In 2021 Envisioning launched a series of round-table discussions to explore the future at the intersections of tech & culture. In this series we challenged the dynamics emerging around the globalization/localization of tech, and plunged deeper into how it effects the cultural attitudes of ethics, belonging, and work around the world. Like most conversations on the future of tech, we left each session with more questions than answers, begging the most important question of them all: Are we paying enough attention?
Technology is Everywhere
There is no doubt that technologies are taking over the world, merging themselves into every aspect of our lives. There is rarely a moment in which we aren’t facilitating our experiences with technology. Even experiences embedded in nature are often empowered by a minimum of wearable, safety, and/or sustainable technologies. After all, technologies are human-invented tools that are developed to advance human potential. They affect the ways in which we communicate, collaborate, produce and play. They redefine both our personal and professional lives, as well as our relationships to each other and our environments, transforming the ways in which we live our lives, and what we often refer to as culture.
With the instantaneous access of information technology, and the literal spread of technologies around the world, cultures are metamorphosing exponentially. Cultures develop depending on the influences of geographies and communities, shifting demographics by bringing people together, and separating them from others. They evolve over time based on internal tendencies such as preferences and tastes and external circumstances like climate and weather. With technologies influencing both tendencies and circumstances, cultures are diverging, converging, emerging–and in some instances, disappearing. As we shift into new ways of being and relating to each other, we are witnessing both positive and negative consequences. In the most basic case, while certain technologies are advancing developing countries with new innovations, they are at the same time deepening class and wealth divides globally. How we negotiate these types of consequences will determine our future at the intersections of tech & culture.
Does technological advancement requires ethical consideration? How might we understand & align these considerations across the diversity of cultures around the world?
Cultures are guided by a collective understanding that is non-normative, open-ended, undefined and difficult to account for. What upholds such an understanding is a set of values that foster communal relationships with mutual respect and trust. Because technologies are disrupting human experiences and interactions, such understandings are losing their tenacity for the promise of greater rewards for both technologists and consumers. Values are being sidelined and over-ridden, often unintentionally or just by algorithmic consequence. Part of the challenge is that the varying priorities and perspectives around the potential harms of a technology in the real world depending on who you are, as well as where you are. Understanding how the lives of different users around the world might be impacted by data tracking, facial recognition, and/or deep fake (to name just a few) requires cultural and ethical training that is not a priority of the tech industry. The biggest challenge is that ethics are indefinite, making ethical issues impossible to solve. Instead, they are navigated and negotiated. Who gets to lead the way, is testing the future of our societal systems.
Does the innate need of belonging affect our engagement with different tech platforms? How does our understanding of what we belong to shift? What is the future of belonging in a hyper tech world?
Cultures dictate our experience of belonging, cultivating a communal sense of identity defined by shared values and experiences. Driven both by capitalism and technological development combined, societal evolution continues to reward individualism. Because of this, our attachments are shifting away from bloodlines and geography, and towards other opportunities for connection. This is easily found in work spheres, where we spend most of our time–and where more and more–our sense of self is determined. Technologies of course expand such opportunities with easy access and exponential possibilities, inviting users to experiment with different versions of themselves beyond their physical realities. It multiplies meaning and value in ways that makes it hard for anyone to commit to any one experience of belonging, ironically leaving most feeling very alone. As we move into a metaverse existence, understanding our sense of belonging is complicated further by how we traverse the different worlds, what we choose to keep, what we choose to hide, and what we choose to explore.
How are our current paradigms being challenged by technology? How has the acceleration of digitization transformed our value for work-life balance? What is the future of work and how will it impact different cultures around the world?
How we work varies in different cultures around the world, yet the accelerated demand by technological innovation to be better, faster, stronger is global. This in combination with the societal pressure of achievement as self-worth is resulting in a critical burn-out health crisis. Many are apprehensive of the automated future, where skillsets will suddenly become outdated and people will be left without livelihood. The Covid pandemic has amplified this acceleration and also introduced culturally nuanced life/work negotiations. The blend of life/work through a small screen at home has invited more intimacy while still demanding more from us as professionals and in our personal lives. Work colleagues have become replacements for family and friends. The disruptive nature of the pandemic has left many contemplating their values and negotiating between work that they love, and work that is paid well. With increasing consumer awareness and societal pressure, corporations are debating similar survival dilemmas around balancing purpose and profit. There is no doubt that technological innovation needs to focus on the greater good, yet tech conglomerates are monopolizing the system making it arduous for smaller and more noble efforts to succeed. In addition to burn-out, many are leaning towards an anti-work movement to reclaim autonomy, hoping that disruptive communities are the only hope to challenge the system head on, and leaving many wondering what are their post-apocalyptic skills.
February 8, 2022 5pm CET
How are technologies amplifying our societal construct of individualism? How will individuality empowered by tech transform our experience of culture? Is there a tech driven future beyond individualism for the human species?
March 8, 2022 5pm CET
How can technology enable community building? How does it shift our experience of community? Is there a future for communities in the metaverse?
May 23, 2022 5pm CET
How does technology challenge our accepted reality? What other dimensions can we access with technology? What does it mean about our experience of death?