The current state of the relationship between technology and human beings looks an awful lot like two people dating that aren’t really in love: they’re a happy couple from the outside, but under the hood there’s a lot of stuff that’s just not working out. At Solsten, we’re on a mission to change that.
The happiest and most enduring relationships are those where the two sides that come together help each other become better. That should be the same for any technology and the people using it, and especially technology that has the potential to propel us to new heights. For the vast majority of the past decades, technology did just that: we went through our daily lives more efficiently, it connected us with people and ideas at scale, we became more efficient at work, and have been able to take care of our shopping needs from the comfort of our own couch with just one click.
But there’s a major catch (you knew this was coming): the keyword to most of the technological benefits we reap is convenience. Why would convenience be a bad thing, you ask? Who wouldn’t want their lives to be as easy as possible, you wonder? Think about that relationship we entered because that other person was conveniently accessible and helped us fill some short-term gaps. That relationship failed with almost 100% certainty. And that’s the point: convenience, and hence the current relationship between us and technology, is neither good nor bad. It’s simply not sustainable, because it fails to address our fundamental needs, including not being able to provide us with something deeply rewarding that resonates with us over long periods of time.
The evidence of this is both striking and alarming: the use of social media sites like Facebook have been shown to significantly increase depression rates in users. Many teenagers are literally addicted to their mobile devices, carving out new psychological diagnoses in the DSM (the book psychologists use as criteria for any mental health condition). Still further, there’s mounting evidence that children are out of touch with their own and other people’s feelings because technology keeps them in their very own Truman Show bubble: bouncing around in their own reality and feedback loops (
Alon Shwartz has a great medium post on the topic).
What is going on?
The problem is that the very technology we so frequently engage with knows very little about us. How can that be given the sheer amounts of data companies like Facebook, Google, or Amazon collect about us? The problem is that companies lack the right insights in order to speak to, serve, and keep us as users and customers engaged in a way that is effective yet sustainable. Behavioral data and analytics, which is what pretty much all companies base their AI efforts on, by themselves are poor indicators of who customers and users really are. It does not say anything about why we as users are behaving the way we are. This is because behavior is biologically, psychologically, and sociologically driven. This is why we stop playing our favorite video game after a certain point, because it didn’t call us to a higher purpose that resonated with our goals in life. This is why we don’t click on the news website pop-up that promises us three free articles — when instead we just want the news that we truly care about delivered to us when we need it. The AI simply doesn’t know what we truly need or want.
How do we fix this?
They key is not to make AI even smarter. It’s great at specific intelligence, but this type of AI will only act towards the specific objective it has to achieve. Just ask the game developers of Q*bert how that went for their game (tl;dr the AI broke all records, but it did so by finding a bug and breaking all of the game’s rules — doesn’t sound like a fair and motivating game if you ask us).
Instead, AI needs to be more human, meaning it needs to be aware of our needs, values, and intrinsic motivators as a means to understand us more deeply and and provide us with experiences that not only resonate with our short term needs, but use those to truly resonate with our long term needs. Some promising efforts are being made in the realm of emotionally intelligent AI. It’s a step in the right direction, but still falls short as emotions are highly variable and again (you guessed it) biologically, psychologically, and sociologically driven.
At Solsten, we believe the answer is to empower AI to connect with the individual: the entire human behind the behavior — including their environment, culture, personality, and yes, emotions too. This is the journey we have embarked on: to pioneer purpose driven compassionate AI that is truly human-centric and is able to dynamically adapt to us individually and culturally, providing customers and users with deeply rewarding experiences that feel warm, cozy, or gratifying, and that drive us to be more self-aware, self-reflective, and to learn as well as engage better with the people around us: in essence, to help us be more human. The best part: we will want more of these types of experiences. Why? Because these experiences are healthy and inherently good for us — they rest at the core of what makes us live fulfilling lives.
As human beings, we want to live in a reality that moves us beyond just having experiences for the sake of experiences and acquiring things. We want meaning and experiences that power us toward our potential.The next wave of human-centered technology will be here to help us if we let it. The technology of the future will be a co-author in human history. We’ll be symbiotic partners in the sustainable nature of both human and earthly reality: directly depending on one another to create a prosperous narrative. An equitable narrative. A narrative that places every individual, given all of their unique traits and circumstances, in contexts where they can maximize their potential. The idea is to increase our humanness: to recognize that we aren’t born human, but it is our duty to become human: becoming more and more humane. And on that journey we need to help technology become our helper. We need to understand who we are, to help it help us.
Purpose driven compassionate AI is the key to cultivating a healthy symbiosis between humans and technology, to ultimately expand human awareness: the key trait allowing any living being to expand their perception and more sustainably thrive on our planet and beyond. Technology can help us become better if we focus on the right insight foundations. And we are leading the way.