Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Is Modern Technology Overrated?

We know it’s not cool to suggest that the tech revolution is overhyped. But, that’s how many professionals feel sometimes regardless of age.

I just spent two days unplugged from the grid over the long weekend. No email. No texting. No downloads from the cloud. Guess what? The world didn’t end. It was actually pretty liberating. I used a landline phone with no problem. I took some notes with a pencil and paper and actually looked at a paper map while driving and made all the right turns without GPS, Siri, or the reassuring voice of an anonymous female voice with her fake British accent. And when I returned, my email inbox was full, but no excessively.

I’m no Luddite. It’s just my patience wears when all the new tech tools and gadgets supposedly making my life easier don’t work—or constantly need upgrading. Sometimes it’s just easier to use your brain in an ad hoc fashion than let technology solve your problems.

Real world examples

I frantically finished an essential piece of work Friday afternoon, diligently saved to my hard drive, cloud and external drive. I prepared to shut down the computer for the long weekend when I got the infamous warning that essential upgrades were needed on my PC--27 in all—“Don’t shut down or turn off your machine.”

Finally out of the office, already late, I had a small auto malfunction. No big deal except I accidently accepted an app upgrade on my Smartphone while trying to get AAA roadside assistance. It took 30 minutes for the upgrades to load—which meant 30 minutes I couldn’t call, email or text for help or let me family know where I was or what was going on.

Then I had to find directions to my niece’s out of state wedding at an obscure bed and breakfast on the New England coast line….Mapquest, Google Maps etc. kept forcing me to GPS connect to all the local hotels, restaurants and gas stations in the area, when all I really wanted was turn by turn directions. The Smart security alarm in my home malfunctioned while I was away, so the fire department apparently came by for a midnight false alarm. I didn’t score any points with my neighbors for that won and it cost me $250 to boot.

Is tech really making us better off?

As Times columnist Paul Krugman
observed yesterday, the new technologies are “more fun than fundamental. Information technologies that excites the Twittering classes may not be a big deal or the economy as a whole.” What’s more, “the new technologies have yielded great headlines but modest economic results,” continued Krugman. And they aren’t really making us more productive, just more wired, he implied.

While computers, artificial intelligence and robo advisors are creeping into our lives more and more each day, there are certain things that the pliable, creative human brain can do that machines simply can’t. Robert Shiller, the renowned economist and Yale professor, noted the other day we need to teach students to outsmart robots. In other words, we need to make education more “business focused” and teach about the “creative entrepreneurial process that presumably computers cannot duplicate.

Many of you are financial advisors, attorneys or CPAs. Let machines and other technologies handle the repetitive, low-margin, uncreative aspects of your work and free up your brain for the high margin, creative solutions that your clients expect from you.


As our client Gary Klaben of Chicago-based Coyle Financial Advisors noted in a blog post that we helped him with last fall, “Use each competitive threat as motivation to “up your game” and further refine your target market and the value you provide to your clients—and your clients’ heirs.”  Also see Derek Markham’s post for more Overrated Technologies and Their Overlooked Alternatives.

blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.


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