Techno-Freemdom, but still trapped!

As we move towards a new year, there is no doubt that the chains that kept us attached to our desktop computer have been shattered by a range of technologies that are moving us to new types of freedom. But even with this freedom, our dependence continues.

2011 will see some significant shifts in how most of us with access to technology will work, play, think, and even sleep. Using my iPhone, I can stay in touch with my staff while having dinner with friends. I can check the status of our servers, send files to clients, and watch video on my HD television – streaming from my phone.

On the other hand, I keep looking at my phone. I keep picking it up and looking at it. Bad. Just around the corner, smartphones from Apple and a host of Android developers are slated to begin using EQ, emotional intelligence. Now that phones have cameras, GPS, microphones, etc., the potential exists for them to read our faces, and to then help us “adjust” our mood. Oh oh.

And it’s not just that phones may get smarter. Several research firms are predicting that by 2012, more than 1 billion people will no longer work in a traditional office. So, as our dependence on desktop computers fades, so will our need to show up at a specific place every day. In our own workforce, more than half of our team work from home at least three days a week. And, as noted previously, I work from wherever my phone has service.

What isn’t happening as it should is the ability to really work anywhere, anytime, any place. While it’s true that I keep picking up my phone, it doesn’t always have enough service bandwidth to be as useful as I’d like (no AT&T jokes, please). And an interesting note: As Cameron Barrett has noted, why is it than in the movies, every phone works instantly with connectivity that blows a T3 line away? Is that the modern version of a 50s movie with machine guns that had unlimited rounds? The fact is, we’re all relying on devices that for any number of reasons might not work tomorrow. Until that is solved, I’ll keep my laptop close at hand.

One thing that I apparently don’t need to worry about is cloud computing. Perhaps the most talked about technology of the past six months, the idea that you no longer need your data on a drive on your desktop is changing everything. The OS is no longer as important. The hardware need only have a fast graphics card, high resolution display, and it’s all good. By having your data in the cloud, and syncing to your various devices on demand, the notion that we’ll all operate in a new dynamic is just around the corner. In fact, it’s already here for some people.

The real issue, however, is how does this affect us in our everyday lives? Does this freedom mean we’ll have more time to enjoy what we like to do in our off hours, or does it mean our clients and business will follow us everywhere we go? Determining how much control we have over switching things off is going to play a big role in our emerging techno-freedom. I know this: I want to be able to adjust every contact, giving them specific hours that they can reach me. I want to create priorities for email, Facebook, Twitter, and just the bloody ringing of the phone. Is there an app for that? Until then, I’m looking at techno-freedom, but am trapped by the access it provides.

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