Philosopher of technology Dr. Bruno Gransche on human-technology-interaction
5 April 2016, Potsdam
In a few words, what do you find particularly fascinating about human-technology-interaction?
The unique field of human-technology-interactions is fascinating because it combines findings from disciplines that are usually not associated with each other. For example, it incorporates findings from philosophy of technology into the actual design of socio-technological solutions that actually benefit people.
What are you currently working on in human-technology-interaction?
As a philosopher of technology and a future researcher, I have a wide and fundamental interest in what way human-technology-relations are subject to change. I am currently working on competence effects – which competences develop and disappear when interacting with complex systems. For example, how can we design future assistance systems that are competence-oriented rather than just comfort-oriented without ridding ourselves of competences that are relevant in society, like reading and writing? I also focus on the mutual influence of technology and cultural techniques: should we greet personalised service robots in the future? Or rather: how can we design socially aware, polite technological assistants?
Which innovation in human-technology-interaction do you personally use?
I mainly use different services on my smartphone for work, although I am generally cautious when it comes to using those services and mobile phones for the most part. I do this because of data and cultural techniques; mobile phones and their apparently universal servitude have become somewhat of a fetish. When I had just bought my first smartphone, I once reflexively thanked Siri after asking for the time – an irritating and illuminating moment. Apart from that, I also use a variety of different driver assistance systems on a regular basis. I have also started a bit of an experiment in which I have given a name to my household robot – so far, without having developed a personalised relationship: we hardly speak to each other.
What social and technological innovations does our society need in the year 2050?
Most importantly, we need technological innovations that people really need as well as social practices that offer new potential and, in doing so, reduce indirect and long-term risks. Generally speaking, I think that the most promising technological innovations are the ones that are useful additions to human social competences and do not try taking over skills that humans are proficient in and enjoy doing. We can safely leave activities such as mine clearance to technology. However, I believe that police robots, fully automated nursing care, artificial intelligence teaching systems, etc. are an aberration in the name of profit. In some instances, there lies great potential in animal-technology-solutions that use some of the specific abilities of animals, when screening for cancer cells, for example. Society has established social manners that technological innovations can build on.
What are the challenges you see in the development of new technologies in human-technology-interaction?
Society needs to understand the technological innovations that pervade it. Not in the sense that everyone should be able to build, maintain, or further develop them. It means that people are able to develop a mature relationship towards technical environments and to understand what they are doing and others are doing to them when using technology. One major challenge is overcoming the „technological falsehood of the century“, more time because of more efficiency. This is a lie we also tell ourselves but, in reality, technical efficiency has led to more work instead of more free time, leading to a time-rebound-effect. Evidently, more efficient systems cannot be the solution to this problem.
What do you think are some of the opportunities related to new technologies in human-technology-interaction?
In my opinion, there is the prospect of finally benefitting from the many advantages of new technologies without having to spend time and energy on operating, insuring, and maintaining it or on compensating for damages and minimising risks. For this, we need technology that can easily work in the background but also explain themselves upon request for transparency. However, we also need a discussion on low-tech and no-tech solutions being more useful in some areas: technology is not an end in itself. HTI offers the prospect of future socio-technological solutions that do people and technology and their complex mutual relationship justice.
Please finish the following sentence:
Technology has to…serve people, not the other way around; it has to empower and create opportunities for people, not debilitate and replace them.