In Metro City, the fictional setting for the 2009 computer-animated film Astro Boy, robots handled everything, from cooking and cleaning to construction and child care. The humans, presumably, had better things to do.

What these “better things” might be was largely left to the imagination--the story only focused on a couple of scientists and a politician--so I let my mind wander down that path. What if we were able to completely automate our society? With no mundane tasks to manage, how would we as humans occupy our time? Would we really be better off?

Perhaps robots will never quite take over the world, but technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that it’s not far-fetched to think machines and computers will soon permeate every aspect of our lives. (Have you seen Apple’s Siri?) Many of us are already “connected” virtually every waking moment through our smartphones and tablets, and technology in some form is integral to much of our work and play. The advances in the last few decades have led to tremendous improvements in efficiency, productivity and interconnectivity. Based on the latest surveying and mapping technology introduced at INTERGEO 2011 and elsewhere, innovation shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. (See “Innovation at INTERGEO” on page 12 and “New & Notable” on page 49 of this issue.) Is there a downside to all this progress?

Perhaps--if we become so fascinated by the technology that we overlook the real needs in the market. I recently received an email from a POB reader who shared his viewpoint. “As a city engineer and the ultimate reviewer of final and parcel maps and as a practicing land surveyor, the greatest deficiency that I saw in those who professed to be professional surveyors was the lack of understanding and application of basic survey law,” the reader said. “The new equipment is great. It reduces the slave labor. But that’s not the point. The users of the equipment have become technicians, gathering information that is, more often than not, lacking in the significance needed to determine the location of boundaries.”

Whether you’re focused on boundary surveying or the broader world of geospatial data management, implementing technology advances can be key to carving out a niche and staying successful in a highly competitive (and increasingly automated) environment. We can only begin to imagine the benefits that the additional advances in software and cloud computing will bring in this decade. But don’t forget to keep it all in perspective. Focusing on the needs of people and applying the right tools in the correct way is a timeless approach to achieving success.

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