This talk by Margaret Heffernan more intelligently and eloquently expresses the idea that’s been noodling in my mind for some time. That it isn’t an inevitability that we lose our humanity at scale. In fact, we should double down on our humanity–compassion, empathy, and attention–the larger an organization gets. Without it, we become little more than a cog in an unfeeling and uncaring machine.
Preparedness, coalition-building, imagination, experiments, bravery — in an unpredictable age, these are tremendous sources of resilience and strength. They aren’t efficient, but they give us limitless capacity for adaptation, variation and invention. And the less we know about the future, the more we’re going to need these tremendous sources of human, messy, unpredictable skills.
But in our growing dependence on technology, we’re asset-stripping those skills. Every time we use technology to nudge us through a decision or a choice or to interpret how somebody’s feeling or to guide us through a conversation, we outsource to a machine what we could, can do ourselves, and it’s an expensive trade-off. The more we let machines think for us, the less we can think for ourselves.
The more time doctors spend staring at digital medical records, the less time they spend looking at their patients. The more we use parenting apps, the less we know our kids. The more time we spend with people that we’re predicted and programmed to like, the less we can connect with people who are different from ourselves. And the less compassion we need, the less compassion we have.
What all of these technologies attempt to do is to force-fit a standardized model of a predictable reality onto a world that is infinitely surprising. What gets left out? Anything that can’t be measured — which is just about everything that counts.Margaret Heffernan, TEDSummit 2019