Do human needs always come first in technology? Insights from H+K’s Creativity + New Reality

In 2017, IBM Watson built the highlights for the Wimbledon Championships for the first time without human involvement. “Watson watched the game” said Jeremy Waite, Evangelist at IBM Watson. “He looked at 53 million data points from the last 27 years. He looked historically at all the data going back to 1877, listened to the crowd noise, and even listened to the way players were talking in the press interviews to figure out what mood they were in.”

But Jeremy asks the question: “What does that mean for people whose jobs are in editing and post production?” In better understanding human behaviour, speech and emotions, IBM Watson’s increasing human capabilities may potentially make some human professions obsolete, posing an ethical question on technology’s role in society.

Jess Walsh, Managing Director of Healthcare at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, has examined “how creativity is fuelling the technological revolution in healthcare, and how we can use it to inject a bit of compassion and public understanding into the most important conversation of our time.” Rather than creating technology for technology’s sake, we should focus on technology that has a genuine purpose.

In this vain, Jeremy also stresses that companies are getting the technology to people investment ratio completely wrong. “Brands are so seduced by the sexiness of AI. But technology is nothing. What’s important is that we have faith in people, that they’re good and that they’re smart, and that if you give them the right tools hopefully they’ll do something wonderful with them.”

As Jess states: “The volume of the technology conversation has gotten loud, but human need is louder.” In order to salvage the health industry, Jess stresses the need to embrace human compassion and public understanding alongside technology in equal measure.

Despite there being approximately 165,000 health apps on the market, Pokémon Go has been one of the most influential apps with regards to health. The AR game’s ability to get millions of people active is due to how it “taps into the human need for fun, for competition, for reward” according to Matt Battersby, Behavioural Scientist in the H+K SMARTER team at Hill+Knowlton Strategies. This suggests that technology can play an indirect, yet positive role in peoples’ lives.

And what’s another way of indirectly influencing human behaviour with added health benefits? By installing mirrors in stairwells, say Matt. The H+K SMARTER team’s research revealed that besides the ease and laziness that lifts indulge us with, the second reason we use lifts is to look at ourselves in the mirror.

“At the heart of every challenge we need to solve with creativity, technology or otherwise, we need to make sure we keep the patient and the person at the centre of our decision-making, says Jess. Mikela Eskenazi from Blippar reinforces that the question “is there something we can solve in a better way with AR?“ must be asked in order to add genuine value to a product and the consumer experience.

Matt advocates AR when it comes to tackling information overload. “It’s estimated that our brains are bombarded by about 11 billion bits of information a second. Our conscious brain can only process about 40 bits of information a second. So what does your brain do? It looks for shortcuts and patterns of information so it can make quick decisions… it joins the dots.

“This is what we try to understand in behavioural science: when is your brain joining the dots, and is it sometimes making decisions that are sometimes not in your best interest?” So Matt poses the question: “by overlaying reality, can AR present us with information that helps us make a better decision?” By putting on a headset, can these “empathy machines” turn us into vegetarians if we virtually follow a cow’s journey into a slaughterhouse, or make us more eco-friendly if we virtually watch a coral reef die?

Some technology can therefore go beyond human needs and also address environmental needs. While AR and VR are still in their experimental stages where some uses and capabilities may be for technology’s sake, advances in understanding human behaviour can work alongside technological developments to make augmented and virtual reality as well as artificial intelligence directly beneficial to our human needs.

posted by Rachel Powell | October 16, 2017 @

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