I used to have to attend NAB, the largest broadcasting convention in the world, in Vegas every year when I worked at the BBC. The massive show floors spanning about six huge buildings, crammed with brash, noisy stands trying to entice you to look at the latest systems were such an assault on the senses. We used to chat with the guys on the stands about whether it was more stressful for us than them coping with the onslaught of the week.
The reason our team was there was to try to identify new tools that might be interesting or useful to the BBC, get our head around what they did and how they worked, and then to explain all this to people back home. In the process I encountered software from genius to lunacy and everything else in between. It meant that I developed a good nose for sales fluff and a skepticism about anything too shiny and polished looking.
This legacy means that when I am speaking at HR or Learning technology conferences I make my way through the show floor as fast as I can making sure that I don't catch the eye of any of the sales folks desperate to lure me in. But it also means that I find it all slightly depressing. The tech industry is predicated on overselling overengineered and overpriced software to people who often don't know any better. I also find it unnerving how focussed on systems and technology HR and L&D have become and am left with an uneasy feeling that people have been consigned to being the meatware in the system.
This might come as a surprise given that people seem to think of me as a technologist and a geek. But for me the excitement of technology has always been as a way of enhancing our human qualities, helping us to be better humans, helping us to connect with other humans. The dehumanising that I too often see happening seems to be the totally wrong direction to be heading in. If we are to stay ahead of the robots it is our human qualities that are our USP!!