Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

What will be the next BIG challenge for technology?

Saturday,21 June, 2008

Standing on the back of a narrowboat, I got to thinking – it’s what you do when travelling at 3mph:

just how much technology has changed since the canal system was first built!

To start off with, the Industrial Revolution was all about big being best. A bigger machine was more powerful, could do more work, and could create more wealth.

(The picture shows Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mills in Derbyshire, built alongside the River Derwent in 1783.)

Huge mill buildings were built to harness the power of the big machines, and the large number of people who were needed to work the machines were housed in terraces which nestled under the shadow of the mills. Ultimately, whole families – generation after generation – went to work in the factories with their big, powerful machines.

So this technology generated social stability, with large numbers of people knowing their place (physically and socially) over a considerable period of time.

But in the world of technology the real power now seems to rest with the small – smaller and smaller micro-chips make computers more and more powerful, because they can process information the quickest. And ultimately, in our knowledge-based economies, the most powerful thing of all is a good idea – which has no material substance at all!

Unlike the big factory machines, this new technology is extremely mobile – responding to the demands of the market, and increasing the need for social mobility. This has created its own strains and stresses when compared with the ‘permanence’ of the old mill towns.

Both of these technologies have allowed us to massively extend our human capabilities:
• Firstly, because big powerful machines have grown our physical strength, and
• Secondly, because computerised data storage and manipulation has massively increased our knowledge to augment our brains.

After ‘strength’ and ‘knowledge’, what might be the next challenge for our technology?

At a recent conference held in Nottingham, the Dalai Lama was reported to say that the next big challenge for humanity, after ‘strength’ and ‘knowledge’, is that of ‘compassion’.

So can technology transform our capacity to be compassionate, in the way it transformed our strength and knowledge?

Could this help society manage growth in population, and the greater social mobility inherent in globalisation?

How could technology make us more compassionate?

Is it for technology to do more of the same: by applying mechanical strength or enhanced thinking and artificial intelligence for compassionate purposes?

Or is it for technology to create wealth which can then be applied to compassionate purposes?

Surely yes, but would that be good enough?

Would compassion expressed through technology be missing something – that something which can only be experienced direct from a compassionate person?

Compassion is suddenly big news. During the last week our Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced government plans for nurses are to be rated according to the levels of care and empathy they give to patients.

No doubt there will also be additional training to improve performance; and as watching a video of one’s own working practices can be very instructive, (helping us to see ourselves as others see us) perhaps technology will help staff to change their behaviour into a more compassionate style?

So technology can help exert strength or grow knowledge for compassionate purposes, and it can even help with behavioural modification. But what of our motives – does the direct experience of someone else’s emotions, values and motivations make a real difference, which technology can never replace?

If motives really do matter, what if the breakthrough for technology would be something which, when applied (even ‘switched on?’) could make the user more compassionate than they otherwise would be?

After iTunes and iPods, could we buy an iHeart?

(And before you think this is all bonkers, it wasn’t long ago when a group visioning possible futures came up with the idea that men would have babies – and media reports suggest it’s already ‘happened’!)

Or is the concern for people’s motives just ‘touchy-feely’ nonsense, and it doesn’t matter as long as the necessary services are provided in a caring sort of way?

What do you think?

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Beyond price . . . . . . .

Saturday,31 May, 2008


The most beautiful sleep of all, is the sleep of someone who knows he is really loved.

Living Derby

Sunday,18 May, 2008

Derby is a friendly place.

Apparently, most places like Derby lose about 7% of their population every year because some people choose to move on. But the actual figure for Derby is only half that amount.

In spite of Derby’s friendliness, Derby still has communities and businesses who know little of each other. This is not unusual. Analysis of trends suggests that this will become a bigger issue as time goes by.

Social geographers have reported that, when people choose where to live, they find themselves increasingly living with others who are just like them. Radio 4’s Talking Allowed gave the example of someone who moved into Crouch End, London, only to discover a number of mums at the school gate who were in marketing and PR, just like her!

It will become increasingly difficult for towns and cities to work well and be good places to live, if their populations know less and less about each other, as ignorance usually breeds suspicion and ultimately fear. So what can we do about it?

Enter Living Derby – a group of successful individuals and companies, mostly from the creative industries in Derby (graphic design, literature, fine art etc) – who have experience of creative projects, from local to nationwide in scale, that have achieved a great deal in building communities. Living Derby wants to use that experience for the long-term benefit of Derby, by delivering creative and social programmes, keeping records of all of this in a growing online archive which the people of Derby can access – so that none of the work is lost. (For more information about Living Derby, click on “Living Derby” in “Interesting Links”.)

In his book Affluenza, Oliver James cites four fundamental human needs: feeling secure, being part of a community, feeling competent, and being autonomous and authentic.

Wouldn’t it be great if Living Derby can help individuals to feel secure, be part of a community, feel competent, and be autonomous and authentic? And by helping individuals, also help communities organisations and businesses as well – and ultimately our city of Derby?

Wouldn’t it be great if Living Derby helped our city to flower?