One of the ever-increasing problems created by technology – and especially the internet and cellphones – is a failure, particularly by the younger generations, to understand that waiting until the last moment can be a problem, sometimes even a disaster. I’m perfectly well aware that procrastination has been a fault in every “younger” generation since before the time of Plato, but from what I’m observing, that particular fault seems to be lasting longer among the young and spreading to a greater segment of the population.
Part of the reason for this, I’m personally convinced, is because of the “instant” nature of communications. Especially in the high-tech world, one can reach people immediately, and more and more businesses are expecting their employees to be available electronically all the time. As I’ve noted elsewhere, this has some considerable downsides, but one of those downsides I haven’t mentioned in any depth is that such communications expectations lead to other expectations, particularly that physical products and goods can be available equally swiftly.
In this regard, Amazon has also been fostering unrealistic expectations. It’s one thing to be able to pack and ship an existing product in less than twenty-four hours; it’s something entirely different to be able to create something unique in the same period, or to write a detailed analysis about something new, with which the analyst has had no experience, in the same period. In short, doing the work actually takes far more time than one-day shipping the product, or electronically zapping an analysis to whoever needs it.
My wife the professor sees this all the time. Students think that they can learn a piece of complex music overnight or at least in a few days. They think they can write papers overnight… and they indeed can, except that such papers seldom make sense because they simply throw things together because they haven’t spent time doing the background study necessary.
Then there’s the associated problem. All this technology that we use today has a far higher failure rate than the old-fashioned manual typewriter did…and when that’s combined with waiting until the last moment… is it really anyone else’s fault when your hard drive fails at four in the morning because you put everything off? Is it anyone else’s fault if the internet goes down for the two hours just before the deadline for acceptance of the paper, project, grant application, or whatever? Or that the color printer runs out of toner and the office supply store won’t be open until nine o’clock?
This just doesn’t happen to students. Boeing screwed up the production of its new 787 because the company decided to outsource manufacturing and relied on “just in time” delivery. It became such a disaster that Boeing had to build more facilities to manufacture certain key components. The “instant” aspects of technology aren’t infallible, and they’re only part of the process, and everything requires lead time and planning – something that all too many people from students even to engineers seem to be forgetting.