Simon Bachmann, Co-founder and CEO at IDUN Technologies confides us his vision of the current & future society. What drives behavioral changes, how is the bound between society and technology evolving?
Debate questions that we offer you to think about in this interview!
What a broad topic! I will try to answer in the context of what we’re doing at IDUN Technologies. Considering our company goals and vision, one relevant aspect is that our society is quite advanced in the way of digitalization. In search of efficiency, productivity or to be healthier, people became more and more dependent of computers, devices, digital surfaces and processes.
Even to be happier, who knows? This is a big debate, but the amount of time people are using computers for work and pleasure has significantly increased, generating an overload of information and content. Our parents would have probably described our world as much more complicated than before; this may be true. More freedom involves more choices, thus more responsibilities. Navigating yourself through this world has probably never been more complicated before.
In the Western World people are getting older, another factor changing the norm and raising fundamental questions; How to finance elderly people while less people will be working percentage wise? Automated workforce, robots taking away our jobs are debate topics popping up by discussing the issue, leading to the next questions. In the future, what will be the relationship between humans and the digital world? What will be the role of human being in hundred years’ time?
What will be the role of a computer or a robot?
The relationship is highly exciting because the futurists are seeing it two ways. The utopian vision assumes that humans will have more free time thanks to machines that will do the job for us. Nevertheless, there is a dystopian variation where humans will just be a commodity despite technology progress. Freedom of choice and quality of life will be compromised as people will just be a center of consumption in the middle of everything. Let’s take the example of Amazon, a controversial company; There are two groups, the low-paid workers and the beneficiaries of their products. The beneficiaries of their products conditions are improved by digital devices supporting their activitiessuch as fitness bands focused in improving health or smart speakers reading your every wish from your lips, but it weighs on the shoulders of the low paid employees.
The future probably won’t be black or white, rather a combination of dystopian and utopian aspects. Governments, policies, companies and consumers have the responsibility to make everything in their power to create this utopia. We should aim for that version by making the barrier between the digital world and the human more intuitive. This is why companies like IDUN Technologies embody a new generation of devices based on neural interfaces. This is more than just another technology, this could enhance all type of relationships.
I personally think that technology is just a tool. It’s made in the same concept as dual use; technology can always be used for good or evil. That can be as simple as a knife, you could use it to put spread on your bread but also to kill somebody. This is applicable to almost everything. The context in which we are developing a technology makes the difference, we need to question to whom is it addressed and what are the incentives and goals of the person using the technology.
Companies are the developers of the technology, not the developers of the context. Ideologies, rules, even moral and ethics, are evolving all the time. What is accepted today could be bad perceived in 20 years. Firms have the responsibility to create a technology which is both, serving a good purpose today and possibly in the future. At IDUN, we aim to build a neuro-ethics advising board, because what we are creating now could have a large impact on people in coming years. Good foundations are essential because technology, or let’s call it opportunities, are always creating a temptation. We cannot prevent all abuses only by design, but we should be aware of the pitfalls. That’s my understanding of what’s the role of technology.
In my view, it’s a two-way relationship. Human behavior could influence the surrounding, the technology, and the device, as it could be the other way round. Which means that depending on what you are perceiving, hearing, listening to, you may impact technological results. On the other hand, neurostimulation is writing information into the brain,
what may for sure change the behavior.
Once again, it’s about the context. Stimulating the brain, per say, is not bad or good. A trauma patient with shaking hands benefiting from a cortex stimulation to improve his/her quality of life sounds to the greater number like a real progress. The process is the exact same to reprogram another part of the brain, to re-control human being.
At IDUN Technologies, our goal is about two things; helping humans to understand themselves better, and supporting those people wishing to change or improve a behavior. Who am I, why am I this way? Questions for which IDUN strives to bring individual support without any intervention, pure insights.
Our motto since ever is to listen to your body in order to understand what is happening. Our technology could help people to reach their desired state, including certain emotions, productivity or relaxation. The decision to change something should come from the user. We want to improve how users are operating between each other, with themselves but also with the digital world. At some point it will be all fused and at IDUN Technologies, we’re trying to build the bridges between all disciplines. Our technology goal is not to change the behavior but to be the facilitator to desired change.
Computers, smart phones, the internet, all those are a gateway into the digital world, since years now. The main change about those objects is their intuitiveness. This concept is crucial to breakdown the barrier between the analog and digital life. I would like to conceptualize the world in a way where the digital is just a natural extension of analog life. Imagine how amazing it would be to have a surgery specialist from Chicago taking part to a patient operation in Zürich, this example could apply to many fields. This vision stands for connecting humans with each other, with the digital world, but also with non-human support as artificial intelligence. It enables an accumulative knowledge accessible for everyone, multiplying each other. It would be an exponential improvement of human life. Not only human, but all the other entities around the world, animal, plants but also sentient artificial being. That sounds a bit far out, but I’m envisioning this kind of world in hundred years or something.
Every time you’re using a device, you’re taking an abstraction layer out of your brain, you’re making the process more complex. By interacting directly with your cortex, then you would break down a lot of efficiency barriers. Brain computer interfaces are just the first step within the field, just haptics. For now, it’s a one-way communication, the user controlling the device, but the device could communicate with users, evolving towards multiple communication levels with a meta-intelligence where everybody is connected, something like telepathy. These concepts could all become true just by making the process more intuitive and that’s where our technology can be. We can take out information out of the brain, but at one time we could hopefully put information in the brain. Then if we have achieved that, we can break down the walls refraining people interactions in the digital world.
There is an experiment with people having an artificial thumb. With a minimum training, your brain is able to use the six digits for haptics really naturally. Of course, it’s super weird when you think of it, but the plasticity of the brain is high enough to handle two additional arms. Would you have to learn it? Probably. Would you have to train it? Yes, probably, but it won’t be more complicated than learning another activity. The brain is amazing, it’s changeable and it evolves all the time. That’s definitely something we can use to bring forward natural computer interfaces.
Technology is just a tool that depends on the context, policies, and rules. We cannot predict the future, neither the limits of technology. Probably that people will use a technology in 100 years’ time that we would have consider as non-ethical at all today. Norms change and evolve to become the new normality. Who are we to judge how people will live with technology in the future?
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