Fear is nothing new. Technophobia, which at its most basic definition is the fear of advanced technologies, has existed for centuries, though the forms of technology feared have evolved. Fortunately, individuals can learn to face their fears, integrate technology, and embrace the cyborg.
Once upon a time, when wise men feared the mighty pen
When development of the written word spread to Ancient Greece, even the wisest of the time, Plato and Socrates, warned against the dangerous new technology: The written word would “create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls because they will not use their memories.”
Fast-forward several hundred years and you’ll find the curse of the printing press. Go a few more hundred years and you’ll find tall tales of the many dangers of the telephone. So you see, fear of new technology historically inspires fear in even the most advanced thinkers of the time.
A very human fear
In addition to fear of new technologies and the inevitable doom they were believed to portend, a modern technophobia has developed around monstrous figures in fantasy and science fiction: The cyborg, a creature that is part machine and part human. Comprised of both biological and technological components, cyborgs are seen to pose a unique threat against humanity.
In a broader sense, the cyborg as a concept relates to human interactions with technology. As modern technological advances like personal fitness trackers and Google Glass comes closer to our physical bodies, ur most basic, tangible sense of identity is threatened. A person with artificial heart valve implants might be considered a cyborg, as could someone using a mobile device to perform tasks. A company’s production line can even be a cyborg, since humans interact with automated machines to assemble products. Digital transformation, then, turns organizations into cyborgs, as new digital technologies like social media and mobile devices are used to facilitate major business improvements such as streamlining operations or enhancing the customer experience.
Why even wise men and women sometimes fear the cyborg
While few of us actually worry about the Terminator or Frankenstein’s monster appearing in the workplace, the fear of technology and the changes it brings persists. The fear found in organizations rears its head in the form of resistance to change. Why do we resist change?
Well, fear is nature’s way of protecting humans from new, potentially dangerous situations, and in the workplace, these new situations inspire fear of loss—loss of jobs, of status, and of comfort. Technology also generates fear of failure—failure to understand and to succeed. Ultimately, people don’t resist technological change per se, but rather the social change technology can bring.
How to face the fear
All change is risky to some degree, and unknown elements inspire fear. To counter this, you can fight back against the resistance. Remove obstacles, bypass barriers, and learn to embrace the cyborg—or at least shake its hand. When presented with the unknown, people tend to imagine worst-case scenarios. Instead, help them see the positive possibilities by sharing with them your vision. Adopt a marketing perspective and “sell” the change to the various internal markets. Develop a digital strategy with detailed steps, user input, management suppor, and ongoing commitment of resources.
You know the drill: Adequate preparation can begin to overcome organizational inertia. But don’t just jump on the bandwagon, or you’re likely to end up somewhere far from where you want to go. To get past the intrinsic resistance, people need more than just direction; they also need motivation and inspiration, along with a sense of the destination.
Elimination of fear entirely may not be possible, and some obstacles will always remain outside of our control. But we can control our reactions to fear and change the ways we handle roadblocks.
For more insight on our robot overlords, see Robots: Job Destroyers Or Human Partners?