Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Future responsibility and decisions
A common question when I talk to audiences of all types about future technology and change is whether it will all lead to information overload and more stress for human beings. Examples of this might be ubiquitous networking and being contactable, managing complex virtual world avatars and profiles, or thought controlled machines. Well, I believe humans will need to get better at taking responsibility and making decisions, because more choice will be enabled and more decisions will need to be made. One example of this is already happening with work styles.
Devices in your pocket now can keep you in contact by voice, by text and by email 24/7. For many people, this enables them to work much more flexibly. Work is now an activity not a place. In the past when people went to a place of work they were working, and when they went home most of them were "off-duty". But now they may home-work but also receive messages about work when they are at home in leisure time. I am one such person, and certainly my job is not 9-5! My work email is delivered to the same device I use for personal email. The consumerisation of IT has already begun for me. My work and personal life are converging due to the technology I carry. So I have to make the decision about whether I will read and act on work when I receive it ... I have to decide when I am on duty or not. And that is an extra decision that I along with many others never had to make before that device was in my pocket.
I am happy to make that decision. We may have to ensure that others can make a sensible balance of such decisions in the future. Some people will be better or worse at this than others. A few people in society may need significant support. Decision support systems may evolve to a quite different meaning in the decades to come.