I did not have to spend one year in San Francisco to realize how much we humans are in love with technology. Digital transformation, solving problems with technology, exponential growth through technology, the integration of humans/machines, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and not to speak about Genetics and all that. Like it or not, there is no way out, technology has taken over already: I lived without a damn Smartphone for 6 months to find out that I was excluded from basic services such as a car sharing already. Need an app to open it.
We are already integrated with machines. We are all hooked on our smartphones and the next generation considers their device as a part of their body (no joke). When they are deprived of their smartphones they get anxious and nervous. They don’t feel they are safe without their phones. At the same time we are all overwhelmed by the load of information and “social” interaction at our hands. People are more depressed, more lonely, more overwhelmed, more burnt-out, more stressed and more hooked on legal (pills) and illegal drugs than ever. Facebook wants to make the world a more open and connected place: really? Maybe it is time to distinct between intention and impact – not the same thing.
The problem is not development of new technology, this is nothing new for humanity. The problem is the speed and the major impact it creates for us. It is paradoxical, but humans have the capacity to create innovation and technology with which, at the same time, they have problems keeping up with, technically, emotionally and as a society (when it comes to loss of jobs, social systems, etc). We are used to slow, incremental change. Only few people can keep up with the speed and nature of change, most of us get anxious and try to row backwards. “Make America great again”, “Brexit”, these are expressions of people’s desperate hope that the future will be more like the past than the present. Not to talk about what is still to come. So why on earth should more technology solve these human problems? What will?
The most important things for our survival are not digital: air, water, food, clothes, emotions, the warmth of a human body next to us. Spending time with people living in a strong connection with and in and from nature was eye opening: we do not live in and with the nature, we are a part of nature, fully integrated with it.
While machines are being trained to imitate human emotions and grab a glass, we already have all these abilities. While the next big thing is “sensors”, the human body is nothing but the most skillful sensor. We can even sense how people we are connected to are feeling, even if we are 1000s of miles away. We have amazing abilities, fully underused.
While everybody is so hypnotized with digitalization and technology, they are forgetting about the most important questions: “What does it mean to be human in a digital world?” “What do we really really really need”? “How can we develop our capacity to enjoy our lives? What does it mean to be fully alive?” “How can we use technology wisely and not be used by technology?”
We should ask: “If technology was supposed to make our lives easier and better, why is everybody so exhausted?” “How can we stay present and awake in a world of distraction and consumption?”
There is only one option: we have to develop our human capacities as well. We cannot sit and wait until we are swept away by the brooms we are creating. No matter how powerful these brooms are, the mind that is using these brooms is more powerful. It is the mindset of the people using technology that makes the difference..
It is about developing simple human things, as Robert Thomas, our N3XT partner is saying. It is about basic things like being present. Compassion. Becoming aware to what is going on inside and around yourself. Becoming aware and noticing what is going on inside yourself. Having conversations. Connecting on an emotional level.
What does it mean to be human in a digital world? What is moving you, what is moving me? What is the impact of living a life surrounded by technology? Digital media? Digital social interaction? It is about waking up to what is going on, rather than functioning in a digital matrix.
However, I would love to see us realizing, what we are capable of already, what we know without studying, just by opening up to our human capacities. There is a word for this: “Wisdom”. These are the things we know effortless, and if we use these capacities by developing our human capabilities we are already where created technology will never get. We just need to create some practice around this to access our innate wisdom. And then we can use technology wisely and in a beneficial way.
The answer to technological overload is not less technology but more humanity.