The last two decades of the twentieth century saw computers increasingly becoming an essential part of human progress and efficiency. They took over the bulk of tedious clerical tasks. They enabled sophisticated methods and procedures to be adopted. They provided the ability to store, categorize, sort and search through gargantuan amounts of information. Coupled with the Internet - which provides unparalleled access to information and unlimited scope for communication - the business, technical and scientific worlds have been totally transformed.
Despite the undoubted increase in human efficiency and its corresponding improvement in human wealth, there is a growing awareness that this is not leading to happier or more relaxed living. In the 1980's, the promise of the computer revolution was that this technology would relieve us of stress and provide us with more leisure time. Yet, exactly the reverse is true. The pace of life has increased and most people in the civilized world are having a hard time catching up. It seems to be a truism that this year will be the least stressful of the rest of our lives as the rate of technological progress continues to spiral up into greater and greater complexities.
Instead of technology becoming our slave, it is rapidly become our master. We are getting forced into niche areas of expertise and competences and losing sight of the big picture. The workings of our technological society has become too complex to fully understand or control.
It is now time to step back from the intricacies of the detailed workings of this technological world, to try get an overall grasp on what it is about. We need to be able to view technological progress from the perspective of leading a happier, less stressful life. We need to be able to regain the initiative, wresting control back from the technology so as to become the masters, not the slaves, of the technological revolution that is threatening to engulf us.
Fortunately, computers have enabled us to make tremendous progress in the understanding of technical complexity and the intricacies of the human brain. We now have new conceptual frameworks, which allow us to see the big picture and understand how technology interacts with the human brain.