2013 marks twenty five years since Brisbane’s highly successful World Expo 88. Anticipating the coming tsunami of technological change, the theme of the Expo was Leisure in the Age of Technology, and the basic conundrum was seen to be: ‘What are we going to do with all the spare time that technology gives us in the future?’
So, how’s that working out for you?
The fact is that for many people the inverse is true, with increased average working hours and our addiction to technology turning us into a society of mobile prisoners.
Recent economic growth has delivered many of us with more of the things we want. We have more bathrooms, more bedrooms, more cars, and bigger houses in which to store everything. We have more technology, more TVs, more clothes, and we work longer hours to pay it off.
But what have we lost?
Perhaps our personal time has been the great loser of the past 25 years. How ironic that the asset forecast by the prophets to be in abundance has in fact been reduced by the Trojan horse that is technology.
And yet we actively encourage this loss, greeting each other with the business-like “How you going? Busy?“, rather than the traditional “How you going? All right?”
And social pressure is implied to respond in the affirmative: “Yes, I’m busy”. Doing what? Who cares, as long as you’re busy! We have become a nation that celebrates its loss of personal time.
But as this epidemic grows and our intolerance for time scarcity increases, personal time is likely to be appreciated more in the future; welcomed back like a long lost friend!
What we know now is that technology is not the answer. In fact, most innovations are multi-task enabling, rather than time-saving. Rarely do we use the additional time for more socialising or personal pursuits, choosing instead to do more work!
Freeing up personal time requires a shift in mindset – a move away from the infatuation with constant busy-ness. It’s a shift towards greater appreciation for spending quality time, rather than rationing time over a quantity of activities.
In this scenario, society becomes more focused on time savouring as opposed to time saving.
And perhaps in the future the ultimate form of status is not to have more stuff but to have more personal time.