The Existential Search for Emotional Tech

Blast across the world in this moment and someone, somewhere, is in a toilet cubicle, at work, crying in frustration over their circumstances. They’re tied into an intense knot, mugged of their identity. You may have seen it in your past working life too, heard the sobs, and it’s still happening. What does this have to do with tech? That person will be in there alone but they’ll have a phone with them, dozens of apps installed. But which one is enough? Which app shows up and overdelivers help in a heartbeat. Do any? Probably not, as we are today, which is why people tech is madly exciting. Tech can do so much more because tech can help so much more. The brutally beautiful question is, how?

What do we do in moments when we doubt ourselves? In our minds we take a walk over the fields by reaching for technology. Yet using tech to improve our feeling of having a place in the world is a challenge pitched against Sartre’s echoing war cry to the mind: “everything has been figured out, except how to live.” At HR Tech World this year, I’m bobbing up and down at the thought of discovering courageous people who’re ready to build new tools to help us along our existence journeys, as organisations and as individuals.


Tech for good

How do we avoid building the soulless remote factories of tomorrow? How do we use the opportunity of investment, connections, invention, and a sharpness of spirit to build something that’s good for us as a species? Perhaps we can build an app that brings us to tears with the beauty of it as we delve in for the first time, because it shows up in our lives, batters us from nowhere with a soothing tennis-racket-to-the-face of compounding good.

The way I perceive the world is that we’ve walked into an open-ended calendar where we can place the most intimate value into people’s hands. And there’s a soundtrack playing all the time to that. Right now, I’m hearing a soundtrack which encourages many of us to jump and fly higher than before. But we can simultaneously build the best landing zone to sustain our nature as an entire species between flights. To achieve this we need tech that says no to what’s wrong, says yes to what’s right, and skateboards down the oil-splashed roller coaster of everything in between. We need tech that guides and directs the uncertain lives of the billions of new adults and children yet to parachute into our buildings, bus stops, boutique lifestyle contracts, and banking systems.


Coding through the human spectrum

In the tech world I think we have access to both the poison and the remedy. Which is why events that bring zoom-ahead thinkers together are so vital. The choice is ours which track to full-on-embrace as we form our next model of daily living. From a position like this, why not produce tech that helps us make friends with ourselves all over again, build tech that enhances the pumping beat of emotional good. Perhaps this calls for a colourful display of miracles, yet I can already smell one crackling in the pan. Emotional tech. Tech that, like your favourite novelist, finds its own way to put a hand on your shoulder when you’re lonely.


“We need tech builders, emotional designers, and leaders who can see beauty in the dark”


From where I’m sitting, our next frontier must be a species-defining one. And it’s something to believe in, it’s sustenance, to realise that there are people walking the same streets as us, stepping off the same pavement edges, who are out there setting about reaching it. We need tech builders, emotional designers, and leaders who can see beauty in the dark. Who write it into life in the dark. And I’m going to find more of them: Energy donors – Hope setters – Adventure hunters – Fixer-mentors – People swishing with growth and naked possibility – Fearless nobodies ready to prove Sartre wrong with an edgy new algorithm. We need tech that, when the lights go out, shows us the wonder in the atoms of our humanity. Therefore let’s build something with the depth of potential to massively improve our existence.


Winning where the water lives

How can we convert tears of frustration into tears of joy, using tech? Anyone who answers that can use my bathroom anytime. It’s a colossal ask to execute. But my heart tells me we’re committed – to that blink of an eye, where the tech head and that person on the lavatory shake hands and, for just a few moments, become the greatest of friends.

Here’s my call to action for everyone attending HR Tech World. Our future needs a soundtrack that makes us smile when things get beyond hard. It needs emotional tech. So work out a way to reach someone in tears who you’ll never meet. Kick their toilet cubicle door down with your polymorphic abilities. You see, with all the IP and investment in the world, we still need a picture. We need someone sitting on the porcelain somewhere, ready to use our app. Someone now stepping from the sink to breathe from your ten-bagging fentanyl hand dryer. Do it all, that’s my blurred plea. Roll back your shoulders. Create your hum of emotional tech success.


This article originally appeared on (formerly HR Tech World)

[Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash]