The human side of tech

| By:
Zarana Desai

Beyond lines of code and intricate algorithms lies the essence of technology and its potential to empower and enrich humanity. In a world where technology knows no bounds, it consistently defies the status quo, forever reinventing itself. While technological advancements have brought immense benefits, they have also raised important questions about the human side of tech.

The “human side of tech” refers to the aspect of technology that focuses on its impact on individuals, society, and human experiences. I place our interactions with the digital realm under the human element of technology and how it fosters our emotions, actions, and associations. More often than not, this part is overlooked.

The human side of tech encompasses any ethical implications of innovations, emotional impact, digital well-being, user experience, human-computer interaction, and many more aspects that are not immediately apparent to me due to my limited experience in the field.

Ethical challenges

Making appropriate ethical considerations before moving forward with any decision is quite fundamental. We may not know it, but we often subconsciously calculate the ethical implications of our actions. This practice, when applied in designing or developing solutions, ensures that technology empowers a user rather than manipulating or influencing them. Some of the key ethical considerations are ensuring a user’s privacy and protecting their data, avoiding any algorithmic bias, preventing digital manipulation, and, most important of them all—the environmental impact. If you think that your actions don’t really affect the environment as a developer, trust me, you’re not alone. I was under the same misconception before I read this blog about using green coding to prioritize sustainability.

Emotional impact and digital well-being

Technology has the power to evoke emotions in us—joy, excitement, frustration, and even anxiety. Designing for emotional impact requires understanding users’ emotional needs, motivations, and pain points. Addressing potential negative emotional impacts, such as privacy concerns or intrusive notifications, is crucial to avoid user dissatisfaction and potential technology rejection. As technology becomes increasingly pervasive in our lives, our job is to ensure that it enhances, rather than hinders, our overall well-being. Ultimately, the emotional impact of technology plays a significant role in shaping user experiences and can profoundly influence how users perceive and interact with digital products and services.

User experience

User experience revolves around how users interact with the technology and perceive it. It goes beyond mere functionality to encompass the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses that users have during their digital interactions. An empathy-driven design ensures that technology resonates with users on a deeper level, making them feel understood and valued. Inclusive UX design ensures that all users, regardless of their abilities or characteristics, can interact with technology effectively and have a positive experience.

Following a people-first approach

A people-first approach in the human side of tech prioritizes the needs, values, and well-being of individuals over technological advancements or profit-driven motives. This involves understanding users’ perspectives through research, empathy-driven design, and continuous feedback loops. It ensures that technology is accessible, inclusive, and respectful of diverse user backgrounds and abilities. This doesn’t mean you wait to hear from the users through feedback, as “customers can’t describe the experience they want to have, let alone begin to imagine what they expect in the future,” as written in this piece by The Wall Street Journal. The people-first approach differs slightly in this case. However, it’s quite a broad topic and possibly requires writing a dedicated article on it.

The saying “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” is too cliché. Let me ask you this—does the world continue to innovate as technology continues to evolve, or does technology continue to evolve as the world continues to innovate? By prioritizing the human element in our technological advancements, we can ensure that technology empowers and enriches humanity rather than hinders it. Together, we can embrace the human side of tech and strive for a future where technology truly serves and uplifts all.