24 May 2011

Age of Leisure Ah Yes, The Six Hour Work Week Post 1

Posted by Jody under: Home .

Observe, for a moment, your briefcase.

If you are like many business travelers, you will have it jammed full with the accoutrements of the digital age. Your laptop computer, cell phone, and electronic organizer. You are in touch, in tune, and a true citizen of the wired world.

You are also a great disappointment to the early believers of the computer revolution. You see, you probably work too hard.

How wonderful it was all supposed to be!
In the early fifties, citizens of the world were told of the magic of the forthcoming computer revolution.

Gosh, computers were to be so great that leading futurists of the time literally gushed about the forthcoming “leisure age,” a fascinating new period of time in which people would work no more than 2 hours a day, 3 days a week. Indeed, many people wouldn’t have to work at all – computers would do it on their behalf. We were even told that computer driven robots would vacuum the floors, wash the windows, and clean the toilets.

We believed, and celebrated our new technology religion by tuning into the Jetsons, a popular cartoon about the modern space age family of the 21st century.

Enter Donald N. Michael, a social psychologist, to burst our bubble. On February 12, 1962, Newsweek picked up his warnings of the dark side of the computer age. Far from seeing any good, he predicted that computers would begin a slow but inevitable takeover of everything that man did, providing for massive unemployment, loss of human values, and deep social unrest. Yes, there would be a leisure age, he said, but it would not be a pleasant one.

He even foresaw that this new era would lead us to significant marital stress. The reason? From his perspective, the man in the family (who, in the politically incorrect 50’s was the breadwinner) would suddenly find himself at home a great deal, a casualty of the leisure age. He would be far too involved in his wife’s space. (Remember, back then, the housewife stayed at home.) Stress and marital breakdown would ensue.

What a time it was! All too soon, the gilded computer age was offering a mixed and confusing message. We weren’t reassured when our first experience with the technology involved the punch card, a piece of cardboard which threatened us: “Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate.”

Secretly, a few of us expressed our distrust of this new era by folding one in half.

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