Hi. I’m Lori, and I’ve turned into a Geeky 20-something

guy who’s never been kissed.

You might be one, too.

May I tell you how it happened?

One sunny October morning in London last Fall, I rushed out the door to watch a friend deliver the opening keynote for a packed Futurist’s Conference, never dreaming a discussion there would inspire me to radically shift my career focus from just Online Reputation Management issues to expand into something I’m calling Mindful Tech.

After a riveting talk on the future of sex (think robots with artificial intelligence), ethical questions emerged about mistreating “sex bots.” Is this possible, particularly as the robot learns a form of consciousness via AI? What societal behaviors might evolve?

I still wasn’t altogether sure about my thoughts on sex bots, except to recall Woody Allen’s Sleeper, but her response triggered something profound in me.

“Geeky 20 something guys somewhere on the Aspergers scale are creating 99% of the technology we’re using right now. They create what feels good to THEM. It’s only natural. And I want all kinds of people around that decision making table.”

The truth of her words resonated me on a visceral level.

Suddenly a picture flashed to mind of Marshall McLuhan’s media classic: The Medium is the Massage.

I recalled historical studies of the dance between communication technology and humanity that continues to accelerate profound cultural shifts since the invention of the printing press. McLuhan had only examined print, radio, and television’s comparatively meager effects, being fixed, one way broadcasting mediums instead of uncontrollable, dynamic, multi-person exchanges. My eyes popped open as I recalled that communication forms powerfully shape (“massage”) human connection on an unconscious, biological, gut level.

We’re evolving into geeky 20 something guys on the Aspergers scale.

At any given time, take a look around you. At least half the people you see are staring into a little screen in the palm of their hands, hunched over,  instead of tuning into the faces of the people they’re with. It’s estimated that 64% of driving accidents in the U.S. are now caused by phone distraction while driving.  And many of us already have trouble falling asleep without devices, including children.

What does our future look like in 20, 15, even 10 years if we don’t start using and developing technology consciously, instead of passively allowing experimental tools to drive our behavior and shape our tomorrow?

Will our biological capacity for human connection atrophy in favor of hyper stimulated brain candy (a/k/a hormones via opiating digital feedback loops)?

“You said something about interviewing people face to – ” He shook his head, his tongue dabbing quickly at his lips. “I would rather not say it. I think you know what I mean. The phrase conjured up the most striking picture of the two of us breathing – breathing one another’s breath.” The Solarian shuddered. “Don’t you find that repulsive?” Isaac Asimov, The Naked Sun (January 1957)

What would it be like if we could integrate the best technology can deliver with down to earth wisdom like the community of Italian immigrants in Roseto, Pennsylvania who drank a lot, smoked cheap cigars, danced joyously, ate glutinous pasta, and wandered in and out from one another’s kitchens for a glass of wine or bite of dessert, and were studied extensively for their glorious health and happiness. They knew how to live.

Because I love Technology *cue Kip’s wedding song in Napoleon Dynamite* and Humanity, I’m expanding my focus from examining Online Reputation Management, privacy, and security issues, to also exploring how emerging technology is shaping our experience of human connection on a physical level, both globally and individually.

I want a future where all kinds of people have a voice

in what it will look like

and how it will feel.

As a kid, I wanted to color with the big 64 crayon pack instead of the basic 8, didn’t you? I want a world that colors with all the crayons and invents some new colors besides. A world filled with music and dancing from every spectrum and point of view and where people of all kinds are deeply seen and heard. And I’m staking my reputation on it.

Disclaimer: I know and love Geeky-Somewhere-On-The-Aspergers-Scale people and have a family full of them. My own father ran “Information Systems” for a major city and wore a pocket protector to work… religiously.