Social change has not kept pace with the accelerated speed of technological development, which means that people no longer feel in control of their lives and are fast feeling alienated.
This was the view of John Naisbitt, former IBM veteran and current social commentator and author of international best seller, Megatrends, which he expounded during his closing keynote speech at the Supercomm telecoms trade show in Atlanta, Georgia, this week.
His opinions were the antithesis of the show's previous keynotes, however, which urged the industry to adopt bigger and faster carrier networks. But Naisbitt attested that the onslaught of new technology was inspiring people to search for higher levels of spirituality, even though technology was integral to the evolution of human culture.
He used the phrase, 'high tech, high touch' to describe companies and technologies that tried to ensure human interaction was not lost, and praised Richard Branson's Virgin Airlines as a high tech, high touch organisation for introducing home comforts such as double beds and masseurs to its fleet of highly sophisticated aircrafts.
"High tech, high touch is the constant quest to integrate spirituality with the advances in technology and keeping a balance. High tech, high touch is the search for meaning," he said.
Other high tech, high touch developments include products based on designs that were popular before the electronic revolution peaked.
For example, Apple's Imac reminded Naisbitt of TV sets in the 1950s, and Volkswagen's new Beetle included a scientifically engineered engine inside an original classic chassis. He also praised Nokia for offering mix and match sleeves for its mobile phones because they added individuality to the normally black phones.
But technology can go too far, he claimed, and the automatic answering machines favoured by corporates to greet callers should be dumped. "Get rid of voice answering systems. They are offending and make you lose customers - it drives people mad. Replace them with high touch operators," he pleaded.
Naisbitt said genetic engineering such as cloning was the scariest technological advancement of all, but acknowledged it could help eliminate certain diseases. "I draw the line at cosmetic enhancement though. Clearly the demarcation will be obesity," he said.
But he concluded that social change was the result of technological advancement and that people needed to balance it with the spiritual demands of nature.
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