In recent years, there has been a revolution in the presence of technologies inside or closely associated with human beings and their immediate environment. This is sometimes labeled “Intimate technology” – though this phrase can be misleading. I would prefer to label this major shift in the human-technology interface as “technology embedment.” We might even want to dust off an old word—“propinquity”—and invest this word with the special (and diverse) relationships that now exist and will increasingly exist between humans and technology. Most importantly, there are many profound implications associated with this propinquity – which, in turn, point to the need for not only greater understanding of these implications but also the educating and training of people to more fully understand and work with this technological propinquity.
What are we talking about here. These technologies range from health monitoring devices (that can sample, for instances, heart rate on a device taped to the body for a one-month period of time or the sleep monitoring devices that can now be monitored with a device that is taken home) to devices that continuously supply information to us visually while we are perceiving and navigating through the world. Human-embedded technologies range from the now universal hand-held devices that provide us with any information we need and GPS systems that guide us through the city streets to the now envisioned (but soon accessible) devices that will meet many of our emotional as well as cognitive needs (by tracking all of our decisions and preferences) (as capture in the movie: “Her”). Human embedded technologies can translate our spoken word into written word and soon might even be able to translate our thoughts into words. Our thoughts are suddenly available to our technologies and we can be assisted by an internal secretary and transcriber These technologies are serving even more importantly as life-savers (such as digitally-monitored heart values).
From DNA research and the technologies arising from this research, we now have access to a large amount of information about our ancestors and even the diseases we are likely to encounter in our lives. From neurobiological research we now have access to a large amount of information about how our brain works, how we react to traumatizing events and how what we eat impacts on how we think, feel and behave. From high-storage watches to chips embedded in our skin and clothing, we are entering a world of remarkable propinquity between person and device.