One month into 2019, the so-called tech backlash is in full swing. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon all face the prospect of regulation following allegations ranging from misuse of personal data to workforce discrimination and tax avoidance.
The IT security industry’s constant stream of data breach, privacy scandal, and vulnerability discovery stories simply add to the wintery sense of gloom.
So one January news item about a little boy’s lost teddy taking a photogenic Twitter holiday in the sun comes as a timely reminder how tech stories are at their most engaging when they put human interest at the center.
Big tech’s hubris and IT security’s negativity aside, there are positive stories everywhere.
Sometimes uplifting, and often thought-provoking, tech’s beneficial impact on human life can be found in everything from advances in natural science to the changing way we live and work.
Converging Tech and Natural Science
Word (and photo and video) travels in nanoseconds now that billions of people around the world are equipped with mobile devices and connected via social media and the internet.
Empowering stories about breakthroughs in the natural sciences offer a tantalizing glimpse of what human life might be like in the not-too-distant future. Less obvious, perhaps, is the debt such progress increasingly owes to the power of computing.
Take, for example, two recent stories with DNA testing at their heart. On the surface, a story of how genealogy helped to identify a serial killer and another about how a mother managed to trace the anonymous donor father of her child appear to celebrate the possibilities of genetics.
Neither of these stories, however, would be possible without the connections that we’re able to make through websites and social networks.
A similar combination of natural sciences with computer technology can be observed in an upbeat story about efforts to prolong life expectancy and how 3D printing of human organs for transplants may be possible within the next decade.
Tech Permeates Every Day Life
Smart technology, in the shape of the Internet of Things (IoT), is gradually finding its way into our homes, commute to work and work itself.
There are plenty of stories of smart consumer devices waiting to make our lives easier from smart locks and doorbells to energy-saving lightbulbs and utility meters. Internet-connected devices are embedding themselves everywhere – our cities are regulating our living conditions night and day and our cars are increasingly computers on wheels.
Another agent of change is radio frequency ID (RFID) technology. A kind of miniaturized smart label, RFID has the potential to wield an even greater influence over our daily lives. For example a pilot project in Sweden has implanted an RFID chip under the skin of thousands of people to let them access buildings and travel without tickets to gain entry to events.
And in the U.S., smart gun technology can even prevent a trigger from being fired unless the owner’s RFID token is present.
The human benefits are obvious.
Tech Revolutionizes the Workplace
As seen in the smart locks example above, businesses view internet-connected devices as an opportunity to introduce new customer services and increase profit margins.
Cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning are further transforming the way businesses store, analyze, and apply data. Industrial IoT equipment is giving firms the data they need to analyze usage patterns, cut costs, and raise productivity.
In summary, the security, privacy, and business culture of technology’s biggest names are currently facing some uncomfortable truths.
Naturally, it’s in the security industry’s self-interest to capitalize on this. Too much fear and hysteria, however, can breed fatigue and indifference, especially if the audience has never had to face certain threats first hand.
Technology is always more interesting when it enhances rather than diminishes the human experience. Negative narratives need to be counterbalanced by stories that are positively human at heart.
In short, case histories that celebrate human ingenuity and experience make a far more engaging read (or view or listen or watch).