Between 13th-17th June 2022, at PeepSec, we’ll be discussing The Age of Empathy. Here’s why all tech leaders should take note.
To some, placing empathy at the heart of PeepSec 2022 might merit a snort.
After all, PeepSec is all about the relationship between people and technology. And interacting with technology…
Well, it doesn’t always ignite our capacity for empathy, does it?
How technology inhibits empathy
Let’s start with social media.
On most social platforms, people cluster in homogenous ‘communities’. Outsiders are rarely welcome, and those who voice controversial opinions are shunned.
What’s more, some suggest our social ‘profiles’ encourage an obsession with the self. If the volume of selfies uploaded to Instagram is anything to go by, such commentators have a point.
Elsewhere, personalised algorithms serve us content that reinforces our existing worldviews.
And of course, this all plays out while 24/7 news outlets publicise constant tales of terror – forcing us to inhibit our empathy just to get through the day.
“Although personal technology and media use have exploded over the past decade, their potential negative inter-personal effects — such as leading people to care more about themselves and to interact less with real others — might also cause a decrease in empathy.” Social psychologist Sara H. Konrath, Changes in Dispositional Empathy in American College Students Over Time: A Meta-Analysis, 2010
Given all the above, is ‘The Age of Empathy’ really an appropriate theme for PeepSec 2022?
Why we need to start talking about empathy
Despite the above, technology clearly has the potential to enhance empathy.
In 2015, for example, the coder Matthew Nolan created an app to connect Israelis and Palestinians. It was an unexpected success, and grew to connect opposing parties in Ireland, Argentina, and even the USA. Incredibly, Nolan reported ‘zero cases of hostility’ before the project ended in 2017.
The West’s response to the invasion of Ukraine offers another example.
When Russia invaded Ukraine on the 24th of February 2022, modern technology carried the news worldwide. Ever since, altruistic strangers have booked Ukrainian Airbnbs in an effort to get money into the hands of displaced refugees, they’ve driven vans across Europe to deliver aid, they’ve granted refuge to more than 2m people and they’ve donated millions to help suffering humans.
Apparently, then, there are two sides to the story.
The role of the metaverse
The metaverse makes the topic even more juicy.
When the metaverse eventually takes shape, we’ll be able to experience the world as others. We’ll be able to see what others see, do what others do and feel what others feel.
The metaverse will allow us to empathise with almost anyone – if we so wish.
Join PeepSec 2022 to help shape the future
So it seems to us, despite a few wrong turns, here in 2022, we’re at a crossroads.
Future technologies could unite humanity.
Equally, they could tear us apart.
As the future unfolds, will we choose polarisation?
Or will we accept our differences and, given the enormous benefits of diversity, unite?
That’s a big question. And it’s why PeepSec 2022 is all about empathy.
Because the future is unfolding now, and the conversation is happening right now.
If you’d like to join it, join us at PeepSec 2022 this year.
PeepSec is free and it’s virtual.
And we’d love you to be part of it.