The Human Touch: Reconnecting with Reality

Modern software is all about abstraction. We ship our code into the cloud, where it runs on virtual machines connected to virtual networks. We talk to our teams over email and Slack, our users’ requests and problems are distilled into tickets and issues and analytics - and, when you stop to think about it, that’s actually amazing! Technology lets us connect and collaborate in unprecedented ways; we can work together across platforms, continents and timezones, in ways that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago. But when everything’s virtual, it’s easy to lose touch with reality. When you stare at the analytics for too long, you forget each of those data points is a real person. You start with conversations, and then you start using “user stories” to capture the conversations, and then one day you realise the user stories are taking over and the conversations don’t happen any more. And, as we’ve seen from the ongoing controversies about the role of social media platforms, the endless appetite for growth at any cost can end up undermining the very things that made those platforms so compelling in the first place.

Dylan Beattie has been creating and thinking about software since before the world wide web was invented. Over the course of his career, he’s built real systems, that real people use to solve real problems; he’s used technology to create art, and music, and comedy… and, like many developers, he’s worked on a lot of things that turned out to be completely pointless, even though they seemed like a great idea at the time. Join Dylan for an entertaining and insightful look at the relationship between technology and the real world, from the industrial revolution to the information revolution and beyond. We’ll talk about human ingenuity, and how smart people end up using tech to solve their own problems in all sorts of unexpected ways. We’ll look at the future, and how technology is going to shape the world in the decades to come. And we’ll talk about how you, and your teams, can embrace the potential of the virtual world without losing touch with reality.

Other talks by Dylan Beattie