At first sight, modern technology seems impersonal and cold. After all, it’s all about circuits and screens, megabytes and protocols, in short, things that the average human doesn’t generally like to talk about (let alone dive deeper into and understand). The fact of the matter is that technology has grown to become an integral part of our everyday lives, even if we don’t necessarily realize. We talk about WiFi and USB drives, streaming and smart devices, spend a significant portion of our day interacting with technology in one way or another, then return to our smart home, turn on our smart TV, perhaps crash on the couch to browse the web or play a game on our smartphone.
From beeps and bops to voice responses
Over the last two decades, an ever-increasing portion of our lives has gone digital – and this has an impact on our everyday life. After all, the digital realm affects our lives in a significant way already. We keep in touch with others on instant messaging services, we search for products to buy on the internet, we hail a ride and order food through dedicated apps, and we even search for a significant other using various online services. For a while, we were content with the machine-like responses of our favorite services but now we grew to demand more. We want technology to be more intuitive, more user-friendly, more intelligent and sensitive… in short, more human. Technology, it seems, is in a dire need of a human face.
One of the areas where technology has grown more human is that of voice-enabled digital assistants. These devices have become quite popular in the last few years – there are now hundreds of thousands of smart speakers and similar devices in the homes of hundreds of thousands of families. While they don’t give technology a human face per se, they give it a human voice. There are people who no longer search the web for a recipe, for example, but ask the digital assistant for it. Considering that these digital assistants don’t truly understand our words (just as search engines don’t understand the meaning behind the search terms), they are often subject to interesting practices. This leads to strange situations, like the one involving Amazon Alexa and feminism, which led to the reprogramming of the device to stop responding to sexist statements.
A human face for technology
Does technology need a human face? In a world where a major share of our social interactions is done through various digital means, the answer is most likely “yes”. After all, a conversation on social media or through an instant messaging app will always lack the depth and meaningfulness of meeting face to face. With technology getting a human face, perhaps we’ll re-learn how to better communicate with each other – and perhaps, we’ll try to do it without placing a screen between our faces.