We live in a world of instant access to services, goods, and interactions. By just using our voice, we can listen to whatever music or media is on our mind, call our friends, order takeout or delivery, send a text, and so much more. We can see a book title that interests us and have it in our mailbox the next day or on our devices within minutes. We have access to next to infinite information to answer our questions. We’ve become accustomed to quick satiation of our desires…perhaps too accustomed to that immediate gratification (but I’m not actually interested in giving it up!).
What many of us fail to realize or even consider is the complexity behind the scenes to bring us the conveniences we love. The solutions that seem so simple are products of countless hours of work, intricate systems, and multiple interactions we never see. Our culture is even prone to immense frustration when the tools we rely on for entertainment and productivity fail us or have just a blip of lessened performance. This could be a website taking one second to load, Siri misunderstanding our text, our navigation system taking us to a closed road, a delay in a shipment, or maybe something more catastrophic. I find that some pretty minuscule issues can seem like emergencies or major inconveniences.
Our society is also prone to quick judgment. We have come to expect the best of the best in service (human or machine) and product satisfaction. We have access to news, “news”, opinions and reviews, and an abundance of research. Many of us are data driven, and we can get the data! It’s important that we also apply it well. As it turns out, we can also usually find data to support multiple sides of any issue, and we also live in a world of AI that leaves each of us in a filter bubble that we must understand. Yet, when we are unhappy with a decision, a piece of journalism, or false advertising, we can be quick to anger without taking in the full picture. We see people expecting perfection in processes, governance, and services without fully appreciating all that is going right and those countless hours of work, intricate systems, and multiple interactions we never see that I mentioned earlier.
Think about the Covid vaccine rollout. I’m not here to defend or attack the reality of the vaccine distribution. My point with this is that every criticism I’ve read comes from someone like me who has no idea what has gone into producing, testing, refining the vaccines; the processes of producing them in large quantities, distributing, transporting, and administering them; or identifying who should have access and how to prioritize the rollout. It’s a MASSIVE task, and we see short news stories that don’t scratch the surface of the scale of this project. Let’s also not overlook what’s going well. This is just one example of what I’m getting at that happens to be currently relevant.
I’m about to wrap this up. If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll take some time to think about, appreciate, and even be a little awed and inspired with the world around us. When you wake up in the morning and your coffee has brewed, when you connect your running watch to GPS to track your stats, when you click the button on to start or unlock your car, when you look at the notification on your phone to see who’s at your door, when you want to watch something and instantly stream your first choice, when the package you ordered or even just the mail show up at your door, when your family member sends you a heart-warming video, when you press a button that automatically reorders your laundry detergent, or even when you send your kids off to school…think of all that went into making that possible. What a world! Then, look around and see if there is someone you can thank for the effort and ingenuity that has gone into making things work for us! In whatever way you might be behind the scenes, please accept my sincere gratitude.