You can’t turn anywhere these days without hearing how much technology, especially the ubiquitous presence of devices in our lives, have negatively affected us and our societies. In an article found on Odyssey, ’10 ways technology has negatively affected society’, they state that “our society is greatly suffering from increasing dependency on technology. Memories can’t be made on an app, but they can be made in person.”
The stats are staggering as well. As quoted in a Social Work Today article, ‘Examining the effects of a Technology Society’, a recent CNN Opinion article states that “by the time American Children are 2 years old, 90% have an online history, at the age of five more than 50% regularly interact with a computer or tablet device and between ages 7 and 7 youngsters regularly play video games. It also said that teens text nearly 3,500 times a month and by middle school kids are spending more time with media than parents or teachers.”
To be fair, there are plenty of articles that talk about the advantages and the societal improvements that have happened through technology. But the prevalent perception seems to be that there is a whole generation that is growing up without social awareness and are more and more disconnected from “reality”. And, funnily enough, most of these fears are expressed by the generation that is moving past their prime and not by the generation that is of the future.
Instead of fearing technology, we need to embrace it and make it part of us, our families and give its due in society so that we as humans can evolve to be better. In my mind, it is not a question of who is in control. Like everything else over the centuries, it is about mutual coexistence and the ability to fine tune ourselves to be the absolute best humans we can be.
I would like to, humbly, give three reasons why I believe technology can unleash humans.
1. Connecting humans across the world
I am an immigrant from India living in the USA and we have two little boys (ages 5 and 2) who were born here. My parents still live back in India and have been at our home once when my older son was born, and we have traveled there only once when he was one. But we Skype every Sunday for about 2 hours and that is the way both parties have kept in touch. So, for all practical purposes they have not had the physical connection that everyone deems necessary to form a bond.
But as I witnessed this past year, when we landed in my home town and as soon as my boys saw their grandparents in the airport, they ran to them as if they have been with them all their lives. This was a revelation and a surprise for me since I didn’t expect that type of a familiarity. And the screen time spent made physical boundaries melt away and made the virtual boundaries non-existent and the family unit, one of the most important aspect of being human, to thrive from thousands of miles away in this dispersed world.
2. Inspiring a healthy life style
If you are anything like me, you crave data. And you pour over and consume anything that can help you be semi-intelligent. I am obsessed with inputs and outputs that help me be reasonably active and healthy. I use apps of all kinds and spend probably a few hours a day staring at my screen at these apps. A good example is LoseIt, which helps me keep track of my calorie intake and has helped me realize and make an informed choice to increase my protein intake and reduce my carbs just a little (coz I am Indian, and carbs are yummy!).
If one is looking for motivation to get started there are plenty of technology and apps that do that for you. Like Public Health England’s Couch to 5K app that motivates one to get up and run or their Sugar Smart app that encourages parents and children to intuitively learn about their daily sugar intake and cause a positive behavior change. Health is another unique aspect to being human and coexisting and embracing technology has allowed us humans to be unleashed like never ever before to live longer and contribute even more to advancement of this society.
3. Enabling disruptive learning
Learning is ripe for disruption since it takes too much time and costs too much money to get to the point of using and benefiting from that learning. Technology will be leading that disruption. 3.5 billion searches, or learning opportunities, are conducted on Google every day! With the arrival of early AI platforms like Google Assistant and Siri, humans can get to the point much quicker and are enabled to then use that basic information. Technology can also level the playing field as to who gets access to this learning. With the explosion of smartphones, greater and greater numbers of humans have in their hands the power reach information like never before. Imagine, what a few billion informed, educated and unleashed humans can do!
As Doug Upchurch, CEO of BRL Human, says “As we continue to develop new and innovative apps and technologies, it is imperative that we also consider how they are adding value to the human experience of both the user as well as the wider community, or even world. It’s not about tech vs human, no matter how much the Sci-Fi writers want us to believe that. Instead, it’s about how we can create technology that has improving our humanity at the core of its purpose.”
In conclusion, these are exciting times to be alive. Having a growth mindset and embracing the good of technology can help each one of us reach beyond our potential. Here is wishing each of you find yourselves unleashed in 2019!
Authored by Suresh Sundarababu, VP Sales & Marketing.