ideas are always fuzzy at the beginning. Promising ideas should be “nurtured”, thought about, discussed, re-considered.
* Innovation should be judged according to its relevancy to the short or long term competitive advantage of the business. The current ideology is that a company should concentrate in its core competency, its “core businesses”. So, a good idea may not fit into this policy. Again… the idea may be the kernel of a new core business!
* The risks and potential benefits should be quantified. Launching a completely new product is more risky and carries more potential rewards than an extension of an existing product line or a redesigned package.
* Most innovations are relevant to the whole company. This fact is often disregarded and therefore top management coordination is vital. The marketing people may be sure that the new packaging for mayonnaise is great, but it may be a lot more expensive to manufacture. Decision-making should involve all relevant sectors of the company. Senior management must make sure that good teamwork is practiced.
* The resources to be allocated to the innovation project should be realistically calculated.
* Once approved, the project should have a formally stated method and plan. Timing is crucial in bringing innovations to market; a realistic “critical path” of the project should be drawn and followed-up.
* The project should be clearly communicated and understood. Clearly established objectives over time and continuous re-evaluation are vital. Not all projects started are viable, since conditions may have changed. Deciding to terminate a project is as important as deciding to start it.

New Computer Technology Spreads Media Throughout The Home

For quite a while now, the computer industry has been trying to bring computer technology into more and more different parts of the home. While the benefits to having access to a home computer in every room of the house can be pretty obvious, consumers have largely rejected technology that would do such a thing. This can be best seen in the repeated pushes (and failures) by the computer industry to make the home computer part of the home entertainment system. In the past, these computers were basically designed to use the living room TV set, instead of a conventional computer monitor- to display their desktops and graphics. The home stereo system would also act as the computer’s speakers, and the keyboard and mouse would connect to the computer wirelessly. The general idea was that the user of such a system would be able to surf the Internet, write email, and get work done all from the comfort of his or her favorite couch or easy chair. Unfortunately, the idea of making the PC part of the home entertainment center hasn’t really caught on among mainstream consumers despite the repeated efforts of the computer industry.

Two technologies that are reaching their maturity are likely to change this situation though. One is the increasing capacity of computer systems to handle video and the other is the increasing capacity of networks to transmit the large amounts of data that make up video. Wireless home networks are already popular in many homes and new technology is making it increasingly feasible to transmit video over wireless networks.

There are a number of devices that are springing up to take advantage of this new found ability to transmit video wirelessly in order to make it- along with other types of media- accessible throughout the house. One of these devices is the Touchsmart PC from Hewlett Packard. The dominating feature of this device is a 19 inch touch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio that will detect touch and allow users to point directly to the icons and menus that they want to access. In a sense the entire screen is like a huge version of the pointer pad on a laptop computer. The Touchsmart PC also comes with a separate mouse and a keyboard that are stored beneath the screen when not in use, but are both wireless to that they can be taken across the room to be used.

The main idea of the the Touchsmart PC is that it will be used in higher traffic areas of the house like the kitchen. That way when members of the family are in the kitchen to cook or eat a meal they’ll be able to quickly and easily access video, music, digital photos, or the Internet. Some of this media could be stored on the Touchsmart PC’s hard drive, accessed from another computer’s hard drive (like possibly HP’s media vault), or of course the Internet. With a price tag of almost $1800 the Touchsmart PC may be a tough sell as a device for most families to buy just as a convenience.

This type of machine, along with others like it that will surely be coming soon, will push the limits of how and where people will enjoy different types of media in their homes in the near future.