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Future of technology and the impact on human behavior

Future of technology and the impact on human behavior Nanette Marcus

Movies have been predicting the future of technology, so this evolution that we're looking at really shouldn't come as a surprise.

"We knew this was coming," emphasized New York Times bestselling author and entrepreneur Amy Jo Martin during her presentation to attendees at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit in Santa Barbara, California.

"Where it starts to get grey and confusing and scary and messy," she said, "is what is the impact on humans?"

There's a lot of focus on artificial intelligence, but what about the accompanying human behavior?

Martin cited an example of a college course, which had a teaching assistant that students could only access through iMessage. The class later learned it was a chatbot. Because of the ease at which the assistant replied to their inquiries, they had no idea.

"The future of technology truly is the future of humanity," explained Martin.

Martin's journey into this space began as a marketer for the Phoenix Suns basketball team. Early in her career she'd attended an iMedia Summit, where she heard about Twitter. She started experimenting with the platform and was then asked to teach NBA star Shaquille O'Neal how to tweet.

"Little did I know that that would be a pivotal point in my life," she said.

After her success helping to launch O'Neal's groundbreaking online presence, Martin decided to start her own company to bring brands to life. Her presence on social channels started to grow, and she found herself devoting more and more time to living on a virtual world. She overextended herself, trying to keep up and chase the unicorn.

When the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami happened, Martin watched, stunned, from afar. She saw tweets from people trapped and retweeted messages to her large following. It was then that she realized she had a "purpose problem." She let the business she started go to fill the deficit of purpose she'd realized. She sold everything and moved to a boat for a year, tired of not liking the person she became living more in the virtual world than the physical.

Martin grew tired of the hate she was seeing spewed online, with things like the aftermath of presidential debates. She discovered that there was a lack of serotonin in the world. Each time something nice is done, the giver, receiver, and everyone who sees it feels a hit of serotonin, a chemical found in the human body, which is thought to contribute to happiness.

Martin acknowledged that kindness sounds corny and fluffy, but it's validated when you add science to it. She did an informal experiment and tweeted, "Can I help anyone out right now? I have about 30 mins free. Happy to help if I can!" It was crickets at first. Then people started asking about job interview tips. A lot of people said they didn't need anything, but "thanks for asking!"

She took a step further by asking her Facebook friends to help. She asked them to like her post (to keep the Facebook algorithm happy), post something they could use help with in the comment section, and then scan comments to see who they could help. The posts received thousands of likes and interactions, with requests for things like help with insomnia, even meeting Elon Musk. Kindness was a currency.

Martin then she partnered with a scientist for a clinical research study to see the impact of what we're exposed to online and how that impacts them offline. They set up two Facebook groups -- a control group and an intervention group. The intervention group had seeded posts about helping others. Those group participants started to report via regular surveys a 10 percent increase in acts of kindness in as little as three days, inspired by the group's seeded posts.

Martin was inspired to continue asking, "Can we scale kindness, not in a fluffy way?" When we add up the micro actions, does it make a macro difference?"

Most of the studies done have been funded by organizations that want a certain outcome. In fact, Martin is so intrigued by the concept that she's going back to school to study the implications of serotonin released by kindness, especially online.

Martin was sure to point out what this means for marketers. It's not just about doing something more for the charitable causes that your company supports. It's more about the serotonin. Don't bucket it into a division in your department. Bake it into your messaging. Put a brand in the middle of those kindness exchanges, and they become instant heroes.

"The best way to predict the future is to create it."

Nanette is iMedia Communications' executive editor.   In addition to her roles at iMedia, Nanette has served as a specialist in content marketing, editorial content, public relations and social media for various clients. She's contributed to...

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