The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

I’m a techie. I always have been. It pro­bably started when I got that Atari 2600 video game system at age seven. If not, my fate was certainly sealed when I was 10. That’s when I received a Commodore 64 home computer from my grandparents.

I put that computer on my desk in 1982, the year it was released, and I’ve been an early adopter of the PDA, ebooks, the iPod, digital music, and many other technologies that we now take for granted. When I look at my workflow today—and consider the amazing things I can do with the tools scattered around my desk—it can be hard to believe that there was a time when the tech was more a novelty and my days were spent mostly in an analog world.

NOW AND THEN
Recently, I’ve been experiencing nostalgia for that past life when planning my schedule meant writing on paper, reading meant turning the pages of a book, and listening to music meant popping a CD or a cassette—or, yes, even an 8-track tape—into a player.

I don’t know why nostalgia has struck, why I have this urge to shun the digital and return to the analog. But it’s been on my mind a lot. So, my ears perked up as I listened to the final spotlight interview of Bloomberg’s The Year Ahead summit on December 5. James Kuffner, CEO of Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development, was talking about the future of self-driving vehicles and the technology that will be added to Toyota cars in 2020.

As he made mention of how much tech­nology has changed over the past couple of decades, my mind wandered back. I remember walking to work at Tokyo American Club in 2000 with my eyes glued to a paperback novel, not a smartphone. I remember making phone calls to ask quick questions. There was no texting, no Line.

GOOD OR BAD
And then I asked myself if today’s technology really makes life easier. Are there truly things we can do now that we could not do before? Or do we just do things differently now? Is technology responsible for the incredible levels of stress that we feel? Is the expectation that workers are always available a good thing for business and productivity? Do we need self-driving cars?

I think these are all good questions, and I don’t have straightforward answers. I’m not going to stop being a techie, and I wish I could see the world a hundred years from now and how the technologies we have today—and the incredible ones we are yet to invent—make society a better place. That is, in part, the focus of the Bloomberg session that I cover starting on page 20.

I don’t want to give up the convenience of having, almost literally, everything in my pocket. But, as I get older, I feel more and more than I’ve lost some important, tactile relationship with the world around me. Technology can certainly make life easier and can solve many of our problems, but it comes at a price. I wonder if and when we’ll find an equilibrium.

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.