Articles October 5, 2015

Living and Working in Two Worlds

by Barry P Chaiken, MD

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell offered to sell his patent for the telephone to Western Union for $100,000. After careful consideration the company rejected Bell’s offer.

They replied that they could see no good reason why people would want to speak to each other through such a device considering the quality of the transmitted speech. Western Union believed using the telegraph represented a superior alternative since a person could easily send a clear and readable message to anyone in any city in the country simply by sending a messenger to the telegraph office with a clearly written message. Although we consider this shortsightedness amusing, it represents a bias we all share. The authors of The Gen Z Effect describe it this way:

“the future never comes fully formed. It is always disguised in a clumsy package that doesn’t comfortably fit the behaviors we are accustomed to.”

The authors went on to say:

“It’s human nature to initially place “new” technologies into old behaviors since we have no other frame of reference.”

Technology always arrives before the behaviors required to realize the potential of the technology.

The problem of accepting and integrating new technology repeatedly challenges us humans to adapt. While generations defined by age categorized these behaviors, technology is advancing so quickly that age no longer adequately describes behavior differences.

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