Intellectual Transcendence and Entrepreneurial Opportunity Part 5: Balancing Humanity & Technology

“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”

— Maya Angelou, “Mother” of Humanity

“Our technology, our machines, is part of our humanity. We created them to extend ourselves, and that is what is unique about human beings.”

— Ray Kurzweil, “Father” of The Singularity

For those of you just joining me now, welcome! Thank you for stopping by ūüôā I started this current series a few weeks ago. Fem Geek that I am, I went to see the film Transcendence¬†and actually liked it! It sparked a real debate about the Singularity where even Stephen Hawking weighed in! It fueled the ongoing debate about startups and technology, because the reality is that digital business is everyone’s business. It caused me to ask¬†these 5 questions, which I have since shared and explored:

My 5 questions to ponder, and 5 implications for entrepreneurship:

1. Do you ever really know another person? Implications for social media avatars and digital marketing trends i.e. storytelling
2. What does it mean to truly connect with others and understand their needs? Implications for marketing and problem solving
3.¬†Are you self aware, how do you know?¬†Implications for the ‚Äėtrep mindset and journey vs. outcome
4. How can technology be harnessed to further humanity? Implications for ed-tech startups and mobile app development, especially in healthcare and underdeveloped countries
5. Is the Internet the great equalizer because of ease of communication or because of ease of content curation? Implications for the glass ceiling and women entrepreneurship and thought leadership, especially in the current blogosphere


How can technology be harnessed to further humanity? Implications for ed-tech startups and mobile app development, especially in healthcare and underdeveloped countries:


  • How can technology be harnessed to further humanity?

I have long been fascinated with our need and attempts to better balance humanity and technology. I’ve read about it, used it in my book’s title, and lectured about it in various incarnations around North America since 2009. I’ve written about it in my book,¬† The NICE Reboot: A Guide to Becoming A Better Female Entrepreneur- How to Balance Your Cravings for Humanity & Technology in Today’s Startup Culture. I even spoke about it yesterday when I had a book signing at BookExpo America in Manhattan. That’s why my 1 hour autographing session turned into 3! I have to thank my editor Jim Pennypacker for arranging everything and making sure I didn’t run out of books‚Ķ.or pens!

Balancing humanity and technology is our collective legacy, and something that Steve Jobs and Apple‚ĄĘ Inc. have done¬†so well. The iPad commercials speak for themselves; works of art which showcase Apple’s talent for storytelling and tapping into our Theory of Mind. Technology is and should always be, about making life better for people. ¬†That’s why Tim Cook restarted Apple’s philanthropic arm, and why he purchased Beats. That’s why I am eager to watch his keynote address at the WWDC on Mon 6/2/14.

If the future of technology is all too human, then we need to rethink how to harness it for the benefit of mankind. We need to rethink what students will be ¬†learning in the future, and what soft skills need to be taught for future success in the workplace. We also need to rethink the¬†impact¬†innovation will have on different areas of technology. It’s something that hit home when the New York Times Innovation Report recently¬†went public. It’s something that’s been on my mind since hearing about the book Creativity Inc. (and putting it on my to-do list) and reading about all the things Pixar can teach us re: best practices for “talking human” in business, staying in touch with our inner child, diversifying our approaches to entrepreneurship, and in fostering a collaborative culture. Which brings me to my next point‚Ķ..

  • Implications for ed-tech startups and mobile app development:

I believe that one of the best ways to harness technology to further humanity is to have higher overall standards for which apps get developed and deployed for the masses. To have a unified philosophy about problem solving as a moral calling, and about balancing purpose and profit, both of which are¬†what my NICE Initiative is all about. (You can learn more about my NICE Initiative seminars¬†on my Slideshare page). Do we really need an app that delivers alcohol to our doorstep? Do we really need another dating app to join the ranks of Hinge, the anti-Tinder? I think that it’s time to for tech startups and ed-tech startups in particular, to discard the Silicon Valley mindset while retaining its venture capitalist attitude towards funding projects with real potential for disruptive innovation‚Ķ.the education of our children. The ones¬†whose minds and social skills are being shaped one finger swipe and Minecraft game at a time.

That’s why as an educator/ speech therapist I created my Socially Speaking‚ĄĘ iPad App¬†in 2012 as a social skills TEST for young children at risk for behavioral issues, instead of deploying it as a game. That’s why as an ed-tech consultant and public iPad Evangelist I tend to endorse apps that promote productivity, critical and agile thinking, creativity, and collaboration. Apps such as Minecraft, ¬†Explain Everything‚ĄĘ by¬†, and Stick Around by Tony Vincent. App developers need not be the proverbial hacker or dreamer looking to cash in anymore. It’s time¬†to teach more people, especially children to code, so that they can think about the world in a new way. So that they can treat those in it better, and help foster a truly globally connected society. Which brings me to my final point‚Ķ.

  • Implications for healthcare and underdeveloped countries:¬†

The Digital Age is rife with promise for real disruptive innovation across the board, especially in healthcare. Much is being written of these days about wearable tech in healthcare, how startups are changing the healthcare industry, which jobs of the future will synthesize healthcare with computer programming, and which new technologies will change humanity. The first step to balancing humanity and technology in healthcare is to implement a methodical plan created and deployed by professionals on BOTH sides of the table! It’s a pet peeve of mine as someone who has dealt with corporate”suits” in Washington DC or in Medicare who have never been in “the trenches” and thus don’t see the value in giving a child with Autism an iPad to help him/her learn and/or communicate, or who deny a patient an extension of his/her therapy regimen beyond the allotted 8 times cap.

It’s time to rethink the concepts of universal coverage, service delivery, and patient safety. It’s time to proactively¬†establish updated, clear, and enforceable policies. It’s time to do it before the mass production of 3D printers and the subsequent potential for a¬†“black market” surge of activity on the “DarkNet” AKA¬†Silk Road does it for us, by default.

The first step to balancing humanity and technology in underdeveloped countries is to be philanthropic. The second is to be curious and ask questions. Learn about other cultures and countries. Help people¬†implement diverse, ethical, and collaborative social reform and leadership. Help them recognize education as a priority, something CLASP International does in Zambia, and of which I’m a part of. It’s something that I wrote of in the Huffington Post and again on LinkedIn. It’s something being discussed today at the eLearning Africa 2014 Conference in Uganda. A bona fide¬†entrepreneurial mindset involves understanding the “politics of the playground” by¬†recognizing opportunity and diversifying the ecosystem. A bona fide entrepreneurial attitude (which is different than mindset and something I wrote about earlier in this series) involves having an optimistic outlook about life and those who cross your path. It helps us persevere, reframe success and failure, and actively embed civic engagement into our daily practice.

It’s something Maya Angelou taught by example and by her intelligent, insightful, and thought provoking writings. She gifted humanity with a legacy that will transcend time, and she will be missed. She provided thought leadership before it was fashionable, was a true inspiration for women all over the world, and gave new meaning to the concept of writing being an equalizer. We now question whether or not the Internet is the great equalizer re: philanthropy, education, and social communications‚Ķ.but that question will be explored next time.

To be continued…..







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‚ĄĘ 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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