There is a difference between building a business that has purpose, and building a business to just make money. And while technology has made us all smarter, and just a click away from being connected to a person or information no matter where we are, something seems to be missing.
Maybe it’s what author Ross Baird has described in his takedown of Silicon Valley — the focus on solving “my world problems” instead of real-world problems. Or maybe, more simply, it’s rediscovering a sense of purpose.
It is no longer enough to build new technologies just because we can. We’re living in an attention economy that is being driven, almost entirely, by technology. We have access today to more information than we can possibly absorb, and all of those sources are competing to try to get top of mind with us. If they can get us addicted, then they’ve got a business model.
But, we’re also seeing the downside of this tech explosion, and it isn’t pretty. We are more isolated, more segmented and unhappier than ever before as tech has moved away from solving real problems.
We need the tech industry to refocus some of that effort on solving real world problems again.
The dark side of tech
More than 30 years ago, Georgia Tech professor Melvin Kranzberg compiled a list of what he called the “Six Laws of Technology,” which were intended to address potential social unrest related to the growing reach, even then, of technologies. His first law, that technology is not good or bad, but it is also not neutral, has become a measuring stick for tech policy in the era of Big Data, social media and always-on connectivity.
That was in the 1980s, and since then technology has only become more pervasive.
As of 2017, the average person spent more than two hours per day on various social media platforms, according to influencer marketing agency Mediakix.
There will soon be more than 5,000 GB of data on every single person on the planet stored somewhere on the cloud where advertisers, corporations, governments and others can leverage it, a Digital Universe study found.
And, incredibly, Facebook recently introduced a version of its Messenger app intended for kids aged six to 12.