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Parkinson's Law and the Computer Paradox

In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British naval historian and author of some sixty books, began a humorous essay with the following sentence:

"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

Over the years, I have come to observe this to be true in many situations. Additionally, I have noted that work not only expands to fill the time but to make use of all available resources as well.

One simple example from my own experiences.

As an administrative supervisor at a U.S. Army school in the U.S., I did not have access to a copier, but had to do everything on a mimeograph machine.

No problem.

I was then transferred to Germany to a small unit which also did things the same way.

One day a copier became available.

Suddenly, there were extra copies of all kinds of papers, orders, announcements, letters, etc.

Many more than when we moved quietly along with a humble mimeograph. 

I also observed the same phenomenon when new equipment was added or existing equipment upgraded in various offices at other times.

Now, it was my understanding that computers were supposed to relieve us of all kinds of paperwork and the stress related to tracking and storing data.

Not so.

I have never been so inundated with relatively worthless paper in my life!

Not only has the computer allowed us to gain proficiency at screwing up more things at once than ever before, but it allows us to document it all much more completely.

To help us kill more trees and generate more waste paper, government edicts abound at local, state, and federal level which require various businesses and organizations to provide us with vast amounts of information that normally will wind up in the circular file. However, the businesses and organizations continue to hand us reams of relatively worthless info so that they can remain accountable to the powers that be.

However, since it is so easy for the smallest office to generate duplicate or specific amounts of information, they do so as well.

The best doctor I ever had was addicted to handing out reams paper containing diagnoses, instructions, and recommendations to every patient at every visit. I love her dearly and am saddened by the fact that I moved 700 miles away last year, but I do not miss all the paper she used to hand out.

People and businesses who do not have things make do without them. In fact, a great many of the "impossible to live without" things around today were totally unheard of in my childhood and only a few people ever thought about them someday being available.

Now, I am not a Luddite and have nothing against technology or "progress". Nor do I personally turn my back on the "next best thing" just because I cannot envisage a real use or need for it. However, as with so many things in the history of the world, I just wish people would exercise a bit more self-control and not blindly assume that "more is always better".

In fact, modern technology has become such a hassle, with blessings, of course, that some businesses actually institute such things as "no e-mail Friday" or try, usually unsuccessfully, to ban cell phones.

Well, there is one thing still around that none of us can do without, and that is each other. If you need me, I will try to be there for you...if I can get out from under this pile of paper. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Donovan Baldwin is a 65-year-old accountant, amateur bodybuilder, freelance writer, certified optician, and Internet marketer currently living in the Dallas, Texas area. A University Of West Florida alumnus (1973) with a BA in accounting, he has been a member of Mensa and has been a Program Accountant for the Florida State Department of Education, the Business Manager of a community mental health center, and a multi-county Fiscal Consultant for an educational field office. He has also been a trainer for a major international corporation, and has managed various small businesses, including his own. After retiring from the U. S. Army in 1995, with 21 years of service, he became interested in Internet marketing and developed various online businesses. He has been writing poetry, articles, and essays for over 40 years, and now frequently publishes original articles on his own websites and for use by other webmasters.   He has a blog on senior health and fitness at http://fitness-after-40.blogspot.com .
1,734 - 5 - 0 - US

Donovan Baldwin is a freelance writer currently living in the Dallas - Fort Worth area. He is a University Of West Florida alumnus (1973) with a BA in accounting. He is a past member of Mensa and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and has held several managerial positions while in the military and in civilian life. After retiring from the U. S. Army in 1995, he became interested in Internet marketing and developed various online businesses. He has been writing poetry, articles, and essays for over 40 years, and now frequently publishes articles on his own websites and for use by other webmasters. He has a website on health, fitness, diet, and weight loss at http://www.nodiet4me.com/ .

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