Digital Citizens with Human Needs

Elaborating a complex equation to define a humanly beneficial place to technology, analysts and experts unveil a prismatic impact of innovation on citizens daily lives. The combination of crowd level audiences and rising willingness to progress towards equality generates a momentum to express requirements as well as head towards common objectives. Using digital tools to spread messages, society builds an accelerated framework to technology, leaving engineers and researchers with the increasing need to better analyse, visualize and bring a human sense to future developments.

The Digital Citizens

Citizens are trying to get their voice freely and securely heard on the Internet, a difficult equation which legislation struggles to solve. As Jérôme Hourdeaux explains for MediaPart, “the fight for our freedom is not over. The adoption, last June, of the defense intelligence act is indeed a failure for the associations and independent administrative authorities who had highlighted multiple dangers.”

Society may be biased by a cultural trend to criticize the rise of inequalities when in fact inequalities are being made more obvious. This is the view shared by Christophe de Voogt, from Trop Libre. Quoting Tocqueville’s paradox, he outlines how “the more inequalities decrease, the more remaining inequalities become intolerable”.

In order to find a common objective while balancing the accuracy of our choices, society is relying on alternative ways to interact and build collaboratively. Crowdfunding is one of them. As Christine Lejoux from La Tribune highlights, “at the end of 2014, 1,3 million French people had already joined a crowd funding campaign ; six months later, this number rose to 1,75 million. Moreover, the simplified regulation on crowdfunding, which came into force on October 1st 2014, has achieved to revitalize this sector.”

More generally, technology is bringing a connected future outlook that will serve society in different ways. In his article for the World Economic Forum, Hans Brechbul outlines 6 technology mega-trends that will impact society in the future:

  1. “People and the internet – people’s association and interaction with the web as a mental, social and physical extension of themselves
  2. Computing, communications and storage everywhere – the ability to interface with digital technology, data and the web anywhere, anytime on any device
  3. The “Internet of Things” – the digital linking of inanimate objects, or, as my colleague Chris Rezendes so nicely puts it, “the instrumentation of the physical world”
  4. Artificial intelligence and big data – the ability to access and analyze vast and disparate data, along with the ability for computers to make decisions based on this data
  5. The sharing economy and distributed trust – digitally-enabled transparency and trust mechanisms that allow direct exchange of goods, services or money between parties outside of traditional establishments such as stores and banks
  6. The digitization of matter – 3D-printing and the creating of physical materials on the spot (personalized or on a small scale) based on digitally transmitted parameters”

Social changes affect our educational models. In management, programmes start to include new human-centric models. Grenoble Ecole de Management has recently launched a new management training “aiming at developing integrated leadership by combining technical and professional qualities with the sense and depth of human qualities.”

In the meantime, historians remind us how digital is transforming our communication habits, opening a new information era, “a third phase in the memory externalization process”. In his article for Les Echos, Jacques Henno quotes Michel Serres, a philosopher and sciences historian. In his view, “writing, sounds, images… Digital can virtually record everything and its spread was instantaneous : half of humanity now possesses a mobile phone.”

Let’s meet in the future past

Because technology experts and engineers are impacted by an accelerated environment, estimating a date when new technologies will launch to market remains a difficult exercise. Guia Marie Del Prado mentions for Tech Insider how researchers try to frame a timeline around current Artificial Intelligence developments.

“Most researchers think building a human-level AI will likely take longer than one decade. Philosopher Nick Bostrom surveyed 550 AI researchers to gauge when they think human-level AI would be possible. The researchers responded that there is a 50% chance that it will be possible between 2040 and 2050, and a 90% chance that it will be built by 2075.”

Moreover, dealing with uncertainty and risk taking form a critical part of innovation. This is the reason why industrial players investigate new market opportunities brought, for instance, by future intelligent transports. Les Echos outlines how LG Electronics is currently exploring new market potentials to offset declining sales on mature segments. According to the French newspaper, “Upset by a lack of dynamism in smartphone sales, South Korean brand LG Electronics is entering the self-driving vehicles market. The group announced a partnership with Freescale Semiconductor, a company specialized in semi-conductor for the automotive industry.”

In this tensed environment, business experts keep communicating on how efforts are being driven to make sure technology is developed within a sustainable framework. In their view, cloud usage is one of the technology based developments that enables to lower carbon impact. As Ryan Kidman reminds for Sustainable Cities Collective, “According to the Guardian, companies who switch their data to the cloud could cut their carbon emissions in half.”

Virtual technologies also allow experts to visualize the future. In the following video from London Business School, you can watch futurists invited on a panel to talk about how the future looks like, and our potential ability to explore it through virtual reality.

This mechanism would work provided that we build the right strategic framework around virtual explorations. As a reminder, Bernard Marr explains on Forbes how the objective of analyzing data matters more than data itself. As he writes, “Remember the value of data is not the data itself – it’s what you do with the data. For data to be useful you first need to know what data you need, otherwise you just get tempted to know everything and that’s not a strategy, it’s an act of desperation that is doomed to end in failure. ”

Instead of traveling to the future, one can find betterment in traveling back to the past. This is what Chris Gerling,  Associate Professor of Enology (Wine) at Cornell University explained to Daniela Galarza, for Eater : “I think the future of food has a lot to do with returning to our past. We want local, fresh, hand-crafted, minimally processed foods and beverages like people had in previous generations. But how do we do that safely for eight or 10 billion people, all while using less resources? How do we make fresh produce more available and more affordable? I hope the future of foods involves more choices for more people, using technology and innovation to keep the supply safe and sustainable.”

By outlining social and technology intents, innovation experts and analysts outline key requirements we need to keep in mind while scoping a smart framework to business, process and product improvements:

  1. The digital citizen crowd is gaining power on the decision making process, encouraged by a shared need to defend common values.
  2. Digital affects our communication habits while human values come back at heart of management approach.
  3. In an uncertain environment, technology developments should be guided by balanced risk taking and long term sustainable, human goals.
  4. Focusing on human needs also opens possibilities to change towards simple, natural, basic requirements which past models may have supplied more sensibly.

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