How Technology Enables The Human Connection
2020 is fast becoming a memorable decade, largely due to the reappearance of a global pandemic. Much like its historical counterpart of 1918, the Spanish Flu, COVID-19 has impacted the lives of millions of people. It has sent half of the global population into lockdown, limiting human interaction in order to avoid the most devastating effects of such a widespread event. And yet, something has surfaced from the ”new normal” of working from home, home-schooling our children, limiting our time outside, and responsibly social distancing: the strength of the human spirit, and the unwavering desire to remain connected to those that we hold near and dear, via technology.
In an unprecedented time of social isolation, the world can feel more connected than ever thanks to technology. Work teams are still participating in daily group catch-ups via applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams; friends are having virtual "after-work drinks“ (happy hours); and everything from a comedy gig to a festival rave are being live-streamed and enjoyed from the comfort of our own homes.
Social media apps that were once seen by some as a frivolous waste of our precious ”screen time” are quickly becoming vital applications to keep us connected to the outside world. Various online platforms enable us to continue having play dates, pub quizzes, live music, and conference calls, allowing us to keep calm and carry on throughout this crisis. Simply put, technology is enabling human connection.
Opinions on Technology in Popular Culture
Interestingly, the advancement in technology has not always been favourably received by all—over the last 30 years, we have seen more discussions and media articles highlighting the potentially harmful effects of technological advancement, such as a displacement of face-to-face interaction, its role in environmental degradation and threat to employment, and a general fear of the unknown. Versions of a future involving technology were predicted through the medium of films in the 1980s and 1990s: ideas of dystopian societies with flying cars and extinct plant and wildlife, as depicted in the film Blade Runner, helped to fuel a general idea of uncertainty of what the future holds for technology, especially in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).
For example, the advancement of AI has often been portrayed as dangerous and destructive. In the classic film Terminator, Skynet—the artificial super-intelligence system created by humans—becomes self-aware and aims to destroy humanity. More recently, in the film Ex Machina, the story depicts an emotionally intelligent AI named Ava (editor's note: no relation) who deceives and ultimately destroys the protagonist. What we actually know about AI is that there is a vast array of possibilities for applications that are overwhelmingly positive. AI has the potential to help solve life’s most complex problems and mysteries surrounding the environment, aging, disease, war, poverty, famine, and the origins of deep space exploration—just to name a few! We already use AI in our everyday lives, from Siri and Alexa smart home systems, to Netflix and Pandora’s use of predictive analytics to show us personalised recommendations of music and film.
Technology Enabling Global Mobility
Cartus also uses the predictive analytics mentioned previously to bring revolutionary new capabilities to our clients in the form of MovePro VisionSM (powered by our Leading Edge Analytics Practice [LEAP] technology). MovePro Vision is an application designed to surface information about a relocation program that would otherwise be lost in an overwhelming amount of data. The machine learning behind MovePro Vision sifts through and incorporates data from past relocations to provide mobility stakeholders with real-time decision support for:
- Authorisation volumes
This results in better planning and cost management. The ability to toggle instantly between aggregated global views and employee-level detail provides mobility leaders with further clarity into their program’s past, present, and future.
Our new centralised mobility hub, MovePro360SM, further enhances the human connection within a mobility program, offering clients a holistic view of their entire mobility program at a touch of a button. This gives stretched mobility teams more time to focus on caring for their relocating employees and less time weighed down with administrative tasks.
We also use robotics internally at Cartus, using system bots to help our front-line consultants minimise their administrative tasks to spend more time focusing on relocating our clients’ employees. This technology enhances and simplifies the end-to-end relocation experience for transferring employees and mobility teams—a harmonious partnership between our best-in-class people and innovative technology.
Future Roles for Technology in our Society
Many organisations are reviewing the concept of employees working from home in a different way as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact global norms. Historically more common only in the most technically progressive of industries, companies from all industry sectors are now realising that productivity has not been impacted as initially expected and, as a result, some are deciding to do away with the office completely.
As some countries begin the process of slowly lifting coronavirus-related restrictions, it begs the question of whether we will revert to the ”old normal” way of life as we knew it, or whether this could be the beginning of a cultural turning point in the way we approach our daily lives. It’s still too early to say for sure, but with more and more organisations completely re-thinking the way their workforce gets the job done, technology will become an even more critical pillar of daily life.
As we continue to see a major cultural shift in the way we work and socialise, and if the current use of technology doesn’t wane, there are some demographics who could benefit from a continuation of virtual methods to interact with others on a larger scale. Technology has always existed in this capacity, yet its potential has never been fully utilised. As our views about mass human interaction differ post-COVID-19, there may be an opportunity for virtual communication to reach out to wider audiences.
One interesting angle to consider is greater inclusivity in live events. Live streams of events allow those that may have struggled to attend in person previously to get involved. Anyone can attend a live music gig or pub quiz, regardless of age, ability, or location, which promotes diversity and inclusion within the local community and beyond. With the volume of online group events increasing, and events being attended in greater numbers virtually than they had ever been historically in person, organisers and promoters might consider adding a livestream element to concerts and future events, to continue the high level of accessibility for the masses.
Virtual inclusion practices could also be extended to the workplace, with video calls and webinars overtaking face-to-face business meetings as the preferred method of communication. Conferences could use online platforms to demonstrate products or give presentations from keynote speakers, allowing colleagues and clients across the globe the chance to attend, which would reduce the cost of travel and hiring huge venues.
As we try to navigate through this extraordinary time, technology is enabling humanity to stay connected. We have seen communities come together, people helping others, and an unwavering feeling of hope amongst the chaos, which will come to define us as a generation. The way we use technology will almost certainly be forever changed and, in these circumstances, definitely for the positive.
So, keep having virtual happy hours and digital dinner parties, find an online group for your favourite hobby, and stay connected with your friends and loved ones. Remember that with technology as the conduit, we are not alone, and we will get through this together.
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