4 Ways Technology Impacts our Ability to Make Decisions

Decision making

This post is part of a new series on conversations worthy of attention. 

Marshall McLuhan observed the effects of media and technology. “The medium is the message,” “We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us,” and “First we build the tools, then they build us,” are three ways of talking about the impact of technology.

True to the Canadian educator and communication theorist observation that “Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers,” we're still working on our understanding of the effects of media and technology on business and human behavior.

Jennifer Sertl says it's important to reinforce the usefulness of being human, rather than thinking of humans in technological terms. We don't have an on/off switch, for example. Our presence impacts people at a deep level—through feelings and emotions.

In an interview with rdigitallife#, she says technology evolves so gradually that, if we're not careful, we could lose our humanity without even noticing. We're losing our ability to do four things that impact decision-making:

  1. scenario-plan — this is a strategic method we use to make flexible long-term plans. We create different scenarios for different future landscapes, so we can make better decisions when problems or changes occur.
  2. gain perspective — growth is an imperative in business. As we grow, we have a certain way of looking at what happens. When we see things from a different perspective, we gain a broader appreciation of the world. 
  3. know ourselves — the aphorism know thyself is ancient. It's about understanding one's own emotions, desires, and abilities. We cannot set goals, go about life, and have successful relationships if we don't know who we are or what we want.
  4. empathizeempathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. It has four important attributesCognitive empathy works in tandem with reason

These are the things that separate us from the gadgets. 

Our ancestors were tightly connected with each other, which is why they felt only the pain of their family and the people in their village. As we started to travel more and learn new things, we expanded the circle of sympathy to the clan, the tribe, the nation, the race, and maybe all humankind.

It was a process that at its origin had what physicist David Bohm called “participatory thought” — in some cultures there was a shared understanding that everyone was part of the same experience. In his excellent On Dialogue, Bohm explains the meaning of participatory, it's about “to partake of,” and the idea was everyone drew from the same source of energy.

There's more reason to it

For the ambitious, near enough may not be good enough.

These are things we can control through our values and principles. Value never disappears, it just shifts to another place. Technology is a useful tool. But we need to reinforce the usefulness of being human to drive innovation.

How much screen and app time is enough to program us? Can you separate how you hope to be from how you're being with your actions in social networks?