Social media. Virtual reality. Internet of Things. Artificial Intelligence. Technology and humans are becoming ever enmeshed. We rely on technology like never before; we use it to stay in touch, complete work, get the news, shop for groceries, manage our finances… the list goes on. And on.
We are so involved with technology that we don’t even realize how much it affects our daily lives that it is actually changing our brains.
The availability of technology makes us more impatient.
In the digital age, where people consume news in 140 characters or less, use emojis to share complete stories, and attention is largely stimulus-driven, people’s brains are adapting and changing in the presence of technology.
Costas Markides, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the London Business School told Computer Weekly:
“All of our brains are physically changing. Our attention span is becoming very small.
We pay attention for 30 seconds and then our brain moves on to something else.”
People use different kinds of digital devices and tools to do all sorts of things. However, if they are not sure really how they work or don’t quickly understand how to use them effectively, they will not make use of it.
As a response, there is a clear trend towards making interactions with digital tools more people-friendly to improve how people leverage technology and consume information. Access to technology should make us more informed, effective and efficient. It should help us to do things faster and smarter to save time and cost.
Technology shapes brains and brain shapes technology
We’re seeing this in action already – take something as simple as voice commands.
Have you noticed how in the last few years they’ve gone from sounding like robots to having a human tone? If you ring your bank you’ll likely have your call filtered and your issue ascertained before being put through to the right human to solve your problem.
If your issue isn’t understood, you won’t hear “Wrong input. Error! Can’t compute”, but instead you will hear a standard response like “Sorry, but I can’t understand, could you repeat your issue please?” Technology has grown manners to fit it with our ideals of social niceties.
As tech becomes sleeker and more intelligent, it also becomes more human or human-brain friendly.
The advances in the areas of conversational interfaces (chatbots), voice recognition and natural language processing will continue to generate some buzz this year. They will further break down the barriers between technology and humans. When integration becomes this seamless, technology is ever closer to becoming a part of our identity.
While a highly technologized future raises some concerns over the usage and impact of technology, one thing is for sure: technology is raising people’s expectations across the board. It was only a few decades ago that mobile phones were a novelty – yet the public’s appetite for more seems insatiable.
Got a spare minute for a laugh? Louis CK muses on this very issue.
Why technology has to become more human
The ultimate factor that decides whether a technology will be adopted is not technical at all. The most essential aspect is how well a technology understands and can support our human cognitive capabilities and enhance how we do things naturally. It needs to be easy-to-understand, convenient, well-engineered, and optimized around people and their habits.
When deciding between two productivity apps that basically do the same thing, most people will gravitate towards the one that has a slicker interface, looks easier to use, has clear menus and descriptions, and therefore, is intrinsically more human-friendly and appealing. The user experience, convenience and minimal time investments required to use it successfully, are the unique and differentiating benefits.
Take a look at these chairs, for example. Both of them are ‘chairs’ and do the same thing in the sense that they offer a solid sitting surface.
Which one would you rather sit on?
Here are 3 reasons why technology needs to become more human:
- Convenience: Consumers are affected by information overload. They want personalised, quick and easy access to the information or results that are relevant for their specific situation.
- Simplification: Technology is supposed to reduce the complexity in our daily lives, which is partly caused by technology itself. Advancing technology will continue to become more human-oriented to help us to simplify, assess and filter.
- Greater inclusion: The speed at which technology is advancing bears the risk of excluding less tech-savvy people from its benefits. For example, people who don’t know how to operate a search engine, smartphones or apps, will have difficulties to access information that may be relevant for them. Google is a company that is known for its focus on useful and human-friendly technologies. It uses a machine-learning artificial intelligence system called “RankBrain” and is constantly taking steps to refine its algorithms to interpret and understand the searches that people submit. It should make their search engine work for everyone — especially for the most polite among us.
There are some basic overarching principles how you can make technology more human-friendly:
- Help users develop a relationship with not just the device and software but the brand itself. (How corporations use technology to be more human)
- Don’t forget to add your human touch – Listen to customer’s needs, adapt, and make it easy to do business with you
- Design matters – Humans are visual creatures
- Let your customers take shortcuts – Time is precious and most people don’t want to waste theirs needlessly searching for the right information. Instead of having customers sift through dozens of articles, put the right content right under their noses. Make their life easy and they’ll repay you.
- Create and deliver solutions that work in the way real people think and do things such as making decisions: Guided selling can be an enormously helpful tool here. Instead of abandoning a customer facing choice overload, step in and clear the way. Gently and effectively guide them towards the right solution. This can be achieved by asking the right questions, educating and advising.
- “While it’s challenging to deliver every consumer interaction in person, try to imbue other forms with as much of the human touch as possible. Leverage consumer-centric platforms such as messaging services to communicate with consumers directly, inspiring them or answering their needs.” (Unlocking Retail’s Human Touch)
We rely heavily on technology these days to manage our lives – and that fact looks set to stay. Yet, as our lives become increasingly entwined with technology, we’ll notice a shift. Technology will continue to evolve to meet our human needs. The more seamless the integration, the less we’ll notice it. The future of technology is coming – and it looks strangely human.