The Paradox of Technological Development: Convenience vs Exhaustion

The original intention behind the development of science and technology was to improve the human happiness index and enhance the convenience of daily life and work efficiency. However, it is also evident that with the continuous advancement of science and technology, our lives have become increasingly busy and fast-paced, leading to fatigue.

Changes in transportation

In the era of underdeveloped technology, humans relied on horse-drawn carriages or walking as means of transportation, which made it challenging to conduct long-distance business or activities, leading to limited mobility. However, with the evolution of science and technology, convenient modes of transportation such as cars and trains have emerged, and failure to show up the next day can now result in accountability. Moreover, with the advent of more advanced modes of transportation such as airplanes and high-speed rail, the boss can notify you in the morning, and failure to arrive in the afternoon can have severe consequences.

In the past, pigeons or messengers were relied upon only for matters of importance or urgency. However, with the advent of the phone and email, we now spend significant time dealing with trivial tasks outside our daily work. Today, with cell phones, Skype, and constant messaging, the line between work and personal life has become blurry.

Although it is challenging to explain why science and technology development makes human beings more tired at a macro level, micro-level inspections may offer some insight. While changes in transportation and communication have saved significant time, our total free time seems to have reduced. With the advancement of technology, people are expected to take on more work. Although technology has doubled our efficiency, our workload has doubled or more. This trend is taken for granted by more and more people.

From a personal perspective, the process of technological development doesn’t always lead to exhaustion. There’s a buffer period between convenience and exhaustion, as illustrated by the following example:

In the past, your colleagues used to draw by hand, but you could use computer graphics, which made you more efficient and relaxed. However, when everyone started using computer graphics, your superiors or clients may demand more graphics at a faster pace than before, and you may feel tired. Later, when you used more advanced and intelligent software to complete tasks quickly, you would not feel tired. But when everyone else started using the same programs, you may feel tired again. Finally, when you were the first to use AI graphics, you could complete three days’ work in one day and not feel tired. But when everyone else knew how to use AI graphics, producing only 100 graphics in a day would feel slow, and you may feel tired again.

This rule applies regardless of the current level of technology. Looking back over time and expanding the space, it’s the same in your own company and in all other companies within your industry. Therefore, ease and convenience are not related to technology, but rather to the gap between you and the overall level, be it a technological, experience, or resource gap. Ultimately, the gap in efficiency between you and the majority determines whether you can briefly obtain a sense of ease.

In the past, it was normal to be an hour late when riding a horse, but now being ten minutes late for the subway can make us late. It was acceptable to wait for three to five months for a letter, but now not responding to a Skype message within a minute seems strange. The more convenient our environment, the smaller our breathing space becomes. As transportation becomes more developed, humans move further away and commute between cities. As communication becomes more convenient, people communicate more frequently, even over trivial matters. Can we avoid exhaustion?

Some may ask, why don’t we slow down altogether? That’s too idealistic! We cannot unite all of humanity to slow down together because there will always be traitors and disruptors. Someone will always be more relaxed than others. If we do not want them to create an efficiency gap, we can only work faster and produce more than them. This is why technological development has made our lives more convenient but also more tiring. It seems like a stalemate. In a zero-sum game, we cannot save everyone. We can only save ourselves by running faster than others. Can we avoid exhaustion?

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