Are we being overtaken by digital technology?

The MIT commencement speech by Tim Cook is food for thought for many of us, and especially for those seeking professional growth.

It is certainly not easy to adapt ourselves to the compelling, continuing and rapid changes caused by digital technology in many aspects of our everyday lives and this also applies to our profession, demanding from us the ability to adapt and exploit these resources to the fullest. Moreover, we are now called to dominate a technology that is growing less and less docile and hides dangers from which we have to defend ourselves. I am thinking about how fashionable it is now to share our work with groups and pages on social networks, where cases are reported and discussed. In this background, it may occur that the case a colleague is boasting of on Facebook (or any other social network) turns out to be a fake, manipulated with Photoshop. In this way some members of the dental profession have tried to increase their popularity in the attempt to become influencers on social media like any popular blogger. Such use of technology is not science nor research, it is only personal interest and delusion of grandeur.

This is a typical side effect of social media communication, where what actually matters is not the message itself, but the ability to amaze, in this case colleagues and patients. In this way technology, which was meant to unite us by sharing our successes and goals, can represent a threat.

But who is the real liar: technology or the man behind the keyboard, who brings out the worst of new media?

Research on the medical and scientific field is also affected by these dynamics. It may happen that analysis, test and experimentation do not spring from a real interest in a topic or from the belief that research can ultimately improve people’s health, but rather from the wish to gain visibility. Nonetheless, the future of our profession is intimately linked to digital technology and on this regard the message of Tim Cook got to the heart of the matter. He said: «Technology is capable of doing great things, but it doesn’t want to do great things. It doesn’t want anything. That part takes all of us. It takes our values, and our commitment to our families, and our neighbors, and our communities». He also stated: «I’m not worried about artificial intelligence giving computers the ability to think like humans, I’m more concerned about people thinking like computers, without values or compassion, without concern for consequences».

Using technology in our clinical activity can definitely improve our workflow, but before being overshadowed by technology, we must always ask ourselves: what can we do to improve our profession? And when we find the answer to this question, we must focus on our goal: this is the first step towards the best use of the tools provided by technology.

Dino Re
Editor-in chief