Balancing Humanity and Technology in Today’s Startup Culture: A Look Ahead

“I love technology, and I don’t think it’s something that should divide along gender lines.”

— Marissa Mayer

“Information defines your personality, your memories, your skills.”

— Ray Kurzweil

This month of March is about harnessing power; women power, technological power, and brain power. We are in the midst of commemorating several events on my female entrepreneurship radar:

• Women’s History Month, and the resulting food for thought about our collective success, failure, struggles, and triumphs.

• The 25th birthday of the World Wide Web (2 days ago) resulting in speculation of tech-trends in 2014 and in 2025, and how students in school are/will be using technology.

• Brain Awareness Week, where ongoing research sheds light on our cognitive functioning,  visuo-spatial self awareness, and our sense of self.

We are living in exciting yet scary times, where the missing plane from Malaysia hits home the two sides of technology and the pitfalls of technology and robotics i.e. artificial intelligence. On the bright side, machine learning enhances human learning, although learning what, and doing what with it,  are valid and thought provoking questions being raised in the blogosphere by intrepid, accomplished women such as Diane Bertolin, Chelsea Clinton, and Daria Lombroso.

Humanity is apparently being reshaped by technology, which in turn is reshaping life on Earth. Our work avenues, education, best practices, and work/life balance overall, not to mention our internal iOS, especially for children and entrepreneurs in particular. Technology is the reason that Google engine searches/research, virtual mentorship, self education, and content curation (I use Twitter, the Zite App and Alltop site as part of my workflow) are all part of due diligence re: entrepreneurial reconnaissance and social listening.

Technology is truly changing the entrepreneurial landscape in so many ways…. from global, online learning (thanks to the free Coursera App), to products and services being created by 3D printing and hawked by social media, to opportunities to generate multiple income streams. That’s why I agree with Tom Whitby that we need to eliminate technology from the education discussion. 

Thanks to my iPad evangelism and travels, I am seeing another byproduct of the humanity/technology seesaw in both the educational and entrepreneurial space. There are increased calls to action to teach/provide services and products re: digital citizenship. To us all; parents/professionals and children, especially those with special needs and Autism. In this arena, iPad App integration into the curriculum and use of assistive technology such as the tweaked accessibility features of iOS7.1 really matter.

The result? An increase in the study of the anatomy of innovation and creativity, raising the great question asked by Jay Deragon:

Is technology influencing humanity or is humanity influencing technology?

The conundrum raises questions about multiple intelligences and implications for entrepreneurship re: nature vs. nurture. It’s something that needs to be addressed as changing times and subsequent learning styles reframe the human psyche and brain’s hardwiring; one sound byte, finger swipe, Evernote Notebook, and TED Talk at a time.

Here’s another great question raised by Jonathan Jackson:

Can empathy scale technology?

This is a question I’ve asked for years. I truly believe in the power of technology, but publicly advocate for its balance with humanity, for obvious and more subtle reasons. Some are interwoven as the theme of my new bookThe NICE Reboot, and The NICE Initiative for Female Entrepreneurship, which I am working on launching soon. That balancing act has been the ongoing theme of my career, from my early days as a Mac Evangelist and pediatric speech therapist/Autism Specialist and then ed-tech consultant.

It’s something I’ve been asking again since seeing the movie Her, which won an Oscar earlier this month for best original script by Spike Jonze. It has spurred a series of blogposts on the need for human connection and self-improvement and the dark side of technology, like this interesting one by Greg Egan. It also makes many of us, especially in today’s fast paced iEra and startup culture of transparency and over-sharing, wonder about Siri’s backstory, and the need for a digital detox; something I do every Friday from sunset to Saturday night or sometimes Sunday morning.

As a fellow human, visual learner, and student/teacher of the art and architecture of communication, I am pleased with the plethora of technology advances allowing more of us to pursue entrepreneurship in all its incarnations. Allowing more human beings to use the visual medium to foster emotional resonance through humor and empathy such as this adorable video posted by Anna Chui, and these photos of Pothole Art posted by Anastasia Page. I am mindful that technology can be a catalyst for real, multi-tiered change and that it is important to balance it with the humanity we are trying so hard to instill in our children.

It’s time we all furthered our humanity by tempering it with what we learn using technology. It’s time we used it to better mankind and the collective human experience; machine learning, mobile technology, educational technology, The Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud computing, all purposefully and profitably used for doing good. Thanks to the World Wide Web, many resources/contacts are easily found and shared.

Maybe when we commemorate the 50th birthday of the WWW, we will also all be able to celebrate a unified, innovative, and meaningful global digital citizenship curriculum that everyone has access to. Hopefully, we will have harnessed technology for the greater good, and increased learning, so that there is indeed a balance. So that the “dark” side of it has a different connotation, and its landscape, as well as ours, doesn’t look like this, and more like this.

Best,

Penina

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About penina4niceinitiative

Penina Rybak MA/CCC-SLP, TSHH, CEO of Socially Speaking LLC, is the author of "The NICE Reboot: A Guide to Becoming a Better Female Entrepreneur". She is an Autism specialist and educational technology consultant turned social entrepreneur. She is also a pediatric speech therapist and the creator of the Socially Speaking™ Program & iPad App. Her second book, "Autism Intervention in the iEra" was published in 2015. Since 2010, Penina has been a national/international speaker about social communication development, balancing humanity and technology, and best practices re: mobile and social technology. Connect with her on LinkedIn to learn more. You can also find her on Twitter: @PopGoesPenina, Facebook: Socially Speaking LLC, Google+ at The NICE Initiative for Female Entrepreneurship, and Pinterest and YouTube as well.
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