On Technology as an Enabler of Human Effort

Technology is a means to an end, not an end unto itself.

It should help humans to lead a good life they love, and this can be done in one of two main ways: through removal of barriers to self-actualisation, or strategies to fuel it. As such, it can be either reductive, or additive.

Reductive methods typically involve efficiencies, such as the saving of time, money, or other precious resources. Additive methods involve enablement: of relationships, of creativity, of self-expression, of self-betterment.  Both routes lead to a common holy grail destination: a happy and fulfilled life.

This of course can happen in a plethora of ways, and won’t always involve technology along that path. That feels almost absurd to write, but write it I must for clarity. And with the ubiquitous use of technologies we now accept as standard, we must think carefully about the role for it on this road of life and love.

Technology can help you to:

  • Simplify your life
  • Save time and money
  • Help you make informed decisions
  • Connect to the world around you
  • And so much more besides

However, technology cannot:

  • Decide things for you
  • Forge human connections
  • Enrich you without input effort

When we look at all that technology can offer us, it quickly becomes apparent that the limit comes from human, not machine. Without concerted decision and effort, the device remains an enabler of change, but not a designer. A catalyst by many means, a realiser by few (to none). Consider these scenarios:

Email can connect you to a long lost cousin. The human must sit down to write.

An app may match you with the woman of your dreams. The man must be just that.

Online MOOCs from Stanford can teach particle physics. The student must open her book.

Just as one had to pick up the pen, strike up conversation, or visit the library before modern technologies as we know them came into being, we still must make the effort. Technologies have simply lowered the barriers to entry for a fulfilled and happy life (for many of us lucky ones, at least). They enable the acts of reaching out, connecting, and learning.

They are means to these ends. We must not forget this, when building products, services, adverts, and indeed, lives.

 

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