By The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, P.C, M.P.,
Prime Minister Of Canada
Inaugural Canada-Wide Marshall McLuhan Distinguished Teachers
Awards, Toronto April 26, 1990
Technology Job Search
The Space of Technology
How can we gain control over information flow? Before we can answer this question,
which I think we can to a large degree with applications of Time Manager philosophy, we
must first understand how technology shapes us.
A Zen master asks one of his students what is the most important thing about a cup. The
bewildered students guesses the handle, the brim, the bowl. "None of these" replies the
Zen monk. "It is the space the cup creates." What is the space that technology creates in
our minds, organizations and society?
Neil Postman in his book, Technopoly, explains, a la Marshall McLuhan (the medium is the
message), that each new technology has embedded in its own world view. Our tools shape
how we view the world. Postman writes, "Once a technology is admitted (into our world),
it plays out its own hand; it does what it is designed to do. Our task is to understand what
that design is."
Take e-mail for example. If we simply adopt e-mail as a new technology, we may not
understand how it differs from so-called "snail-mail", and thereby end up using it as simply
faster, cheaper, more accessible mail. Instead of handling 10 pieces of correspondence a
day, I can easily end up with 200 pieces of e-mail. I would never think of handling 200
letters a day and still think I could get anything else done, but that is what many people are
attempting to do with e-mail.
And to make matters worse, many people actually print out their e-mail, so they really do
end up with 200 pieces of correspondence. And regular mail hasn't been reduced that
much since we've replaced regular mail with faxes. E-mail is just on top of all our
Because of the ease with which we can save e-mail, many people save everything that
comes to them electronically. I met a fellow in one of my Time Manager seminars - years
ago - who had already saved l,700 e-mail messages in his files. Knowledge or useless
information - you decide.
Perhaps the biggest price we pay for this increased information is that expectations have
gone up dramatically as to what we are presumed to be able to do.
Harvard economist Juliet Shor reports that technology was predicted to save us from
excessively long hours. But, as Shor points out in her book, The Overworked American, we
are working 164 hours more per year than we did 20 years ago. "Technology", reports
Shor, "reduces the amount of time it takes to do any one task but also leads to the
expansion of tasks that people are expected to do. This is what happened to American
housewives over the twentieth century as they got new household appliances. They didn't
actually do less work - they did more things. It's what happens to people when they get
computers and faxes and cellular telephones and all of the new technologies that are
coming out today."
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