Thursday, December 18, 2003

Takin' Care of Business...

The Evangelical Outpost posted a blog Tuesday titled, The Poets of the Economy. Per Joe, "I've made a list of the five individuals and the five organizations that I think have had the greatest impact on the economy since World War II." Microsoft was listed at Numero Uno with the byline, "created software that increased office productivity." I posted a comment on his page where I noted that increased office productivity may be more of a myth than a reality. It seems to be a given that since we have PCs and software such as MS Office that we are, somehow, more productive. Now, to be sure, one can easily point out specific instances of where a particular software has dramatically increased output productivity. For example, on a refinery expansion project I worked on a couple of years ago I was able to formulate a methodology in which I could package a 300 - 400 page monthly report in one working day. To do this I utilized software such as Adobe Pagemaker and Acrobat. To produce the same report twenty years ago would have taken a week, easy. But you see, here we have the fundamental errors when doing our comparisons. Twenty years ago I would not have produced the same report - precisely because it would have taken a week to prepare. Technology has allowed me to output immensely more data in much quicker fashion. But is the increased data that much more beneficial? I would argue that it isn't. Okay, you might say, so the increase in the amount of data isn't beneficial... but the quality of the data has got to be better! I seriously doubt it. You see, the dilemma we have found ourselves in is that because we can produce so much data so quickly, we take less time to structure it and show less concern with its initial validity. After all, we can revise it so quickly, right? Think of C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien writing their novels. The use of a word processing software would have certainly made it possible for them to type out the works faster... but would the works have been any better? Would the works have actually gotten out that much sooner? Again, I seriously doubt it. The reason, again, harkens to methodology. Writers of that era had to work within the parameters of the technology of the time. They did not have the luxury of quick revisions, data restore, automatic footnoting, etc., etc., etc. When they decided to put pen to paper they, by means of the methodology, already had a good idea of what they wanted to say. So, although it may appear at a detailed level that technology has increased our productivity, at the higher and broader level it may actually not be the case. This blindness to the productivity at the higher levels is very similar to how Evolutionists misapply detailed examples of genetic change and then extrapolate the changes to the species level. In the lab, a molecular biologist may isolate a particular gene sequence and observe either a mutation or a sequence shift. This data is then applied to a higher or more complex level of sequences with the reasoning that if enough time were allowed, then most assuredly the change would occur. In other words, they've ignored the overall picture in favor of what the detail seems to be telling them (there are other problems with the evolutionary philosophy, but we'll hit that another day). In the office where I work the engineering departments have rows of CAD machines where there once stood drafting tables. Input and output from CAD machines is amazingly fast. Drawings can be input by tablet much faster than with the old drafting pencil. Duplicate drawings can be made instantaneously. Templates as well. Revisions are a snap. Yet, if you were to look at how long it takes to get a series of drawings, such as needed for a typical project, out the door - it is about the same amount of time now as twenty years ago, when they were still produced on the drafting boards. The end-product is no better either, with some arguing that it is, in fact, worse. Yet, computer technology can increase productivity - but at specific levels of detail. Another project I was on utilized a series of PCs linked together to run an iteration of calculations to find the most optimum method for power generation. The engineers could have done the work themselves... but it would have taken tens of times much longer. Here's the kicker though - negating that particular benefit, the overall project was the same length it would have been before! I've rambled too long though... gotta go check my e-mail. ;^)

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