The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

July 16, 2013

Electronics: Do they make us any more or less productive?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 — It was about 1981 when I bought my first computer. It was bought for my farm business and used there. It cost $2,900 plus the cost of some programs needed to use it. Mostly it was used for the business financial records and farm production records. It proved to be worth the cost.

By 1990, that computer had been replaced with a newer, better and cheaper one. In 1996, when I went to Russia for a month as a consultant with the Agency of International Development, I bought my first laptop computer to send and receive emails from home while I was there. It was obvious that electronics were going to be a part of our future. Many people were predicting computers would enable us to produce much more. By becoming much more productive, the total amount of goods and services we could enjoy would substantially increase in the coming years. Now fast forward more than 20 years to the present.  How are we doing?

If the electronics are going to enable us to produce a lot more, it is time to see the production. When we look at our economy, there isn’t much of an increase to see. Unemployment is too high, the Gross Domestic Product is increasing too slowly and our situations haven’t improved that much. Is the promise of production increases not being kept? The answer seems to be “Yes”. But why?

The problem may be how we are using the electronics available to us. While computing may increase our ability to produce products and services, it may also increase our ability to produce the same amount with less time and leave us with more non-productive time. In other words, we aren’t using our time and labor as productively as we used to do.

Let’s look at schools. They all start again in August. For the upper grades and college the class is frequently led by a teacher who talks, writes on the board, shows some slides and/or leads a discussion. But with Wi-Fi in all classrooms enabling students to connect to the internet, it also means everyone can use their smart phone to text their friends everywhere. In many classes the dominate activity is texting – not taking notes or listening to the teacher. This doesn’t improve our education.

Now leave the classroom and go to the workplace away from schools. How are the workers doing? They are getting their work done more quickly with a computer. Then they spend time surfing the internet. Some of the time is spent looking for another job, most say they visit recreational sites, they send personal emails and more than half spend time on the job shopping online while at work. Some spend time looking at cats playing or models wearing swimwear. In any case, studies are showing most employees are using the electronics on the job to do things which are not related to the job and which do not increase their productivity.

The morning I was writing this, I was driving and met a woman walking on the shoulder of the road texting. She never looked up as my car approached. Thankfully, my car was on the road and under control otherwise she would never have known what hit her. On Sundays I often see someone in church during the service texting. Do you think they are sending a message to God?

My point is this. We have never had so many opportunities to communicate with friends anywhere in the world. However, we are reducing our individual productivity by spending so much of our time communicating with others when we could be productive. Only when millions of us become more interested being productive and start spending less time being social will we receive the full productive benefits of the electronic revolution.

Eugene Pickler is an economics professor at Pfeiffer University.

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Patrick Gannon Fake news or sign of some more trouble?

    RALEIGH – Of the three situations I can recall where agencies receiving large sums of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t divulge employees’ salaries, two of them ended badly. The third – involving a group of charter schools in Southeastern North Carolina – is playing out right now.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    WASHINGTON - The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • D.G. Martin Where did all these new voters in North Carolina come from?

    “Voters born elsewhere make up nearly half of N.C. electorate.”
    So begins the latest DataNet report from the UNC Program on Public Life, directed by former journalist Ferrel Guillory.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Some light for Dems in their time of darkness

    RALEIGH – Earlier this year, state Sen. Ben Clark, a Hoke County Democrat, became a hero for a day among his party and environmentalists when his amendment to require more well water testing near future fracking sites passed the Senate. It even gained the support of a number of GOP senators, against the wishes of the Republican bill sponsor.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Maintaining hope

    Gardeners are facing challenges with the weather this year. It seemed like we were getting great conditions in April and May. The weather was warm and we were getting some good rains. Then sometime in June the rain stopped. It got so dry that I didn’t have to cut the grass. While I enjoyed the break, the garden was not happy at all. I was having to water quite a bit to keep the vegetable garden alive and growing.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd I may be a bit behind the times, but at least I can find ‘America’

    I seem to be reading about and dealing with technology a lot lately.
    I  love technology and have always been fascinated by gadgets of all kinds and the wonderful things they can do. You never seem to go through an entire day without some form of invention enhancing your life.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Meeting out in open helps negotiations move ahead

    RALEIGH – State lawmakers reconvened in Raleigh on May 14 promising a brief legislative session this summer, but as July moves along they are still in town and tackling big issues.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Larry's Sketch 7.16.14.tif They don’t give a darn for Duke University

    John “Duke” Wayne’s heirs are suing Duke University over trademark rights.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content