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Has tech made us all inhumane?

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“Move fast and break things,” is the famous motto of Mark Zuckerberg, but did he mean society, trust and human nature? 

Technology is developing rapidly and is said to be harming our attention, mental health, relationships and democracy in the process. Nearly half of children aged between 11 - 16 have gambled. We’re checking our emails on average 74 times a day. Uninterrupted “productive” time now only lasts a maximum of 1 hour and 12 minutes. And social media platforms are removing up to 10,000 pieces of suicidal and self-harm content every day. 

Yet it’s not all bad, as Dave McRobbie pointed out in his thought-provoking discussion at this year’s Bath Digital Festival 2019. Fake news, misleading adverts, extremist content and cyber crime are all examples of the inhumane use of technology. However, technology is being put to good use too. 

Apps are promoting better mental health, VR is supporting those living with dementia and surveillance technology is protecting wildlife from poachers. It’s examples like these that are leading experts like Dave to call not for humane tech, but for the humane use of technology instead. And it all starts with designers and developers

According to Dave, designers and developers must understand the different human sensitivities. These include emotion, attention, sense-making, decision making, social reasoning and group dynamics. With this knowledge and appreciation, we can build technology to encourage humane use and prevent negative effects. 

For example, many developers are now focused on minimising user engagement and maximising user benefits. UX designers are helping this cause by removing distractions, using clear language, and making it easy for users to exit apps, software and games. We’re also seeing businesses adopt a more open and honest approach to how they collect and use customer data. 

In addition, there’s a growing market for technology that helps people to care. More United has developed a two-way communication platform that allows users to engage with MPs about issues that matter to them. While Matmi’s gamification is helping children to care about brushing their teeth and businesses to consider their social impact.  

If you’d like to know more about the humane development and use of technology, then Tech for Good Live runs regular events and podcasts centred around the ethical use of technology. Previous talks have covered health tech, AI, VR, civic tech, fintech and gaming. 

And, if you’re looking to recruit the right technical skills to help you become a business that cares, get in touch with one of our technology specialists today