There is a danger, especially in the high-tech community, in believing technology is the answer to all of our problems, no matter what their nature. The truth is however, addressing our most intractable human issues and challenges will take more than technology alone.
As Steve Jobs said when introducing the iPad 2: “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.” Jobs’ statement fundamentally says the best creations occur when people from disparate fields (art and technology for example) work together on a singular problem. But that approach doesn’t address everyone’s problem.
Even products that are “insanely great,” end up leaving large segments of the population behind. (see graphics on right) Barriers such as usability, cost, availability and access are created when technology companies focus primarily on market segments that are eager to adopt something new, and ignore the rest of the population. Those left behind are not late adopters and laggards. They are willing to adopt, but are blocked by things developers see as boring or inconvenient.
Our love affair with leading-edge technology must be buffered with attention to the far less recognized practice of diffusing innovations so they are adopted and put into practice.
This means creating human-centered products that integrate technology with intangible attributes based on social-psychology, community, standards and cooperation. And it means making education, usability, maintenance, affordability and reliability more important than the core technology itself.
High Tech Strategies believes disruptive technology must be humanized before it leads to progress. And while disruptive technologies have led to astonishing advances, they also have created barriers and left many people behind.
Unless we put greater emphasis on pairing technology with human-centered approaches to its use, we will fail to make progress in the areas where it is needed most.
Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Spring Tracking Survey. April 17 – May 19, 2013. N=2,252 adults ages 18+. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and on landline and cell phones. The margin of error for results based on all adults is +/- 2.3 percentage points.