2015-08-January-Watching Grass Grow.jpg

Technology enriches our lives, empowers consumers and makes it possible to share knowledge on an unprecedented scale. It also raises important questions on how much more we can do and what we should do next.

In fields like education, marketing, design and aging, we've just begun to understand the potential of technologies to serve society. As the new year dawns, TeleTech has published Technology of Us, a book that examines that potential through the eyes of 15 people like director George Lucas, designer Gadi Amit, marketer Don Peppers, architect Rachel Armstrong and aging expert Laura Carstensen.

CMSWire obtained permission to publish brief excerpts here. You can read the complete essays by all 15 contributors at TechnologyOfUs.com.

Empathy: The New Catalyst for Innovation

Ken Tuchman, Chairman and CEO, TeleTech

2015-08-January-Ken-Tuchman-2.jpg

Customers are finally being recognized as the valuable individuals they are. They are gravitating toward brands that make things easy and enjoyable for them, and they don’t have patience for anything less...

We believe that the most important value for business in this emerging era is empathy. Successful organizations will see the world through the eyes of every customer who interacts with their brand. They will walk in their customers’ shoes, with every interaction, on every device, across every channel, every time. This kind of empathy, as we see it, is the highest-order value for what it means to be human.

Creating and applying true humanity for business, at scale, can present monumental challenges. But the goal breaks down into a few core principles. First, companies need to philosophically commit to putting customers first; nothing else matters. Second, they need to think about building relationships with customers as they would with their own friends, not as faceless, nameless account numbers. Only then, finally, can companies harness the full potential of technology to personalize every interaction to create a truly human experience — one that anticipates needs, respects time, appreciates effort and values individuality.

How We'll Be Fit and Happy at 100

Laura L. Carstensen, Director, Center on Longevity, Stanford University

2015-08-January-Laura-Carstensen-2.jpg

The greatest gap in longevity technologies concerns an unfilled need to help young people age well. For the first time in history, young people can anticipate with considerable certainty that they will be old people (for a very long time). Yet the human brain is ill-suited to plan decades ahead. The distant future, for most of us, is hazy at best. It’s no wonder that we don’t save enough money or exercise like we should. Rather than resign ourselves to doom, we need to recognize these human foibles and develop technologies that help us address them...

Virtual reality is but one technology that could help people age well. Technologies can help people monitor spending habits and make wise investments. Technologies can make lifelong education possible and rather than exacerbate class disparities, technologies can be designed to reduce them. 

The greatest obstacle may be lack of imagination. As much as we may fancy ourselves free- thinking, humans are creatures of culture; and the crux of the longevity challenge is, quite frankly, that we live in a culture that evolved around lives half as long.

The Emerging Power of Visual Literacy

George Lucas, Filmmaker and Entrepreneur

2015-08-January-Lucas-2.jpg

We must teach communication comprehensively, in all its forms. Today we work with the written or spoken word as the primary form of communication. But we also need to understand the importance of graphics, music and cinema, which are just as powerful and in some ways more deeply intertwined with young people’s culture. We live and work in a visually sophisticated world, so we must be sophisticated in using all the forms of communication, not just the written word.

When people talk to me about the digital divide, I think of it not being so much about who has access to what technology as who knows how to create and express themselves in this new language of the screen. If students aren’t taught the language of sound and images, shouldn’t they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read or write? ...

You can measure verbal or math skills by determining whether a student is right or wrong on a test -- in other words, whether they’re learning or not. With visual communication, some might argue it’s trickier to measure progress and competency. But there are rules for telling a story visually that are just as important as grammatical rules or math terms, and you can test people on them as well.

A Higher Calling: For Product Design - Emotional Intelligence

Gadi Amit, Founder of NewDealDesign

2015-08-January-Gadi-Amit-2.jpg

For technology to move forward, technologists need to accept the leadership of designers, artists, and writers, who see the world through a different, more humanistic lens. Cars will create a need for new platforms, too. In the future, I think you will simply plug your smartphone into what used to be the dashboard, and the phone will become your interface. The car will essentially become a microchip with wheels, and will communicate with an Internet-based car app, which drivers can then customize.

I believe the biggest challenge in Silicon Valley today is building more products based on good design. Yet too many people with technology backgrounds who lack a deep understanding of those principles populate the industry.

For technology to move forward, technologists need to accept the leadership of designers, artists and writers, who see the world through a different, more humanistic lens. In the next few years, design’s influence and authority will continue to grow among businesses. Companies that won’t — or don’t — acknowledge this will fade.

Busting Through the Physical Barrier in Digital Design

Jinha Lee, Head of Samsung Electronics Interactive Visualization Lab

2015-08-January-Jinha-Lee-2.jpg

Here’s the problem: The communication link between humans and the digital tools that surround us is often very small and narrow. It’s typically just the tip of your finger. Touch a screen to enter data. On the other hand, we have all developed great skills to sense and interact with the physical space that surrounds us.

It’s time to think about interfaces that blur the boundaries between the digital and physical space, that engage digital information in physical and spatial forms, drawing on our innate senses to interact with digital information using the full dexterity of our hands, creating a more intuitive, effective and enjoyable experience. 

One of my research projects, SpaceTop, which I started at Microsoft Applied Sciences Group and MIT Media Lab, looked at this approach. We turned a little space above the keyboard into a 3D digital workspace wherein users can reach in with their hands to manipulate digital objects... It is a combination of a transparent display, depth cameras and a new design of desktop hardware that makes it possible for users to manipulate 3D pixels in space with their bare hands. I believe the applications of this will be huge.

Optimism: A Driving Force of Human Evolution

Don Peppers, Author and Founding Partner of Peppers and Rogers Group

2015-08-January-Don-Peppers-2.jpg

Undoubtedly, some people look at the marvels of technology and see only disaster looming. Many of us are predisposed to pay more attention to bad news than to good. If evolution has taught us one thing well, it is that survival depends on being cautious. So in our minds, dangers often register much more vividly than benefits. 

But history has not been kind to pessimists. There have been a large number of them over the years, because it isn’t hard to earn fame and fortune by peddling a compellingly pessimistic view. But none of these pessimists has ever been right, or even close to right...

Yes, technology can create problems, but new innovations seem to solve the problems caused by earlier iterations long before they lead to societal disaster, whether these problems arise from a shortage of resources, or a concentration of power and wealth, or environmental destruction... For human society there is no such thing as utopia, in the sense of a “perfect” society that can get no better. Technology may be giving all of us longer, richer and happier lives, but we can do still better. We can do it faster, more efficiently, more conveniently, more equitably. Technological progress has a sunny disposition.  

Title image by Xenocryst@AntaresScorpii (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. George Lucas image by Neon Tommy (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Additional photo credits: Laura Carstensen from Stanford University, Gadi Amit from NewDealDesign, Ken Tuchman, JinhaLee and Don Peppers from TeleTech.