As a species, we’ve always depended on technology in some capacity. From stone tools to steam engines, it’s advanced both our progress and our intelligence. Fast forward to 2019, and we are more dependent on technology that ever before. There is no moral lens on this, it’s simply a fact. Technology in and of itself is morally neutral — it’s how we leverage it that’s important. When we apply our humanity to technology, we can use it in ways that expand our lives, have richer experiences, make better decisions, and ultimately fulfil a greater potential as human beings. We call this harmony Augmented Humanity.
Over the past year we’ve seen multiple scandals arise through technology. From massive data leaks to fake news with the power to change world politics, technology has been depicted as the brush that is painting evil on the world. This is the view of the people: only 41 per cent of Australians feel that digital technology will have a positive impact on the world (DAN Digital Society Index 2018). Maybe they’re right in a way. When left unchecked, it has led to negative impacts on society. But technology isn’t what instigated these incidents. It was a lack of humanity in the people behind it.
Both big tech and other brands are seeing this, and many are changing their ways to bring humanity back to their customers, empowered by technology. While Amazon are trying to push a staff-less supermarket experience with their Go concept store, Alibaba’s Hema supermarkets supplement mobile self-service with staff who will prepare and cook your produce. In e-commerce, Walmart are experimenting with a human/AI hybrid approach to a shopping concierge. The service, Jetblack, started off with a personal call to the customer, gauging their shopping preferences, habits and brand affiliations. It then offloads the continual engagement to a text-based platform, allowing it to scale. Expressing humanity doesn’t have to be this literal either. Life insurance provider Haven Life not only expanded their coverage to be more inclusive for non-citizen and those with chronic illnesses, they also built a recommendation engine to suggest a competitor service if they’re not eligible for Haven Life’s plans.
We explore this relationship between humanity and technology in our 2019 trends report, ‘Augmented Humanity: Isobar Trends Report 2019’. While we’ve divided it into distinct themes, such as the evolving interface, the human algorithm and the trust paradox, it’s clear that each is contributing in changing the human experience. We’re not at cyborg stage yet, at least not in the literal sense, but digital technology is clearly defining what we see and read — our external stimuli — to such an extent that it is defining (and sometimes distorting) the perspective of our entire society. The biggest misnomer with digital technology is that it replaces humanity. We believe it’s actually the opposite: not only does it augment humanity, it has the power to amplify our intentions exponentially. If we’re not mindful, that can be a double-edged sword, so it’s essential that we always think humans first.
Download the full report here.