Bringing humanity to technology through online communities
In the past, the image of robots taking over the world existed only within the realm of science fiction. Now, for many, it's a plausible reality. There is no reason why 'man and machine' cannot work together. In fact, there is no reason why we cannot use technology to deepen our human connection.
With new technologies such as machine learning, big data and AI in their infancy, digital productivity has never been greater. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if you can do it fast, a machine can do it faster. As such, humans will not thrive by becoming more productive, but by becoming more creative online. It's time to shift the focus back to what we, as humans, can bring to the table- utilising our technological capabilities to do so.
Technology should not be viewed as something that is going to destroy, nor save us- it is here to enable us.
The next big tech trend is human connection and social responsibility
Adam Smith, the father of modern capitalism, identified corporate and social responsibility as the heart of an economy of inter-connected stakeholders. More recently, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that he fails to understand why some people are not concerned about the existential threat to humanity that artificial intelligence (AI) poses. As the world becomes increasingly digitized, we’re slowly returning to Smith’s more virtuous ideals - but as Mr. Gates has highlighted, humanity needs a helping hand.
Technology should not be viewed as something that is going to destroy, nor save us- it is here to enable us. Consequently, we’re starting to turn more towards those technologies that augment, rather than substitute, our human connection. The most crucial technologies in our workday won’t be those that help us gather huge amounts of data, crunch numbers, or manage accounts more quickly. The technology that shows our human side will become invaluable in the next decade, whether it's by helping us express an idea more persuasively; by building a more personalized interface; by crafting an article more engagingly; or by connecting us with like-minded individuals. A larger dose of humanity online might help Mr. Gates sleep at night.
A people-first approach
We’re seeing a major shift in how, and with which tools, we work. While the human touch is difficult to replicate virtually, engaged expert communities can transform content into a social, dynamic, and personable entity. This isn’t about scaling up or about big numbers or even about productivity. It’s not about gaining broad social followings on social media sites. It’s about re-invigorating the human side of technology through trusted communities that generate real interpersonal connections, meaningful conversations and insightful data. It’s about giving people safe spaces online to resonate with colleagues and to form deeper professional relationships based on shared interests.
Human connection through online communities
Expert communities serve as a space where members can connect, despite physical distance, in a very human way. That's why when the Zapnito team talks about developing expert communities with our clients, we always design each network around the human experience. Community members engage and join 'groups' or 'rooms' because of the experts they can learn from, and these areas were intentionally named to emulate the real-world experience of a human entering a room to meet with and talk to the people inside.
Interactions within a community can range from a casual fireside chat about the highs and lows of your week, to a formal discussion around your latest article on a breakthrough discovery in cancer immunotherapy. Ultimately, you get to know your peers in your community on multiple levels of engagement.
Psychology says that part of human nature’s default mode is to be social. We may not like it, but the fact remains that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our meaningful connections with others. I’ve avoided saying 'the c-word' so far, but the time has come to talk about COVID. As many of us re-enter lockdowns, we are forcibly reminded of the feeling of isolation and the toll that it can take on our physical and mental health. Trusted online communities can alleviate some of this discomfort by providing the interactions that we are lacking so sorely in our day-to-day lives.
"If technology is an enabler, then we need to aggressively deploy it to address the biggest issues concerning humanity, with an emphasis on human agency"
Digital social responsibility
Going back to Adam Smith’s principles, it’s disappointing to see that as a digital population, we seem to have largely lost sight of our collective social responsibility for creating a better world for the next generations. However, it’s not all doom and gloom: “if technology is an enabler, then we need to aggressively deploy it to address the biggest issues concerning humanity, with an emphasis on human agency,” says Navroop Sahdev, Fellow at MIT Connection Science. With humanity at the helm, it's entirely possible for technology to be used in facing many of our modern-day challenges, such as global disease, food shortages and climate change. Thankfully, many organisations are doing exactly that, thereby injecting humanity into our technology-led globalisation.
One such organisation is WildTeam, an environmentally-focused non-profit that aims to equip conservationists with the skills to design and improve conservation projects. By creating WildHub, WildTeam is using the human connection engendered by online communities to foster more creative collaboration as its members brainstorm various solutions to the countless ecological calamities that afflict endangered species every day.
Though these conservationists are united by a shared passion for the protection of wildlife, they are physically widespread: WildHub has over 1000 members spanning across 80 different countries. However, by building an online community, these conservationists are able to remove geographical barriers and engage with other experts 356-days a year, ultimately using this technology to benefit the greater good.
It’s time to invest in people and in human connection.
Lawrence Wintermeyer, a contributor at Forbes, is often asked what the next “smart money” tech trend is in fintech. In 2020, he reports that it is not blockchain, bitcoin, nor AI; it is humanity. It’s time to invest in people and in human connection- expert communities are a good place to start.