The Digital Picture

This New Scientist article about Amazon’s Mechanical Turk turned my thoughts to the nature of human interaction with technology in order to overcome problems. The Mechanical Turk is a clever and interesting parallel to entirely automated problem-solving. Instead of letting computers do all of the work, small tasks are pulled together in a central interface which users can access, retrieve work from, submit work to, and carry out their admin with.

It’s a fun story, but also one which proves that innovation is nothing without interaction. Similarly, the development of technology needs to be a process which involves identifying a widespread need. It’s certain that the development of similar applications fulfills business objectives, but there is a simultaneous benefit to the many, many Web users who are interested in and engage with them.

Similarly, a recent event in Brussels drew more attention to the fact that technology and innovation needs to face out towards its users. Held at the UCB headquarters, the launch of Peter Hinssen’s book The New Normal urged us to consider that consumers – accustomed to the notion of social media and information technology being commonplace – will lead the technological revolution. Not developers alone, nor teams of people deciding business needs internally – in conjunction with the public. This is how technology becomes immediately useful.

There’s another area in which we need to connect technology with usefulness – the Digital Agenda. Needs and challenges have been identified, and technology has been nominated as one of the main channels through which they can be addressed. And part of the way we do this is by creating products which fulfill the needs of consumers in the first instances. Technology which helps them to monitor their energy consumption, to organize their information, to use the cloud for business, to produce and share work online… things which help consumers and businesses succeed, and which will help Europe to succeed.

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