I’ll have to admit, I have as many gadgets as the next guy, and I find Apple’s products very useful. But, I do wonder where all the technology advances will eventually lead us.
JR Hennessey wondered the same thing in an article he recently wrote for The Guardian. While his article is long (and reads a bit like a manifesto), there are some great thoughts and dilemmas he brings to the surface.
This topic relates to some of the challenges the real estate industry has started to face and will struggle with in the years ahead.
The discussion was started after Google engineer and activist Justine Tunney suggested last month that food stamps should be replaced with Soylent, a grey nutritional slurry mooted as a total meal replacement, to keep poor Americans healthy and productive.
Soylent was rapidly accepted by the Silicon Valley technorati, who backed the project's Kickstarter to the tune of $1m. They consume it as an exercise in minimalist purity: "what if you never had to worry about food again?"
Really, we're looking at the creation of two worlds – and that's theirs. In ours, we'll never have to worry about food again either, because we'll be gulping down mandatory tasteless nutrition sludge we didn't want…
This conflict – between consumers of technology and the geeks who pull us forward into uncharted sociocultural territory – is starting to become more pointed. We trained ourselves to value Facebook’s "open society" without privacy; we accepted the furtive mobile phone check as appropriate punctuation for a face-to-face conversation; we even put up with 3D cinema for a time. But this is too much.
Now the blowback has arrived. The first signs of the emerging tech utopia we were always told about don't look so great if you can't code. Instead, it's hard to escape the feeling that we're set to fall into obnoxious technological traps predicated on the easy abandonment of basic human experiences like eating or working.
Here’s a question I’d like you to consider: Is the real estate industry going to be part of this anti-technology “blowback” that Hennessey predicts will happen?
For some organizations, I think it could be, and it could turn into one of your most compelling competitive advantages against the technological innovations that seem to be bombarding real estate industry from every side.
Do people really want to buy or sell a house with minimal human involvement? Of course it’s cheaper, but you can also get a bag of Soylent for under $3.
As a real estate professional, I would encourage you to never forget what you’re truly selling; the human interaction a person experiences while they progress through a real estate transaction.
Hennessey concludes his argument by making the following point:
A divide is growing between the people who wholeheartedly embrace a radically new, radically self-centered vision of human life, and the people who do not. The internal lives of the tech elite, centered on the labor-saving innovations of Silicon Valley, are at odds with semi-atavistic conceptions of how people interact. Traditions and shared values are redundant, inefficient, and must be optimized out of existence.
The backlash against this world is democracy manifesting itself; a tacit rejection of the ideological assumptions underpinning the personal tech revolution. People want to define the structure of their own lives, and Silicon Valley's myriad product lines are an unwelcome intrusion into the way we live and interact with one another – and even the way we eat, sleep and procreate.
A simple fact remains: there is something intrinsically repellant about a world in which our food, jobs, personal relationships, and [real estate transactions] are replaced by digital proxies in the name of ultra-efficient disruption.
Ok. I added the real estate transactions part, but you get idea. Don’t give into the temptation to let technology solve all your problems—you too may end up disappointed with the world you’re creating for yourself.