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Multiplier Tools That Are Building Us

Anyone who followed the development of television in the 1960s knows of Marshall McLuhan. One of McLuhan’s sayings is a perfect description of the multiplier universe in the 21st century: “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

If you’ve used computers over the past 20 years, you know this is absolutely true — both in personal life and at work. First, there were bulky desktop computers, then laptops, then cell phones, and now the iPhone and its imitators.

Along the way, the processing speeds, operating systems, programs, networks, and now the applications have continually proliferated and improved at an exponential rate. Every new innovation in this microchip-based world has offered some kind of “multiplier” in terms of personal and organizational productivity.

While this technological revolution has been going on, our individual ways of communicating, creating, cooperating, and competing have continually transformed in order to take advantage of the endless multiplier breakthroughs. We’ve all been living in a technological multiplier world for long enough to realize that the whole activity of continually multiplying our productivity is a normal way of thinking about our present and future.

Paraphrasing Professor McLuhan, we — the human race — have built a vast infrastructure of multiplier tools over the past two decades, and now those tools are building a “multiplier mindset” within our daily attitudes, habits, and activities.