OPN Artificial Intelligence
Technology is a social divider. Inevitably, it benefits those with access to its transformational power and leaves others behind based on their socio-economic status. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Since the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, technology has been radically transforming sociology. AI has been changing our society, our lives, work and everything in between. We are witnessing a shift from human contact to human-to-machine interactions.

The digital revolution had brought many paradoxes to our lives, especially the notion that connectivity may cause disconnection between people. While technology strengthened connections, it caused solitude. It facilitated life, but created new complexities. It helped us overcome challenges, but produced biases in new ways.

With the rise of AI and machine learning, the existential goal is to continue advancing and gaining from technology, while minimising the negative impact on society.

Digitally addicted

We’ve somehow become slaves to our own devices. Did you ever feel that social media addiction is holding you hostage? That feeling of missing out when you’re not connected? Research shows that excessive internet usage can get you addicted to technology, which may in turn lead to disrupted sleep.

Socially divided

Technology is a social divider. Inevitably, it benefits those with access to its transformational power and leaves others behind based on their socio-economic status. This creates tangible economic, social and personal divides.

Technology has a way of marginalising certain groups of people. Those without the means or the access will be disadvantaged, and the divides will only widen over time.


Technology is largely about information, hence the term IT. Politically, what we’re witnessing is partly misinformation warfare. In both politics and business, we’ve become more prone to fake news and propaganda.

Many of us make daily decisions based on a Google search. Misinformation not only impacts decision-making of everyday consumers, but may also lead to dire consequences on the economy, society and our planet. That’s why Meta (formerly Facebook) has set up the Oversight Board to make independent decisions regarding content and deliberate over misleading claims to determine their validity.


The human body is designed to move. That’s how we lived. Today, we’re becoming thicker as tech becomes slimmer. The convenience technology provided is chipping away at physical activity. The more we advance technologically, the more our daily lives demand less physical activity. Our lifestyles have become increasingly desk-bound. There is mounting medical research to prove that if we sit less and move more, we can attain many health benefits that improve the state of our minds and bodies.

Intellectually lazy

Experts believe that the overuse of Internet and technology may leave kids ‘brain-dead’. Children tend to stop making effort or contemplate simple tasks when everything is just an internet search away. We see this phenomenon among adults too. Googling an answer to a question is way easier than thinking about it. Distracted digital devices and platforms may distract students from their studies, children from family time, and adults from social lives. Much of our time and attention is being stolen by technology.

Research shows that when we’re distracted, or when our attention shifts away from a task we’re performing, it can take us up to 23 minutes to fully refocus on the task at hand.

Distractions caused by tech can also lead to physical danger. For instance, distracted driving is a leading cause of road accidents involving both drivers and pedestrians.


We’ve become less social. Distance has created a gap between people in various forms of relationships.

Couples today spend less time talking and more time glued to their mobiles. Students spend less time interacting with their teachers and more time on their tablets. Children are being raised by tablets rather than by their parents.

The lack of direct and frequent engagement between parents and children often leads to disconnected children lacking in soft skills. Technology has changed the way children view and interact with others and with the world around them, which greatly transforms their development.

Also, the diminishing levels of personal interactions between co-workers and within organisations often results in miscommunication and misunderstandings.


We’ve become perfectionists, and sometimes stressed out because of that. Studies show that perfectionistic tendencies may cause depression, anxiety and stress.

Seeing all the glossy, carefully staged posts of others, their lavish lifestyles, the insta-glam image of influencers, all the online personas that do not reflect reality, may cause stress to others. It’s well known that the influencer culture has an impact on mental health, from the fear of missing out, driving compulsive behavior and addictive consumption, to the feeling of isolation.

Humanising tech in a low-touch economy

Is technology good for humanity? It certainly is. It makes interaction easier, faster and more efficient. In business, it allows tracking, gathering insights, and improving the entire customer experience. On a personal level, it enables excellent interpersonal connections.

However, we should not fall victim to the pitfalls of tech in our interactions. We should not forget to build personal relationships and we should avoid turning brands into faceless entities.

How hard is it today to get hold of a real person on the phone when calling up your bank or service provider? Automation and virtual assistants are great, but there should always be a human element.

Automation does serve communications, and digital interactions are indeed useful, but not a total replacement for in-person connections. I strongly believe that we need to humanise tech in this new ‘low touch’ economy.