How to deal with the ‘Digital Deluge’ according to Microsoft’s Dave Coplin

At the ARP Conference in London this year, the theme: “Vision Meets Reality” was explored in some style by Dave Coplin, of Microsoft, the keynote speaker.

Dave Coplin of Microsoft and Tad Zurlingen of ARP

Dominic Tidey, ARP

Although he cleverly conveyed his message in a typically British, self-deprecating style, Dave was clearly the master of his subject. Microsoft's 'Chief Envisioning Officer' and the author of several books, (who joked that his New-Age title was the only way he could ever be called a CEO) argued that as the first generation in the digital society, we all have a long way to go in understanding and using technology effectively.He owned up to having some very common, but anti-social habits, such as what he termed "snacking" – ie. checking his phone and/or tablet/computer whilst trying to hold a conversation and so, not really paying proper attention to anyone or anything.Blaming what he called the "digital deluge" on poor Alexander Graham Bell and his invention of the telephone, Dave is fully aware of the human weakness for distraction, but remains enthusiastic about technology itself and persuasively lobbied for us all to learn to use it in a different way.We are still following a Victorian style of working, he claimed, and futilely trying to use 21st century technology to carry out outmoded 19th century tasks. We need physical and mental space for creativity, he insists, and perhaps surprisingly, he discredited the fashion for open plan offices, because he feels they encourage "multi-tasking" – an activity which he regards was something of a myth.Citing recent scientific research, he revealed that the average time delay between leaving a task, to complete a parallel (ie distracting) task and returning to the original item of work is as long as 23 minutes and that if using this method of work, it is most unlikely that either task will have been executed without errors.In conclusion, Dave Coplin used a striking analogy for how we should use technology. He firmly believes that we should remain in charge of it, but he told the audience that it should "extend our reach"."When I was at school," he recalled, "I was pretty good at maths and could tackle some big sums using a log book and slide rule, but once I had a calculator, I could do so much more…"

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