The Future of Tech Is People

Technology has always been a means for humanity to overcome challenges. But we are more aware than ever that it also creates challenges. The ultimate impact of how technology shapes our future will depend on us.

June 3, 2020

For this issue of Signal360 we decided to focus on the role of technology in our current environment. Technology has always powered human resolve and ingenuity. This is no different today. With the ubiquity of mobile phones, it seems logical to find a way to automate contact tracing for public health. But as our story explains, these specific approaches are highly dependent on the culture and acceptance of the technology involved. It is a fine line between protecting citizens and the risk of surveillance.

The large tech companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook have learned the hard way that tech is not always regarded as a force for good. In fact, before the COVID-19 crisis, “Big Tech” found itself at the center of a “techlash,” with escalating calls to regulate the industry, driven by privacy concerns and its increasing impact and influence on our society. The last few months have highlighted the positive impact of technology, potentially changing public opinion and discussions about regulatory actions. This has not gone unnoticed by the stock market, with tech stocks near or at all-time high levels. Check out our story, “COVID May Have Stopped The Techlash – But Contact Tracing Could Bring It Back.” 

Some tech in our lives will change permanently. The continuing pandemic has accelerated several emerging technologies and technology-driven business models. The rapid growth of last-mile delivery services is a clear example. In several other areas, the impact of emerging technologies will create significant changes, too: Education, health care, retail, as well as manufacturing, are showing early signs of significant disruptions ahead. These trends have been a boon for some investors, such as Union Square Ventures, which was an early investor in several digital education businesses. Watch our interview with USV partner Rebecca Kaden here.  

While technology has the power to change the world, it is still up to humans to imagine what that will look like. This was brought to life in one of the Signal 2018 highlight presentations by Emily Chang, then CMO of Starbucks China, who provided inspiring examples of how to design technology that enables human experiences. 

Empathy is an essential ingredient of human experience. June is Pride month, a moment to recognize our LGBTQ friends, colleagues, and community. Just last week, P&G launched “They Will See You”, a powerful short movie that shows the importance of LGBTQ visibility in media and advertising as role models. As a complement to two previous movies, it demonstrates P&G’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The ultimate impact of how technology shapes our world depends on us, humans. As Steve Jobs said, what’s important is not a faith in technology, it is a faith in people. Enjoy our Signal360 June issue.

Stan Joosten & John Battelle

Editors-In-Chief, Signal360 / Co-founders, Signal P&G