The Intuition for Technology

Note: this is a slightly psychedelic post. It starts off in the shallow end, but goes a bit deep. Many of you who follow us are into Healthcare, Marketing, Communications, Patient Advocacy, etc. What we do here on HealthIsSocial, however, is to help you see things anew – and to hear things outside of the proverbial echo chamber. If you don’t step back to question, examine and understand the big picture cultural ramifications of technology on your profession, how do you plan on getting better? Just sayin’. Enjoy! 🙂

In 2007, did you see Twitter wings taking to flight? Did you even know about Twitter?

If you said yes to both, how did you know?

When a new technology comes along, how do you decide whether to invest resources into it?

For instance, if you’re in healthcare communications then a part of your job description (whether your boss states it or not) is to understand media – and media are subsets of technologies. If you didn’t hear about Twitter in 2007, why not? Regardless of its relevance to your work, have you thought about where your attention was spent?

Now that people can’t stop talking about these things – maybe including you – what could you have done a few years ago differently so that you would be more in-the-loop about the very landscape shaping your profession? (I have answers, but I want you to use your inside voice 😀 )

What healthcare applications will gain traction? There are over 6,000 and growing.

What kinds of mobile healthcare applications will get the most adoption?

Does Augmented Reality in Healthcare have a strong future? Is it hype, or is it a new frontier that we haven’t fully explored?

My own track record isn’t astounding, but I do believe it’s better than average. I can’t tell you how much I was derided for saying years ago that Twitter would become this Century’s telegraph – that millions of people and machines would rely on Twitter-esque communications protocols.

I’ve tried to go back to my good and bad predictions about technologies, to see if I could find a pattern. So far, nothing clearly ‘logical’ has emerged.

But one thing I have realized: in each of the predictions one common thread prevailed – intuition.

I can’t tell you how to get a “better intuition” about technology.

What I can suggest, however, is the following:

  • Hone your intuition, especially in this Century of technological upending.
  • Listen to your intuition. Don’t be afraid if your intuition is wrong. Focus more on whether your perception of things is valid. That is: invest some time in understanding a technology’s properties, possibilities, limits and ramifications.
  • No matter how hard you try to ‘see’ the value of a given technology strictly on rational terms, know that technology always ends up being re-purposed in unpredictable ways.
  • Be careful not to dismiss a new technology, or a novel way of using a technology.
  • We have always had a relationship with Technology – so always consider how you are relating to a technology. What does your intuition tell you?

These may be some of the key ingredients in developing an intuition for technology.

I simply can’t see how agencies, clients, individuals, governments or others can fully grasp and exploit technologies without having some capacity of an intuition for them.

Intuition is a fascinating but real power. It may not always ‘work’, but it does hold an important place in our life. Also: intuition isn’t a mystical thing – there are solid underlying biological processes which govern our deeper perceptive faculties.

As an aside, check out Daniel Kahneman’s lecture on the topic of exptert intuition.

A personal note about intuition in clinical practice:

I can tell you that during the first few weeks of working in an intensive care unit as a new nurse, it was my intuition that got tested and elicited.

The only clinical experience I had at the time was what I learned in an eleven-month accelerated program and Drexel University. With almost no ‘real’ experience, there were instances when intuitive pulses caught my attention. I zeroed-in on those pulses (like never before), and that listening may have saved a couple of lives, or mitigated damage. I’m not alone with such experiences.

Think about intuition in general. Were there important decisions in your life that would have been made differently if you listened to your intuition?

So why am I making a big deal about Intuition and Technology?

Because, the ultimate end-point of Technology – for all of its benefits in creating Civilization – is the elimination of the need for us, for Homo sapiens sapiens.

Think about it: as technologies get cheaper and more powerful and more common, their presence will reach a point where what we do is completely replaceable.

Our monolithic relationship with Technology was what gave rise to Civilization, Culture, Progress, Politics, Craft – all of the things that we consider human institutions. In fact, each one of them is itself a technology.

Capitalism, for example, is purely technological – it’s an algorithm (invest > produce > market > start over). And Capitalism is one of our most ramifying technologies: it’s changed time, labor, family values, political relationships, and has spurred the advancement of the very technologies which quicken the pace of the algorithm!

Technology helped – and will continue to help – us build amazing things. But technology’s paradoxical challenge against us will have to be addressed.

Except for one thing: we human beings have something that can’t be replaced. What is it?

What is that thing, that essence, that has nothing to do with our arms, eyes, ears, mouths, muscles, bones, brains?

If we figure out what that is, we may have a chance of flying past the near-fatal threat which Technology will eventually serve.

Can we overcome the Technological Monolith?

If you have an iPhone or an iPad – have you considered how similar they are to the Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Think: you slide the tips of your fingers across a smooth surface and a virtual universe of data streams forth. To rip a phrase from 2010My God, it’s full of stars!

Just a thought.

Just as our hominid ancestors millions of years ago couldn’t at all imagine us – what kind of Being they would evolve into – we today cannot imagine the kind of Being we will evolve into. It’s too much – it’s full of mystery.

We’re all Social Media Apes and Twitter is the Monolith.

Kubrik may have used Space as a sort of Final Frontier canvas onto which he painted his vision of our future relationship with Technology. One of his plot devices was that our contact with an intelligence greater than ours revealed things about ourselves – in particular our capacity for tool-making.

But I would offer this: in a sense, Social Media is today’s canvas for our Odyssey. Kubrick didn’t envision Social Media – he went right to Space because in the 1960s that seemed to be where the ‘future’ would happen.

What we call Social Media can be viewed as a kind of Monolith through which we touch each other – but we are touching each other through Technology. It’s not contact with extraterrestrials, but contact with ourselves which may be propelling the Odyssey of this Century.

But: whatever we learn about ourselves in this Odyssey will be a technologically-influenced context of our perception of ourselves.

That essence of ourselves that I referenced earlier? Might we identify it somewhere in this new canvas? Will it be revealed or concealed?

Is the Monolith of Twitter a medium of transmission, or just a mirror? Will it turn us from apes into something more sophisticated? Or will it just turn us into apes aping apes?

Our intuition about each other – about ourselves – must be at the forefront of our Odyssey as we move from the Web of Servers to the Web of People and on to the Web of Everything Else in the Universe.

Our intuition about the technologies we make – and the technologies which Technology makes – will need to become almost a way of life.

Technology catalyzes time and wants something.

Anyhoo, we need to get a better apprehension of our intuition. Technology catalyzes time. As life feels faster and faster, we have less time to think thoroughly about what technology wants.

Which is to say: as technology gains a stronger hold of our world, the value of intuition increases.

So, what does your intuition say about our current – and future – relationship with technology? What will be the saving grace after Technology replaces the ‘old’ us?

You must find your own answer. Here’s a part of mine.

@PhilBaumann –    @HealthIsSocial

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