Dystopia or Utopia? You Decide

The Impact of the Digital Age on Psychological Type
By John Hackston and David Hunt

Dystopia or Utopia you decide - John HackstonA debate around the use of information technology, and how this affects society and individuals, is nothing new, but has risen to new levels in the last couple of years. People are worried about data privacy and the unethical use of information; companies are using fear, boredom and dopamine to get us hooked into using their services; social media acts like a bush fire to spread fake news; many of our jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence.

All of these topics, and more, are swirling around the public consciousness. Things are getting worse, and technology is behind a lot of this; but at least we won’t need to worry once our robot overlords exterminate us.

We’re exaggerating, obviously, but there is probably nothing in that list that you haven’t heard before. In our conference session, we want to peel away the hype and get to the bottom of what the implications of the digital age actually are, for society, for individuals and for type practitioners. Are we heading for a dystopian future, or can an ethical and emotionally intelligent use of technology, informed by a knowledge of human personality, steer us towards the edges of utopia?

The digital age is generally considered to have started around the end of the 1980s with first use of the Internet outside of the military and academia and the invention of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners Lee. There have been a few innovations from pre-digital age organisations such as Apple, but most of the innovations have come from new players such as Amazon and Google. It is often easy to forget how recent many of these innovations are. The Apple iPhone had its 10th birthday in 2017, Facebook only started in 2004 and OPP first offered online assessments in 2003, barely 15 years ago.

The products, services and platforms of the digital age have in some cases underpinned business transformation and in others disrupted traditional business models. And there’s little doubt that the ability to find information and the increased connectedness enabled by these technologies has changed the way we live and work. Nineteenth and twentieth century models of education and workforce are slowly but surely changing, with technology supporting us to work and live in more flexible ways.

But if technology is changing the way we live and work, is it changing us, our personalities, our innermost selves?

Most of us have lived through the transition from the ‘atomic age’ to the digital age, but people now reaching adulthood have grown up with mobile devices, in an interconnected world saturated with information. There are indications in our (anonymised) data from people who have taken the MBTI over the last 10 years that people’s personality, or at least their reported type, is changing – and in ways that might reflect our use of technology. We’ll explore these results, and what they imply (especially for younger people), in our conference session.

What are the particular implications for type practitioners? We will no doubt see many incremental changes, for example, an increased use of mobile technology, giving us greater reach. However, perhaps the technology with the biggest potential for disruption comes from artificial intelligence (AI).

There have been some notable missteps in how AI has been applied (did you hear the story of the sweary, racist chat bot?) and it can and has been used for less than ethical purposes. And of course, we might have legitimate concerns that AI could take away our jobs.

But AI also has potential; it can help us to connect with a wider audience, make our more tedious tasks much easier, and give us the space and time to use our human skills where they are most useful. In our conference session, we’ll help you to explore both sides of this argument, and talk through some examples of what is happening already – and where things might be going.

So, are we heading for a dystopia or a utopia? By the end of the session, we hope you’ll be able to make your choice.

JOHN HACKSTON (INTP) AND DAVID HUNT (ENTP) – Keynote Speakers at the 2018 BAPT conference

About the Authors

John HackstonJohn Hackston is Head of Research and Development at OPP; he is a Chartered Psychologist with over 25 years of experience in helping clients to understand and use psychometric tests and questionnaires. John has used Type extensively in both individual and team development, and has managed a number of large scale projects including the development of the European versions of the MBTI® Step II instrument. Email: John.Hackston@opp.com.

David HuntDavid Hunt is a technology optimist and a qualified Type enthusiast. Having spent most of his career in EdTech he’s now working to drive digital strategy in the CPP group. He thrives on creating change and better experiences through technology so it’s probably no surprise tht he has preferences for ENTP. Email: David.Hunt@opp.com.

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