The Future of Technology is People

Gabe Zichermann
4 min readDec 10, 2019
People and Technology are Inextricably Linked

Whenever pundits and prognosticators speak about the future of technology, they invariably seem to position it in opposition to people. Tech that will steal jobs, tech that will enslave us, tech that will disconnect us, tech that can kill. Technology and humanity are — to many of these folks — enemies locked in a zero sum battle for resources and control.

But I think this misses the point almost entirely. Technology and people are inseparable. This is true in the most obvious of ways, and even in some that are completely out of left field. If you want to understand the future of technology, you have to understand people. And I believe that framework is the most powerful way to predict the revolutions yet to come.

Let’s look at some of the more important touchstones.

PEOPLE MAKE TECHNOLOGY

This is probably the most obvious, but — almost all technology has humans as its mother and father. There are some advances being made in computer-to-computer creation, but even then, the original algorithm was written by a human. For as long as we have been a species, we’ve created technologies. The people who are inclined to perform that function (entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, etc) are intrinsically motivated to invent new things. They would do this even if the economic incentives were less extreme.

For example, the atomic bomb was created as a military project designed to help win WWII. But would the bomb have been developed absent the war? The basic research that powered the theories behind the bomb predate the war, and one can only assume that even if the 20th century had been peaceful, some scientist would have eventually blown themselves up splitting atoms. If you want to understand the future of tech, look at what the creators want to create.

PEOPLE CHOOSE TECHNOLOGY

With the notable exception of coercive technologies (like China’s Social Credit System), people generally choose the technologies they choose to bring into their lives. Though not always rational, those choices include considerations like privacy, cost/benefit, and personal safety or growth. We all have different set points around issues like “what is an appropriate trade off for me to give you all my data?” Nonetheless…

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Gabe Zichermann

Author and Public Speaker on Gamification, The 4th Industrial Revolution, the Future of Work and Failure. More about me: https://gabezichermann.com