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Chris Dancy: “We Don’t Download Software; We Download Habits”

"We are optimising people for software, not software for people"

By Umar Hassan

Technology is increasingly all-pervasive, with sensors and applications tracking our everyday lives. One of those lives is that of Chris Dancy, “The Most Connected Human on Earth”, who over the past decade has been tracking his life with 700+ sensors. (His data, from eating habits to steps taken, via spending, social proclivities and location on the map can be tracked here…)

The American entrepreneur has worked with many major companies including Microsoft, HP, Citrix, Intel to name but a few, and has over 25 years’ experience, specialising in the technology and healthcare industries. Yet in a conversation with Computer Business Review, Dancy struck a surprisingly downbeat note on emerging technology and how it’s being put to use.

What is a “Connected Human” Anyway?

Connected humans are people who are tethered to ubiquitous technology for a majority of the day and who live an omnipresent existence in connected spaces while not physically logged in.

You’ve Been Speaking About the “Internet of Families”. What do You Mean?

The Internet of Families is the next evolution of technology and humans. Now that our friends, family, and peers are using or wearing technology full time, the internet of things is rapidly turning into the internet of families. The internet of families represents the software and hardware that keeps families’ interfaces at home, work and on the go. Software that monitors locations, behaviours, and health of all the people we care about. Hardware that is monitored or throttled to control access to our loved one’s lives. Soon we will download habits and environments for our families.

From a Business Perspective, Technology is changing how Users Communicate with Companies. Where is this Taking Businesses with Regard to their Business Strategies?

Business is having to move from omnichannel strategies for communications and penetrate into a customers life in new and intimate ways. Customers are demanding temporary, on demand products, and services.

Business strategy now has to consider not just technology solutions like API’s, mobile, voice and AI, but a suite of tools from alternate payment methods and integrations into delivery services, and multiple delivery models, multi-day shipping to the home has been replaced with multi-hour shipping to temporary locations.

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How is Technology Changing How Businesses Manage Employees?

Businesses are not managing employees, and the companies that are focusing on selling the snake oil of a controlled environment are just throwing money away. We need to stop worrying about what our employees do with their devices and start helping them focus on their time and life.

Credit: Kyle Thompson

You’ve Spoken about Downloading Habits. What do you Mean?

We don’t download software; we download habits. Slack is a habit. It’s not a way of working; it’s a system for behaving. Maybe your boss needs updates there. Perhaps you need to check specific channels each day. You’re not contributing anything to your organization by using Slack; you have new habits that you have to “perform.”

Unfortunately, these habits spill over to our time, and we end us compulsively checking things, posting things or screen-shotting our co-workers.Too much software is designed as a bad habit that encourages us to servile our friends, peers, and families.

You Have Concerns About Emerging Tech?

My major concerns for business using AI, ML and Emerging Tech are simple, businesses don’t know what they are doing, and we are employing bad actors as consultants to help us create more solutions that are slowly ripping apart society and making it hard to function. Businesses are not considering the impact of their solutions on people; we are optimizing people for software, not software for people.

If we would stop for a moment and see not every on-demand service makes things better and what we are doing is designing experiences that separate and alienate people, from self-service checkouts at the grocery to ATMs, our history on emerging tech is about automating the people we love out of our lives.

Who is Responsible for This?

Ultimately governments are responsible. In the past 20 years, governments have allowed businesses who traditionally were held with checks and balances to grow without any regulation on their influence or power. Consumers left to their own devices will eat McDonald’s and give away all their data to save five minutes. It’s up to our institutions to provide, and they are failing us miserably.

Where do you hope to see connected tech emerge as a major part of businesses in the here and now?

We need to focus all our connected technology on healthcare, behaviour, emotional and physical. People are dying of loneliness, obesity, and cancer in a world that has cured all three many times over.

Images Credited to Kyle Thompson.

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