Our personal assistants have names like Cloe, Clara, Julie, Luka and Amy.
Our devices have names like Alexa, Siri and Cortana.
We are getting the future we were promised, though not evenly distributed (as has been pointed out in the past), and not in the same areas simultaneously. Soon, HAL 9000 will be in our homes, not in a deep space vehicle.
We have FitBits, Jawbones, and Apple and Android Watches. We are slowly getting augmented reality, virtual reality and even electric, automated self-driving cars.
Voice data, movement data, and biometric data collection technologies lie at the “bleeding edge” of future machine-to-human communication technologies. We do not have laws or regulations to deal with the consequences of having these devices; which are always on, always recording, always collecting and always reporting to someone—somewhere.
We have given up our privacy for convenience, and whether or not you believe this is a Faustian bargain, the deal is in the process of being struck even as you are alive and watching it happen. And the people of the future will not lament the loss of face-to-face communication, any more than present generations lament the passing of the horse and buggy.
How should conflict professionals respond to the death of face-to-face communication and the rise of machine-to-human communication?
- Get involved in the collection of data, the organizations that collect it, and even on the boards of organizations that make decisions and regulations about the use of it—peace builders have an obligation to no longer sit on the sidelines, hoping that none of this will happen. Getting involved in all parts of the process, from creation ot decision making, is the new obligation for peace builders.
- Build businesses that act as intermediaries (mediators, if you will) between Alexa, Siri and whatever is next and the people who will seek to control what those devices reveal about people’s private lives—private conflict communications are about to go public. And peace builders have seen the devastating effects of such publicity on relationships, reputation and understanding through the first level of all of this—social media.
- Prepare to address the stress that will be magnified through people curating their lives, tailoring their responses to what “should” be said, rather than what will actually be “true”—with the death of privacy through all of your devices in your house either recording you, tracking you, suggesting items to you, or even interacting with you, the line between what is truly felt, and what you actually say, will become even narrower. Peace builders should prepare through training to address this cognitive dissonance, because it will only take a few generations before more masking of previously transparent communication will occur.
As man and machine begin to merge at the first level with communication, peace builders should be engaging with the process proactively and aggressively, rather than waiting and being caught by surprise.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org