Ruminations on saving time

authored by Frank Lynam at 02/04/2012 21:06:44

OK, so I may have just left the PC behind me. I haven’t quite abandoned Windows altogether but thanks to VMware Fusion I’ll be running it on a virtual PC on my MacBook Pro from now on. This major innovation in my digital life means that I won’t have to be lugging around 2 machines in the future. For the last 6 months of so I had been using a PC for two reasons mainly: MS Visual Studio 2010 which beats any other IDE hands down and Adobe Master Collection CS4 which I bought a few years back and for some reason its licenses are restricted to either Macs or Windows and not both. And the amazing thing is that my virtualised Windows 7 Home Premium appears to run just about as fast, if not faster, as my Dell XPS which I bought just a year ago. How did Apple manage to leapfrog the PC manufacturers so quickly? Anyway, the long and short of it is that I now have more time on my hands. I can envisage a future in which I’ll be spending less time flicking between machines when I’m working on things. Or at least that’s the theory.

Users of digital technologies are constantly striving for the upgrade. Manufacturers are always trying to get us to ditch our old models whether they be the venerable iPhone 3GS or our dusty vacuum cleaner. It’s like Darwin’s evolution sped up 100,000 times. Evolution in nature tends at least in principle to always offer something better as time passes and species adapt or die; the survival of the fittest. The question is, do our digital evolutionary steps follow the same logic? Am I really gaining time, or to be more succinct, free time, when I change over to a faster CPU or buy more RAM?

One would hope that I might use the additional time that I have ‘saved’ to go out and inhale the air and generally do all the things that people should do when they snatch a bit of breathing space from the industrial or in my case the academic machine. And if I was a man committed to the principle that time spent relaxing is time well spent then I just might do that. The problem is that I don’t. Since the upgrade I have spent just around the same amount of my time at the PC (or now the MacBook as the case may be). And I would suspect that the same phenomena is seen in all the houses around the planet that receive delivery of their new Dysons. You still have to traipse around the house with the thing after all regardless of how it manages your corners better.

So the logical question to ask would be is it all worth it or are we been sold a pup in the technological advance? It could easily be argued that all of these digital tools that claim to make our lives freer are in fact doing quite the contrary. Most readers of this blog will probably check their email tens of times a day. They will come home having left the office computer behind them and immediately be immersed in the hypermedia that is thrown at us from our TVs, radios, smartphones and quite possibly even our microwaves.

Free time then and the acquisition of more of it through the digital upgrade are the illusion.