Are we doomed to be consumed by technology…never picking our heads up from our devices and info streams long enough to genuinely engage with the world and the real people standing next to us?
Many of us still have a pessimistic view of technology that sounds something like this: Technology will wire us differently. Human engagement will decrease due to an increase in distractions and entertainment options. We will lack the capacity to think deeply due to our reliance on the Internet. And social skills will drop due to an unhealthy dependance on technology. Thumbs down.
Perhaps I can turn around your pessimism with insights from economist Simon Kuznets about the evolution of technology known as the Kuznets curve: “First-generation tech usually causes ‘net negative’ social effects; second-generation ‘net neutral’ effects; by the third generation of tech — once the tech is smart enough, and we’ve got the interface right, and it begins to reinforce the best behaviors— we finally get to ‘net positive’ effects.”
Fururist John Smart, president and founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, agrees that “the first response of humans is to offload their intelligence and motivation to the machines. That’s a dehumanizing, first-generation response. Only the later, third-generation educational systems will correct for this.”
Millennials are guilty of “offloading their intelligence” to technology. But wouldn’t it be foolish not to leverage the collective intelligence of the world (especially if it means freeing up mental capacity to generate new solutions)? Besides, remember it was Alert Einstein who encouraged us to “Never memorize something you can look up."
The tech tension, frustration, and fear we experience is normal as the “first-generation” (aka Millennials) continue to poke and prod at technology so that the “third generation” can take us to “net positive.” You have to crash a car before you understand where it needs improving. Millennials are the crash tech dummies needed to improve the next evolution of technology.
The next tech evolution I see the Millennials and Generation Z helping to usher in is where technology will be seamlessly integrated into our lives, effectively vanishing so we can reengage with the world and people around us. We will think with, into, and through our smart tech tools but their presence in our life will be much less visible.
So turn that pessimistic view of technology into an optimistic one as such: Technology will wire us differently. We will be able to cycle quickly through personal and work related tasks. Learning will increase as we access the collective intelligence of the Internet. And we will become more adept at finding answers to the deep questions of life.
Question: Are you a technology optimistic or pessimistic? And why?