Conversation matters and we are just starting to realize it


A leading psychologist says it is finally dawning on people that the death of conversation is wrecking business and personal life. Ben Walker reports from the Drucker Forum in Vienna

Humans are just waking up to the fact that technological addiction is damaging relationships and reducing our ability to collaborate effectively, says a top social scientist.

Professor Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, says that parents, leaders and managers have all been led astray by device addiction – which is damaging psychological pathways and compromising relationship building.

“Businesses need to train millennials to talk,” she warned at a session this morning. “Millennials will say they have spoken when in fact they have had a text exchange or an email exchange. So companies are starting to say, ‘have you spoken with your mouth?’”

She added that tech addition is now actively encouraged by parents, creating ‘digital natives’ who are missing out on proper social engagement. “We are kidding ourselves,” she said. “We have designed baby bouncers with a slot with an iPad.

“We are creating a fantasy that we are stimulating children but in fact we are cutting them off from the most nurturing sanity-giving thing in the world. No human can look at a screen instead of a face and be the better for it. Technology makes us forget abut the things we know about life.”

But Professor Turkle added that humans are beginning to realize the mistakes they are making. “People are starting, when at lunch, to put away their phones,” she said. “It’s a small but important gesture.

“We have overstepped but we are in the position to have the conversations we need to get it right again. And I’m optimistic – I think we are going to get it right.”