“What makes technology human?”

by Maggie Pawsey

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“What makes technology human?” asked Davide Bolchini and Marita O’Brien, presenting on the topic of “How Can We Claim Our Technological Inheritance?”

Bolchini, professor of Informatics and Computing, said, “We want to understand, what does it mean to be human when we interact with technology, when we design technology, when we engage with technology.” Bolchini explained how computers were designed with the human brain in mind. Early computer scientists, such as Vannevar Bush and Ivan Sutherland, worked to make computers collaborative with us, using “interactive displays of linking” between documents and information to work as the human brain does through linking concepts and ideas.

On a more psychological level, we have to be, “thinking about technology as being more than just devices that have batteries, computers,” said O’Brien, professor of psychology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She connected technology with Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, to examine what makes a human environment, and how technology can play a role in that.

O’Brien continued, “It’s certainly part of our heritage as Christians, to be thinking about new ways to make technology more human and in thinking about some of these examples, thinking of counterexamples to what we see in the media about technology just dehumanizing us.” The counterexamples she gave were of ordinary people helping each other through the devastations of Hurricane Harvey, keeping in contact through cell phone apps, and raising millions of dollars for relief through online websites.

Technology becomes more human, or perhaps humanizing, when it, “enables more frequent and natural interactions… extends our communities… fosters innovation and innovative thinking,” O’Brien said. Technology can certainly be a tool to use to better ourselves and become more connected with each other, and for Christians to reclaim as our heritage of care and celebration of humanity.