Is Technology too Convenient for Real Human Relationships?

Studenten mit Smartphones

Don’t you just love technology? Maybe you don’t, but for many people there are convincing reasons to do so. Intel’s Genevieve Bell did a long piece on this topic in The Atlantic some five years ago. As an anthropologist working in tech, and a woman at that, she has some interesting ideas about how technology shapes the world. At Intel she leads a cross-disciplinary foresights community that dissects significant societal, technical and global trends.

And at Global Female Leaders 2017 she confronts us with the question: Is Technology Changing Human Relationships? If you haven’t done so already, we invite you to take a look at our 2017 agenda in order to discover every highlight of this year’s event!

But for now, let’s take a closer look at this topic, shall we?

Here is Why We All Just Love Technology

If you would have asked in the 80’s and even the early 90’s, the relatively few people who already worked using a Personal Computer (and who aren’t Genevieve) probably would have told you about how the Internet is a force for Good in the world. About how it drives free information as well as democratic and transparent communication, giving every person a voice in this world. This may be all well and good. But is it really the reason people love technology so much? Or are the people who field these arguments but a small vocal minority?

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In the aforementioned interview with The Atlantic, Genevieve cites more banal reasons for the fast-paced adoption of first PCs, later laptops and smartphones. She takes a look at the mundane parts of life that were fundamentally altered by digital technology. The way we balance our checkbooks, for example, and the way we interact with magazines and newspapers. The way the internet has become part of our romantic, spiritual and political communication.

Ranj Begley Porträt

Read our interview with Ranj Begley on the topic of consuming magazines in the digital age, by the way. She had some very insightful things to say!

We love technology because it simplifies our lives

How could digital technology take over the biggest parts of our lives? Looking at how, today, automation, artificial intelligence and smartphone apps are advancing the story, there can only be one answer: technology simplifies our lives. Because the only thing that’s simpler than ordering food from amazon is food that orders itself when you need it.

Look at communication for example. The internet started as a convoluted technology that demanded special knowledge from its users in the beginning. It became only popular when E-Mail and the World Wide Web came about. E-Mail was replaced with networks like Facebook and even those are being challenged now by mobile apps for direct messaging. If we take a closer look at this development one thing is clear. The usability of these products is becoming ever more easy and convenient.

There lies the power of tools like social media or smartphones. They are made so that everybody can use them. Even people who are skeptics or afraid of not understanding technology are taken by the hand and gently lead through easy tutorials. And once they take the plunge, they are met with awesome possibilities. Just the fact that you can always talk to your grandchildren on WhatsApp or even send pictures to them is a big draw for senior citizens and one of those mundane reasons that make technology oh so beloved.

Mann mit Laptop am See

And digital communication offers social and psychological convenience

So, of course, instant messaging or social networks are fine ways to interact, not only in private relationships but also at work. Therefore, it is no wonder that so many people use these and that many more are becoming gradually more important. Look at Snapchat or Slack for example.

Besides usability there were other reasons of why these types of communication could become so important. Facebook doesn’t have almost 2 billion active users each month, because it is the most convenient form of communication. It’s not anymore, if it ever was. Facebook became so important, because besides good usability it also offers psychological convenience.

Think about it. On networks like these you almost never get any negative feedback. For a long time you could like messages and posts but you couldn’t dislike them. You don’t get a message when someone cancels their friendship with you and you can block people from existence when they don’t share your opinions.

Draußen arbeiten Laptop

But how convenient should human relationships be?

This brings us to how social interaction using digital technology differs from classic forms of living with one another. Is it really healthy for us to be able to end friendships (or relationships!) with the click on a button? Are these even real friendships or relationships? And is it healthy for us to be able to just block diverging thoughts and opinions from our lives?

Think about what this would mean for business. In companies where different opinions aren’t allowed you won’t get a lot of innovation. Also, if you are in disagreement in a meeting you can’t just ignore one another. And what of a generation that is growing up right now learning that exactly this is possible – if you don’t have any meetings altogether. Why should you, by the way? Aren’t they extremely inconvenient?

We are very excited to hear from Genevieve in her Keynote Presentation. She is such an accomplished researcher in this field and works at such an interesting company! Hers will be one of many talks on how technology is altering society and business. Feel free to check out the other highlights of Global Female Leaders 2017 in our full programme for the event. (Just use the form below to download it.)

Global Female Leaders Summit 2017: Are you Interested in Visiting us in Berlin?

In that case, go ahead and download the agenda for this year’s event! It is loaded with lots of fantastic speakers and the most pressing issues of today’s global economy.
Just use the form below or even register for the event right away!

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Images:, zmijak, alexbrylovhk |

Review Global Female Leaders 2017: Official Whitepaper

The Global Female Leaders 2017 summit took place from 7th to 9th May 2017 at The Ritz-Carlton in Berlin. Our dear partner Accenture provided us with an in-depth White Paper, that you can now download for free!