Friday, July 31, 2009

Back to the [High-Tech] Future

claims — with good reason, it appears — to be the world’s oldest telecommunications company. Even before it became British Telecom, as the General Post Office (GPO), it was envisioning a future that included an array of sophisticated technologies, foreshadowing VoIP phones, Google maps, videoconferences and telecommuting.

Very cool and surprisingly prescient, this video appears to have been produced in the late 1960s/early 1970s, imagining leading-edge technology in the 1990s.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

“Multitasking: Destroyer of Human Happiness?”

The ability to juggle dozens of balls simultaneously has always been a fundamental requirement in the public relations profession — especially in New York. That may be why I’ve always been fascinated (and repelled) by the apocalyptic tone of many social critics when they describe the dire effects of multitasking.

“Certain studies find that multitasking boosts the level of stress-related hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and wears down our systems through biochemical friction, prematurely aging us,” novelist and critic Walter Kirn wrote in the Atlantic. “In the short term, the confusion, fatigue, and chaos merely hamper our ability to focus and analyze, but in the long term, they may cause it to atrophy,” he warned.

Um, that can’t be good.

So I was delighted to read Sam Anderson’s “Defense of Distraction” recently in New York magazine. “This doomsaying strikes me as silly for two reasons,” he writes. “First, conservative social critics have been blowing the apocalyptic bugle at every large-scale tech-driven social change since Socrates’ famous complaint about the memory-destroying properties of that newfangled technology called “writing.” (A complaint we remember, not incidentally, because it was written down.) And, more practically, the virtual horse has already left the digital barn. It’s too late to just retreat to a quieter time. Our jobs depend on connectivity.”

PR professionals have long recognized the benefits of being a world class multitasker: the ability to sift through information quickly, see associations that others may miss and increased passion, energy and creativity.

I’d rather be challenged than bored, anytime.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On John Dillinger, Banks & the Crisis in Consumer Confidence

In a recent interview, Johnny Depp — who plays notorious Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger in the new film Public Enemies — said that it was because the banks were so unpopular in the 1930s, that the criminal became “a hero of the people.”

The producers must be rubbing their hands with glee at the propitious timing of the movie’s release. According to a recent Gallup Poll, Americans’ confidence in U.S. banks reached a new low in May. Only 20% report that they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in banks, while 35% have “very little” confidence.

Gallup first began asking Americans about their confidence in banking in April 1979. Prior to this year, the combined "great deal" and "quite a lot of confidence" numbers had not fallen below the 30% of the recession of the early 1990s … so the early April 2009 reading of 18% who have a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in U.S. banks represents a new low.

However, even as confidence in U.S. banks in general has plunged, many Americans continue to express confidence in the main or primary bank where they do most of their banking business. Over the last four weeks, 60% have said they have a great deal (27%) or quite a lot (33%) of confidence in their main bank. Only 12% expressed very little confidence in that bank.

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