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FPdGi Awards

Amber Case calls for calm technology

29/06/2018

“Did you know that you are all cyborgs?” With this powerful question Amber Case began her talk, an American cyber-anthropologist who defends a more human view of technology.

Case explained that technology has penetrated all areas of our lives as it is “the first thing we see in the morning and the last thing before we go to sleep”. However, the American wanted to make a clear difference between humans controlling technology as opposed to technology controlling humans: “Are we using tools or are the tools using us?”, she asked. This situation could become even more noticeable after 2020 when it is predicted that there will be more technological devices in the world than people.

The arrival of a friendlier technology should end the use of some devices that are even taking a toll on human health. As an example, Case mentioned blue lights that affect our levels of melatonin, which is what allows us to sleep.

One of the keys to this new technology is that, apart from being minimally intrusive, it also “informs and calms”. The cyber-anthropologist talked about the case of a light inside a house which, connected to a meteorological sensor, changed colour to indicate whether it was sunny or cloudy outside.

The paradigm of the Roomba
Case wanted to use the Roomba vacuum cleaner, a device that needs human help to function, as an example of technology. “It doesn’t even get into the corners very well”, she stressed. Even so, people use it, and Case compares it with Tamagotchis because, like them, it demands attention; these devices controlled the feeding of cats and dogs and “if the system failed, you didn’t know if your pet was dead or alive”.

The calm technology that was presented in the introduction to the ‘Talent rescuers’ meeting occurs in order to help humans achieve the same challenges using less mental effort. An “ally” to fuel human curiosity, according to Amber.

The final part of her talk involved a warning about personal data and the need for the holder of that personal information to be, once again, oneself. This concern about privacy that was already raised in newspapers and publications at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s which, according to Case, “could have been written today”.

The opening talk also asked the young people in the audience questions encouraging them to modify the alerts service on their mobile telephones. “Will you remember the latest publication or when you fell in love?”, she asked them, so that they would dedicate time to filling their lives with experiences.

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