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Throughout history, crucial advances in science and technology have unleashed astonishing periods of human development, economic growth and social progress. And while the rapid evolution of technology is in many ways making life better, we’re also creating new problems and unforeseen consequences that make us feel more anxious, ambivalent and unsettled than ever before.
From digital addiction to the disruption of our democracy, we are experiencing profound dynamic tensions driven by technology that are shaping the very nature of health, relationships, commerce and the truth itself – while re-defining the role and purpose of brands in society:
Health: We know more about health and wellbeing than any generation in history, and yet the race to keep us on screens 24/7 makes it harder to disconnect, increasing stress, anxiety, and reducing sleep. We have endless devices designed to make us more efficient, yet we’re always pressed for time.
Relationships: We are more connected to the world than ever before, yet the race for attention forces social media to prefer virtual interactions and rewards (likes, shares) on screens over face-to-face community. For a new generation, the race to keep their attention trains them to replace self-worth with likes, encourages comparison with others, and creates the constant illusion of missing out.
Commerce: We have access to virtually any product instantaneously as commerce is more convenient than ever before. And yet, big data, hyper targeting and instantaneous delivery are creating less mindful consumption and increasing debt – without improving our sense of satisfaction, fulfillment or human flourishing.
Truth: We are living in a time of unprecedented access to the world’s knowledge and information, and yet we struggle to make sense of facts or experience a shared sense of reality. Social media rewards outrage, false facts, and filter bubbles – which are better at capturing attention – and divides us so we can no longer agree on truth.
To better understand how brands can serve the needs, hopes and possibilities of humanity in the context of a technology-driven future, we must understand not just our human aspirations and desires, but also how business and technology take advantage of our ambivalences and anxieties with profound consequences for our health, wellbeing and success as individuals and as a society.
In this plenary, Tristan Harris, the former design ethicist at Google and co-founder of the newly created Center for Humane Technology, and Raphael Bemporad of brand consultancy BBMG, will share new research that provides deeper insight into human vulnerabilities and issue an urgent call to action to embrace humane design principles, business models and practices to more deeply align brands with our humanity and how we want to live.
Center for Humane Technology