Bob Geldof, the musician and activist, thinks technology is making people less productive. The BBC reported today that Geldof, the former leader of the Boomtown Rats and the organizer of the Live8 benefit, has spoken out against email. The story says:
"Live8 organiser Sir Bob Geldof has revealed his contempt for emails, blaming them for tying up people's time and stopping genuine action.
Sir Bob told a conference in London that emails "give a feeling of action, which is a mistake".
He told delegates that what workers achieve each day will be linked to the number of emails they ignore.
He explained that the "doing part" of a job is proportionate to the amount of emails you do not answer.
Geldof, who received an honorary knighthood in 1986 for organizing the Band Aid concerts to fight hunger in Africa, has earned the right to be a curmudgeon. And he's certainly not the first person to feel overwhelmed by new technologies that could be improved upon in ways too numerous to mention.
His remarks are unfortunate, nonetheless. For one, they ignore reality. Email is a primary means of communications, and it's pointless to bemoan that fact. But the real issue is that email and Internet usage in general tend to make people more productive. Productivity growth is a crucial part of raising living standards around the world. Developing regions such as Africa need more technology, not less. While Geldof's frustration with technology is understandable, his time would be better spent urging people to improve technology, not ignore it.