Reporting on technology lately, you would think I would be tied to traditional STEM concepts: Science, technology, engineering and math.
In some ways I really am. A year ago, I never thought I would be consistently writing on robots, and how they could feel sensation more like humans can, or how sensors can bend to make better phones or make surgery and surgical equipment more capable.
It might seem digitized, mechanized and rigid. But it’s also very, very human.
It’s no coincidence that these technologies aim to mimic human nature. Jeremy Fishel, one of my brother-in-law’s friends who I had the pleasure to write about in Techonomy, cofounded a company making a sensor that can feel sensations similar to how humans can. And he told me that much of their success came from blindly copying nature. His team was able to extract function by starting with form.
It’s no coincidence that Google just bought company building robots that run and jump like cheetahs and dogs. There’s something profound about the way scientists strive to understand and recreate the human experience. It’s an art. It’s a beautiful one, at that. And there’s something eerily poetic about it.
Even in speaking to scientists, you wouldn’t expect them to explain their products in layman’s terms – but often they do. And it’s because they also feel a very real, and very visceral, connection to their creations. The best technologies I’ve seen are the ones that have a human connection — the ones that have a purpose.
We find this even in less “intense” technologies. The apps I report on daily find success in connectivity. Washington-based Teambuildr, which I haven’t wrote on yet, connects coaches and teams. Chicago-based Caremerge connects doctors, caretakers and families so the elderly can receive better coordinated healthcare. The founders cared about their purpose so much that they lived in a nursing home for a month to understand their consumer’s plight. Moscow-based Angry Citizen helps connect people to their governments, giving citizens a platform to complain and be heard in a way that matters. And London-based SocioTransit helps connect travelers to lost iPhones and letters from loved ones overseas, so that strangers can connect people to their long-lost memoirs.
These solutions are digitized, but they all connect people. They find inherent disconnects in the world that occur for whatever reason. And they form an atmosphere of understanding and ease. Imagine if we could form that atmosphere for a bipartisan government, or countries with war-torn borders. I envision a world where technology could connect cultures in a way that’s human. Because at the end of the day, the lack of understanding is what brings our human race to self-destruction. Maybe there’s just an app for that.
It’s about connectivity. As much as these startup and technology companies have solutions solving real human problems, these teams also have a real passion and drive to connect to something bigger than ourselves – whether that’s finding the ways the world ticks so we can mimic it, or simply understanding each other so we can find better ways to connect. This is what technology is all about.