Novelty or Nuisance?

The human race has become so incredibly intelligent that we’ve found a variety of means by which technology or technological devices can essentially take over our work, or simplify it, at the very least. The bulk of these advancements serve to improve our quality of life; however, do they come at a certain cost?

I found myself pondering that very question over the past couple of days after perusing a couple of online articles.

Let’s face it: Humans are highly creative beings who thrive on trying to reach their full potential, and the motivation to simplify various aspects of our lives often drives us to immensely innovative pursuits. As technologies continue to advance in scope, the possibilities of inventing, modifying or improving appear to be boundless.

Of course, it would take more than just a column to ramble on about the great strides people have made to facilitate continual advancements and breakthroughs in science and technology — most of which serve to simplify and drastically raise our quality of life.

But I will cite just a few examples of technological advancements that some may embrace and others may consider somewhat controversial.

Say you’ve made out-of-town holiday plans, but are dreading the drudgery of flying. Well, the good news is that the folks at the Department of Homeland Security are working on one of their latest airport screening projects, with the goal of making your travel plans easier and safer.

The project, which is still partially in the development phase, is aimed at finding a solution to shorten the seemingly never-ending security lines and relieve travelers of the hassle of removing their shoes, belts and other items that may trigger the alarm and warrant additional security measures. It also serves to create a safer environment for airline passengers by exploring a more fundamental answer to the nation’s pressing security concerns.

According to a CNN article, what the technology will eventually do, instead of actually trying to locate weapons or explosives or other forbidden items, is to evaluate a traveler’s physiological signs — including heart rate, eye movement and fidgeting — in order to determine if he or she is suspected of trying to inflict harm of any kind to fellow passengers.

Now, I could see how some might be wary of a system that, in a sense, seems to invade our sense of personal space. However, in light of the fact that the ultimate intent is to further the good of the community, the sacrifice seems rather small.

Another recent development that’s inherently intriguing is one that aims to simplify the job of a manager, supervisor or employer in the workplace — even though it may not sit well with some of their subordinates.

To put it simply, employees who only appear to be focused, hardworking and productive under the boss’s watch have another thing coming. A certain group of individuals dreamed up a software solution that would be the eyes and the ears of the employer by “spying” on employees’ every move via e-mails, phone calls and other electronic means. Closely monitoring communications and interactions internally as well as externally will in turn allow employers to receive feedback on how diligent or poor of an employee someone actually is.

Suffice it to say, the implications for implementing such an initiative are huge, both for employers as well as employees.

On the one hand, it easily allows employers to reward good behaviors and penalize unwanted ones. The ramifications for employees, on the other hand, are just as big, as they are now more prone to being questioned, examined or challenged for their actions.

So is this overarching idea novelty or nuisance? Once again, I can sympathize with both parties and am still on the fence about whether the larger good overrides the cost. After all, would it benefit an employer to find out that Bob in the sales department plays Tetris between sales calls, even though at the end of the day he produces his expected targets?

Generally speaking, there are bound to be positive as well as negative implications associated with any given development or product. There are some where the potential advantages are abundantly clear and others we may need to accept with a grain of salt because they serve a greater purpose.

dhartley@certmag.com

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Deanna Hartley

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