Letter from the Editor

By: Scott St. John

In the April, 2nd 1965 issue of Time magazine titled "The Computer in Society," author and economist Joseph Froomkin presupposed that, based upon the advent and adoption of the computer, "automation will eventually bring about a 20-hour work week." The article went on to surmise that that automation would lead to the creation of "a mass leisure class" which would then lead to several foreboding economic and social impacts, including two-percent employment and "non-functional lives," creating "a severe test of the deeply ingrained ethic that work is the good and necessary calling of man." And he wasn't wrong. Well, not entirely.

At least at the time, technology was anticipated to make life better. More leisure and less work—sign me up. Froomkin's predictions, however, which were projected to occur within 100 years, didn't take into account what would happen between the time of the article and the actual fruition of automation technology. As in, now.

Ten years prior to Time's poignant position on the adoption of automation technology, the UK political analyst and historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson coined what is now known as Parkinson's Law. Had Froomkin and Parkinson been better acquainted, he may have also foreseen that work would simply assume the newly available time as a means to justify itself. 

Today, 54 years after the publication of the Time article, there is rarely a day that I am able to have time to eat lunch or even tend to the most basic of biological functions. And in the time I find for either, I'm constantly connected, conducting calls over Skype, keeping up with social media, or checking news and email on my mobile device. I work 12-hour days, six days a week. I literally can't recall the last time I took a vacation. Leisure, for me, is the time I get between tucking the kids into bed and collapsing into my own. And, I'm not alone. It would seem that technology hasn't made life easier, but instead made it easier to work and for work to permeate virtually every aspect of life. Agile technology, however, may be about to change that. 

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have seen automation technology improve and transform businesses and entire industries. From the introduction of Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin (1793), Heinz's electrical food factory (1901), Ford's assembly line (1913), the McDonald brothers' Speedee Service System (1948), or General Motor's introduction of industrial robotics for automobile manufacturing (1961) — automation has proven to pay dividends and, perhaps, rushed its adoption. 


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