Many people who know me are familiar with my view on technology – that it’s not about the bits and bytes, the makeup of the technology, but about how it enables connectivity, simplicity and progress of humans, for society, for businesses and for economies.
I honestly believe this has never been truer than today. Watching the world adjust to our new normal has been fascinating from an anthropological and technological progress perspective.
As the virus started to spread, I noticed that technology was being leaned on in ways that were neither planned nor designed.
The cracks in its abilities began to show with websites crashing, gig economy workers suffering, bandwidth pushed to the limits. With time in isolation turning from weeks into months, we’re seeing tech heroes rising up to bridge the gap of human connectivity we so badly crave.
Gaming has provided a vehicle for communities to forget the world around them, connecting with friends to share experiences; the functional abilities of teleconferencing have kept families together, and online ordering has become the mainstay for all our shopping needs. For me, this is all bucketed under ‘connections’ or, to think of it in terms of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, Love and Belonging. How we build friendships, intimacy, family and connectivity.
In fact, as we look more at the hierarchy of needs, it is not a surprise to see what is rising to the top of the ‘hero’ pile of tech.
At the bottom of Maslov’s triangle is Physiological need – that’s clothing, sleep, shelter, food or water. Our rush for toilet roll was a way of gaining control, but as we move deeper into the pandemic, our trips for food and our focus on cooking have become important markers within the week. The winners here are of course Amazon – delivering the ‘essential’ products we find ourselves desperate for. Hairdressing scissors, clippers, thermometers and yeast are the hottest products, and we’re willing to wait patiently for these to be delivered to our door.
Safety needs? This one has been hard to deliver because the pandemic literally makes this pillar feel very insecure. Our reaction is to hunker down at home, to nest and cocoon. The rise of ‘at home’ activities such as mindfulness yoga or Joe Wicks training sessions is about taking control of our health and personal wellness and to provide us with a much-needed sense of routine because there is security in familiarity. YouTube, Vimeo and mobile apps have become the go-to answer for many people. The on-demand nature of them has meant we’re able to flex our day to create a curated routine.
We’re also leaning more into Telemedical solutions to answer our questions on health and to ensure we’re being seen by qualified doctors while utilising older technology, such as radio, to keep us updated on the world around us.
It’s no surprise we’re finding inventive ways to build connections. The rise of Zoom, RingCentral, and Google Hangouts means that they are no longer just tools for business but the mainstay for families. Virtual pub quizzes have gone through the roof, as have virtual drinks, birthday parties and dinners. We’re creating new rules of engagement as we adjust to these tools. And enabling this is the fabric of connectivity – 4/5G and WiFi; its reliability though has created its own tension, as connections flounder when under pressure.
We’re now seeing the use of Zorabots in care home facilities on the rise; as the ageing community become more locked in, we are enabling robots to help us reach out and provide comfort to those who need it most. In Belgium and France, Zora Robotics is giving free James Bots to facilities to help care homes provide a connection to the outside world for their residents.
Our self-esteem needs are continuing to be met through social media channels but there has been a deeper focus on community support, love and happiness. Selfless acts are seen as a way to build self-esteem, and Instagram has proven to be a strong technological option for sharing and gaining recognition when our freedom and our workplaces are disrupted.
And, finally what of Self Actualisation – how can we become the most or best we can be? Learning, reacquainting ourselves with old skills and picking up new ones has seen a big spike. The humble search engine has opened up a world of possibilities, from baking banana bread and loaves to mastering upholstery. We’re taking the time to better ourselves with a little help from Google and YouTube.
The basis of the hierarchy of technological tools has been the humble Internet. We often forget this simple tool but let’s face it, without it we could not order essentials, and sometimes more frivolous things to help us get through the pandemic. We couldn’t search for answers or speak to loved ones. We couldn’t do jobs at home. Our economy would grind to a shuddering halt.
The immediacy of online has been a lifesaver. And, as long as the connection holds up, we’ll all be grateful in the coming weeks for how it’s keeping us connected, keeping us learning and helping us understand the world better.
So, thinking about the hierarchy of technological needs, what about the future? Will we abandon these tools once lockdown is eased? Studies show it takes 66 days for something to become a habit. By mid-May, habits will have been formed and technology that has been simple and easy to adapt, enhances our lives, and adds value to them will stay. Video conferencing has proven itself as a connector, at home apps and products have helped us keep fit, and the tools that have helped us learn more effectively are likely to stick.
As the pandemic evolves throughout the world, we are likely to see more changes depending on how our supply chain is affected. What of the future of ‘new’ hardware reliant on minerals from other countries? All we know for certain right now is our new reality is changing the shape of our future significantly and shouldn’t be seen as a blip in our history. Certainly, pandemics of the past show significant change – business opportunity and technological advancements are to be expected.
All I know is that we’ll be moving fast. And, technology needs to be there to meet it.