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Please, save us from our technology

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As my Phoenix colleague Mike Miliard recently wrote in discussing the day when robots will control the world, technology both liberates and enslaves us.

Now comes the word, thanks to the digital deluge, e-mail apnea, e-mail bankruptcy, and other contemporary blights, that leading tech companies are trying to lessen the technological tether roping workers to their jobs.

From the NYT:

A typical information worker who sits at a computer all day turns to his e-mail program more than 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times, according to one measure by RescueTime, a company that analyzes computer habits. The company, which draws its data from 40,000 people who have tracking software on their computers, found that on average the worker also stops at 40 Web sites over the course of the day.

The fractured attention comes at a cost. In the United States, more than $650 billion a year in productivity is lost because of unnecessary interruptions, predominately mundane matters, according to Basex. The firm says that a big chunk of that cost comes from the time it takes people to recover from an interruption and get back to work.

Companies are also realizing that there is money to be made in helping people reduce their digital gluttony. Major corporations around the world are searching for ways to keep software tools from becoming distractions, said John Tang, a researcher at I.B.M., who is a member of the new group.

“There’s a competitive advantage of figuring out how to address this problem,” Mr. Tang said. He said that there was “a certain amount of irony” in the fact that the solutions are coming from the very companies that built the digital systems in the first place.

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