post Conference

Making a Net Positive Life Difference with ‘Connected Technologies’

Back when I’d run the Emerging Communications Conference & Awards (eComm) ‘What’s Next in Telecom, Mobile & Internet Communications’, I’d go to my hotel room each night and I’d think. I’d seriously wonder if the event mattered. Yes it was great to have the brightest people come together. Yes it was great to see and spur innovation. Yes it was great to see people profit; e.g. the lanyard sponsors the first two years in a row were both bought for 100M USD plus; and since I’d made friendships with the founders each year, it was great for me to see them have such a huge win.

Mark Rolston (frog design) on stage at eComm Europe 2009 in Amsterdam.
Mark Rolston (frog design) on stage at eComm Europe 2009 in Amsterdam.

But I’d think to myself, beyond a nice meeting, meeting some great people, some innovation, is it worth my time on Earth? Is it truly worth the time of others? I could not say a definitive yes and that deeply troubled me. Making matters worse, I could clearly see a negative long-term technological trajectory; potential ‘turnkey tyranny’, total loss of privacy, accelerated ‘hyper capitalism’, accelerated dehumanization, erosion of liberté, égalité, fraternité, accelerated ecological carnage, amplified structural violence and social stratification etc. This was one of the reasons why I stopped running the event five years ago after five very successful runs.

Then last April as I was going to bed one Sunday morning, it struck me like a lightning bolt that ‘connected technologies’ could absolutely solve something which had kept coming back into my mind during the preceding years; a short video segment from Zeitgeist Moving Forward on human nature and the inability of society to coordinate itself (as yet) to meet our essential human needs and thus ensure needless collective suffering:

So the myth in our society is that people are competitive by nature and that they are individualistic and that they’re selfish. The real reality is quite the opposite. We have certain human needs. The only way that you can talk about human nature concretely is by recognizing that there are certain human needs. We have a human need for companionship and for close contact, to be loved, to be attached to, to be accepted, to be seen, to be received for who we are. If those needs are met, we develop into people who are compassionate and cooperative and who have empathy for other people. So the opposite, that we often see in our society, is in fact, a distortion of human nature precisely because so few people have their needs met.
– Gabor Maté

As well as help embody and support a more humanistic approach to health based upon the biopsychosocial model:

In this society what we see is a society that literally makes people sick. Because 50 percent of north american adults have a chronic illness, either diabetes, or high blood pressure, or heart disease, or cancer, or any number of auto-immune illnesses. Now, according to the strict medical model, that is too bad, these people are just unfortunate, because what the medical model does, whether with mental illness or physical illness, it makes two separations, it separates the mind from the body, so that what happens emotionally is not seen to have an impact on our physical health.

Number two it separates individuals from their environment. So that we try to understand individuals in separation from their actual lives.
– Gabor Maté

That’s when I suddenly started linking up a wide breadth of domains including wearables, mobile, mHealth, digital health, body/mind/emotion sensors, deep/machine learning, personal informatics (quantified self), Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT), Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) advances, predictive analytics, preventative health, emotion analytics, biosensing, data science, behavioral science, bioelectronics, positive psychology, consumerization of healthcare, mindfulness, neuro-stimulative wearables, affective computing, anticipatory computing, neuroscience advances and so forth.

I suddenly saw these domains “had lined up” such that we could make a net positive life difference by leveraging them for meeting intrinsic human needs at a level never before possible.

In particular wearables and mobile along with the ‘intimate data’ they’re exponentially able to capture/sense. In fact such an exponential rise was starting a ‘third computing revolution’ based upon ‘intimate devices’ and ‘intimate data’ which could be leveraged beyond what we call health (“sickcare”) and productivity today, instead towards health (preventive), happiness and flourishing.

Therefore I’m starting once again and creating a new meta-category “hyper wellbeing”, a new community of pioneers and a debut event scheduled for November 14-16, 2016 (Silicon Valley, CA).