Computers: It’s a love/hate thing

As a training and development organisation we have constantly to keep abreast of change. It might be within the context of such legal compliance as applies to HR, organisational excellence and management courses; it might be to do with developments in the psychology of teaching and learning; most often, though, it’s to do with changes in IT systems and applications.

When we set up Clearer Thoughts at the end of 2000 we made the decision to be principally a Microsoft house and we have stuck to that. It’s no longer such a simple choice, though, as alternatives have proliferated, risen and fallen. Each year we find ourselves learning new applications, techniques and technology. If only you could just open a hole in your memory and let all the earlier versions drop out. I must know at least 6 versions of Microsoft Word not to mention its sometime competitor applications from Novell, Lotus, Google et al. plus its very real opposition in today’s market place. Microsoft retains its dominant position in business but Apple has become the coolest brand in the universe for everyday folk.

And still they keep coming: social and personal changes in habit and expectation. As recently as 18 months ago, IT departments fighting the constant battle against security lapses could still hope to issue blanket bans on employees using their own devices. Today there are few who even try, forcing them, instead, to work on the problems rather than try to avoid them. Three or four years ago few pensioners had mobile phones: now smart phones are essential for smart over-80’s who are regularly given their grandchildren’s cast offs.

Yes, of course, I love them. I’m constantly dazzled by the ingenuity of mankind, the diversity of ideas that can become reality in weeks or months rather than years; I delight in video-phone calls that bring people together; access to millions of books; indexed research; clever new gizmos of every kind.

Nevertheless, it seems enormously sad that the greatest use of the internet is pornography; that children are being encouraged to sext and habituated to violence; that so many individuals relish trolling rather than helping their friends, neighbours or complete strangers, lashing out with violent and baseless hatred; that devices which should open onto limitless horizons are used so often to close down imagination, reduce vocabulary and lead to gross materialism.

Like I said, it’s a love/hate thing. But perhaps the computer is merely the vehicle that releases the emotion, not its source. Maybe it’s people not computers that we should be worrying about.

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