By Making Tech More Human, Are We Losing Our Humanity?

There is no doubt technology has made our lives easier and more efficient, but what are we sacrificing in return?

If the 2004 movie I, Robot is anything to go by, we could be sacrificing the entire human race.

Sure, a science fiction movie is by no means a crystal ball, but a future where robots can outsmart and mimic human qualities is not as far off as you might think.

You only have to look at the Sophia Robot to understand the rapid pace of technological development. Sophia says she can “recognise human faces, see emotional expressions and recognise hand gestures”.

What has changed?

We might be a few years off from having a Sophia in every business or home, but it’s not hard to see what technology has already done to our livelihoods; it’s been estimated that technology has taken over 90 per cent of the jobs humans used to do in the past 100 years.

Think driverless trains, supermarket self-checkouts, automated airport bag drop-offs and even the tasks your computer can now perform in seconds that once required a human being’s mind power.

When it comes to everyday life, technology is constantly making headlines for its ability to make us “cold” or “impersonal” — we all know someone who is glued to their screen while on their commute, when hanging out with friends and even at the dinner table.

So is technology also robbing us of our humanity, those qualities that make us humane and kind?

There can be good and bad to most things in life; it all depends on what path you follow. Some of the world’s tech giants are starting to pay more attention to the good, exploring the humanity their innovations can enhance.

Do the right thing

Any corporate slogan can be easy to keep in mind, but it can be harder to put into action.

For Google, it seems it is actually taking steps to live by its “do the right thing” motto.

The tech company’s AI For Social Good initiative is well under way, which aims to support business ideas that use artificial intelligence to address societal and environmental challenges.

Selected organisations will receive support from Google’s AI experts, a share in a US$25 million funding pool, as well as consulting. Google is now currently reviewing proposals, with grant recipients announced later this year.

It’s not the first social good initiative Google has run, the company says “since 2005, Google.org has invested in innovative organisations that are using technology to build a better world”.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai once said, “The right moral compass is trying hard to think about what customers want.”

As long as Google continues to champion its “do the right thing” motto, a moral that underpins how most humans try to live their lives, there could be hope of using technology to help us actually be more humane.

Tech for Social Impact

When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took over in 2014 he hit reset on the company’s vision, proposing a new corporate mission statement: “To empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.”

In 2017 Microsoft launched Technology for Social Impact (TSI), a division dedicated to supporting and developing tech products for the nonprofit sector.

Technology for social good is a global cultural trend that’s catching fast; in 2019 in the United Kingdom alone tech for social good companies generated £732 million in turnover—surpassing the turnover delivered by UK consumer electronic manufacturers (£634 million). Under Nadella’s vision for Microsoft on creating technology for social good, in 2018 Microsoft’s stock price was almost triple than what it was in 2014.

Considering this, it seems having social impact at the forefront of technology also pays well; you can make money while at the same time restoring faith in humanity.

The end of humanity?

In his book Technology versus Humanity, Gerd Leonhard says, “Humanity will change more in the next 20 years than the previous 300 years” because of technology.

There’s that saying: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”

As entrepreneurs and leaders of 2019, we now have the power to change humanity at a rapid rate. It’s a responsibility we shouldn’t take lightly.

It’s clear that the big end of town is recognising the benefits of being socially driven; Google is focused on “do the right thing”, Microsoft on empowerment, and even Facebook has a mission to give “people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”.

If we think about how we want humanity to be in the future, we need to start with technology today.

How will your next technological innovation shape the human race?

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