I continue my smartarse theme this week.
I wrote this in early 2001 and touched on the idea that people don't care too much about the information they share (privacy). If you consider what people put online via social media you will have to say that even people will say they value their privacy, they don't really act that way.
I also spoke about why tele-commuting is not going to take off in a big way any time soon,.
As I said, it is smart-arse week.
The new world of work
A lot has been written and said about the new world of work where we will all tele-commute, work via the Web and where robots take over all manufacturing. Without exception, the main proponents of the new way have at the very least got their timing very wrong.
Predicting the future is a dangerous business made doubly so when you are trying to predict human behaviour and slap a deadline on it. However, there are some fundamental values and characteristics of human nature that you can pretty much bank on as being timeless. Man is a social animal. The people who predicted that the VCR would spell the death of the cinematic experience did not consider this simple fact. The consulting landscape is littered with corpses who staked their reputation on the extrapolation of a trend or the discovery of a new technology without due consideration of the essence of human nature. It is time to dispel a few myths about the new world of work.
Man likes to talk about himself and herself. All those who bemoan the demise of privacy on the Net should think again. Barring some really confidential information like a criminal record or serious lack of funds, people generally don’t mind talking about themselves. There are thousands of market research firms in the world who can attest to the fact that the vast majority of people who do not want to participate in a survey do so purely because of the perceived lack of time. They just could not be bothered at that particular point in time. It is very rarely a matter of principle.
Once aggregators of data such as marketers of consumer products and services have all the info they need, the real question will be what to do with it. People are a peculiar mass of contradictions and inconsistencies. Traditional market research has long perpetuated the notion that people can be grouped together as markets based on a slicing and dicing of their attitudes, behaviours or lifestyles. This has given the managers and accountants the false sense of security that marketing is an exact science. The real truth is that people are as unique as their fingerprints signify. In the past the (subtle) differences between people have been disguised by the limitations of research methodologies and the lack of data. If you ask people a few questions, chances are that their answers will be able to be grouped in a meaningful way. With access to perfect information and limitless data, the differences become more pronounced.
And even if marketers figure how to use data in some meaningful way, the targets of their advertising or sales techniques will have found a way to block them. The key in the privacy debate is not whether researchers/marketers will gain access to personal data. I think it was Scott McNealy [CEO- Sun Microsystems] who said famously that ‘privacy is dead – get over it’. He is right of course; but the funny thing is that, by and large, people don’t mind. The reason is that they fully expect to be able to somehow filter the appeals of the marketers – probably through the use of technology. Only messages from trusted sources will get through to them. It is the modern, adult version of “talk to the hand because the ears aren’t listening”. Somehow the Internet will have its own version of the TV remote that allows users to zap between channels and skip commercials at will. It might be as simple as filtering applications as they exist today or something more fanciful. The important point is that consumers/users don’t mind the loss of privacy (outward-bound data flow), but mind the intrusion (inward-bound data flow) of messages coming in. The overload of information has long been identified as an issue that has been made more ubiquitous with the advent of the Internet. But people will find a way to cope, they always do.
Like most people with Internet access, I have done the Amazon.com thing and I certainly do a lot of banking on the Net. There is a bit of concern when I pay by credit card, but I keep a low limit on the card anyway, so my exposure is limited. I tend not to divulge my e-mail address to all and sundry websites, and when I do, it is the freemail one. There I would monitor the spam vs. quality and if necessary, transfer it tio the regular address or attempt to cancel. I have never had difficulty in getting unsubscribed from a website.
Work from home
As stated earlier, man is fundamentally a social animal. Work from home and telecommuting is bound to increase – up to a point. It is a work style that will suit certain jobs more than others, and more importantly the ability to work from home will be important at certain stages of ones life. A career woman who wants to raise a family, a son who needs to look after frail parents or someone who needs to live in one city but work in another are examples of the people who might seek out telecommuting opportunities.
But most people seem to like the idea of leaving the drudgery and dirty dishes behind, dress up a bit and get out. It probably provides people with some meaning in their lives and also gives the man opportunity to play different roles, which are so necessary for their psychological balance. And employers will realise sooner or later that a lot of progress and problem solving comes from the creative tension fostered by direct interaction with peers, customers and competitors.
This means of course that if you had hoped traffic jams would become a thing of the past any time soon, you are wrong. I am rather more fortunate of course, as I drive for an hour every morning and an hour every evening down one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world. The south coast of New South Wales, Australia is a beautiful part of the world. Particularly as the highway crests Mt. Ousley and follows a sweeping curve downwards it delivers a stunning view of Wollongong. The early morning sun paints the shimmering expanse of sea and harbour and this picture is framed by lush vegetation.