As advanced technologies become integral parts of many people’s lives around the globe, it is essential to be in complete control of their development. We need to make efforts to create the appropriate future for humans through the technologies we create, and not allow ourselves to be seduced into building for its own sake.
The development and advancement of technologies are not neutral acts. They are ways to manifest our social, cultural, economic, and political intentions through tools. But without asking how and why we do this, we are leaving the most important issues unexplored. We are allowing our culture, society, and climate to change without having a good reason for these alterations.
Current approaches to innovation and technological progress marginalize the human element in favor of maximizing technological integration and profit. This needs to change. The future will be human, just as our past and present are human. And so, we need to develop technologies in a more human way.
We argue that, while individual players in the technology industry are working for positive ends, the industry as a whole has a blind spot. We are not working towards holistic ends, and the purpose-driven reasons for building are ignored in favor of small consumer gains. But the consumer-needs approach is not sufficient to design a more human future. While it solves the issues of consumers living in the first world, it rarely addresses the larger-scale needs of humans and our social, cultural, ecological, political, and economic futures.
We need to start asking how and why technology is applied and advanced as practical solutions for all. We need to begin creating technologies that manifest purpose-driven solutions. We need to define those purposes before we build. We need to move past the simplistic view of technology as a driver of human behavior, and take up a perspective that is in a dialogue with humans, non-humans, and ecological development and progress.
In reaction to this need, we are founding the Institute for Human Futures to create and advocate for a new way to look at how technology should develop and fit into our lives. We call it Human Futures. Part philosophy, part rules for practical application, Human Futures is a future-oriented critical perspective and collection of methodologies grounded in cutting-edge social science and strategic foresight principles.
The Human Futures approach tells the story of transformation. It provides organizations with a vision of what changes need to be made in order to manifest a preferred future, or to overcome the barriers to bring that future state into being. Human Futures perspectives give purpose to our creative actions and help guide the holistic development and application of technology and technological solutions. We welcome individuals and institutions to join us in our effort.