Is Human Contact Being Eliminated From Our Communications Today?

In a recent editorial, Chris Soley notes that AI can reduce bias humans that humans possess. But is bias the end-all of where AI and new technology will lead us while other writers note how AI infuses new forms of technology in human creativity in a world where chatbots are increasingly replacing an essential dimension of our culture: human interaction?

While new tech is pommelled with various ways of evading human interaction, many consumers and businesses feel that tech need not do away entirely with offline interactions. Where companies like Starbucks are using AI more and more, there is great concern that new technology will replace human relationships. And many are responding to this concern by maintaining parts of their businesses within a real-life setting. 

Patrick Algrim, a human resources consultant at Algrim.co tells me, “Find where your candidates reside in terms of communities. Both online and offline. Become present in those communities and then reach out to applicable professionals about your opportunity. For example, finding great software engineers can be significantly easier when you know how to use GitHub in this way.” Certain Algrim knows the value of real-life interactions and how to apply new technology in getting the most from the online and real-life worlds of job recruitment, adding, “Recruiters and hiring managers should be reaching out to prospective candidates versus only posting job listings.”

While some critics of AI are deftly able to understand the benefits of AI to human systems of logic and language, others are worried about transhumanism and the ways that big tech like Google is embracing this path towards the elimination of human interactions in the veering towards tech immortality. Mark Piesing writes, “At best we should just give a fatalistic shrug of our collective shoulders to our inevitable self-extermination. At worst, it is a suicide pill, since it is our evolutionary duty, believers argue, to create the AI that will replace us.” But is AI an inevitable slow-drip towards our extinction rather than an assisted step towards our improved human and business interactions?

Take the travel sector which has a historical in-person business model which was key to sales within the tourism and business sectors. Still, some firms working in travel are focussing upon human interaction as a basis for their business models such as Pana and CheapBizClass emphasize voice communications over online interactions. In fact, CheapBizClass has been in the travel business for over thirty years and is well-versed in human-based client relations which today operates through its San Francisco office and interacts with its international client base primarily through telephone conversations. Those who remember the travel agency experience of the twentieth century might recall walking into an office wallpapered in travel posters showing Goa, Kingston, Machu Picchu and Ho Chi Minh City which invoked a certain feeling of being transported far away. Between the decor and the in-office discussions of one’s dream holiday, such human interactions are virtually non-existent today. While the click and grab of online purchases might seem desirable for many travelers, many appreciate companies that stick to old school terms of communication whereby phone calls and in-person interactions still dominate company practices.

And these online interactions are not without human repercussions as notes Megan Gallagher who discusses panic attacks and chronic anxiety experienced by teens as a result, in part, of online interactions increasingly replacing human interactions. Discussing the benefits of cognitive behavior therapy, Gallagher, discusses in her Tedx Talk how getting teens to move outside their comfort zone of online culture by traveling and engaging in human interactions had demonstrably positive effects on her life. After a three week trip to New Orleans to lend a hand in rebuilding the city post-Katrina, Gallagher came to understand that pushing her limits outside her comfort-zone helped her to find herself, her community and her inner strength as a person with the need to balance her mental health with her inner dreams.

The reality today is that anxiety is one of the many repercussions of a life spent online. YaleGlobal Online notes how the deflection of real-life communities is affecting our mental health as a society: “As people spend more time online, they find personal interactions more challenging and experience social anxiety, prompting more online interactions. The preference to communicate through technology on its own might not be a problem, but can deter the ability to form communities in real life.” YaleGlobal Online also notes how online anxiety is sparked by the fear of holding “wrong ideas” as the marketplace of debate is being corroded by online measures led by AI algorithms which increasingly restrict free speech: “Such reinforcement algorithms can challenge core democratic ideals, like freedom of speech, by deliberately undermining the marketplace of ideas. The belief underpinning free speech is that truth surfaces through transparent discourse that identifies and counters maliciously false information.”

The challenge for our culture and business landscape today is to find ways of using new technology to buttress our human interactions eliminating the current scope of replacing them. It cannot be overstated how our use of new tech feeds into the development of new tech and software where our actions are predicting the future of tech development as our every virtual download and online interactions are being measured to move our world more and more online. Perhaps the message we need to send to big tech is not that we wish to replace our off-line lives but rather that we need to use new tech to ameliorate our off-line realities?