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The Future of Technology is Humanities

Source | LinkedIn : By Elise Cornille

Each year, I eagerly anticipate the big reveal of our annual tech trends report, Accenture Technology Vision. We spend nearly a year developing the research and global integrated marketing campaign, and it’s always a thrill to finally share it with the world. This year I’m particularly excited to launch our 2018 report, “Intelligent Enterprise Unleashed: Redefine You Company by the Company You Keep.”  In it, we present insights that are provocative yet relatable, aspirational yet actionable. And it’s a tech trends report that is as much about humanity as it is technology.

As we were developing this year’s theme back in the fall, I was struck by an overall theme running throughout our research: we are experiencing a reinvention of relationships and of identity. Technology is connecting us to one another, to information, to businesses, to society, and even to our physical environment, in ways that are both tangible and invisible, and in ways that we both welcome and fear. The breathless speed of technology innovation is prompting us to re-imagine and reinvent what we do and how we do it. And importantly, it’s leading us to pause and reexamine what it means to be human.

To find examples of this growing existential angst, look no further than the ongoing debate about if AI will be a good or a bad thing for humans. My view is that this debate is fundamentally not about technology at all – it’s a debate that reflects how you view humanity. Most of the current polarized debates taking place are riddled with reductionist thinking. That we’re headed for a utopian world of human-machine collaboration or we’re headed for a dystopian world where we are puppets of the robot overlords. They ignore the nuances and complexities of the human condition.

This kind of introspection and exploration has long been the domain of the Humanities – a field of study of human history and culture that has increasingly been overshadowed by our Pygmalion-esque infatuation with technology innovation. We tend to be dazzled by technology – what it is, what it could be, what it might do. It’s time we flipped the proverbial script and put our focus and fascination toward improving who we are (the individual and collective), what our culture could be, and how we can use technology to advance business and society.

It’s absolutely vital that we aggressively grow more STEM-related skills and education. However, it’s also incredibly important that we spark a resurgence in the Humanities. I’d argue we’ve never needed this more than we do today. Why? It’s ever-more acutely apparent that too many technology platforms, products and services have been designed and deployed without due consideration to ethics, transparency and fairness – in short, things we value as responsible humans. Perspectives and principles from Humanities will give crucial context, insights and guidance that is all too often missing in the technology solutions we’re creating – leading to issues like algorithmic bias, racist bots – choose your latest headline.

It’s time to bring these two disciplines together in academia and in business. We cannot effectively design a future of human and machine interaction if we don’t blend an understanding of humans and machines – not each, but both. Once we combine these insights and innovations, we will make greater strides to developing technology that enhances the human experience, creating new and better opportunities for all.

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