I just finished up 30 days of hard time in Facebook jail. For those who have never earned that badge of honor, that means you’re reduced to a spectator. You can look; you just can’t do anything – except spend money, of course. Facebook would never mess with that.
On the plus side, the pain in my wrist cleared up in a couple of days. On the minus side, I realized for the first time that I have many friends whom I know only through Facebook – people I’ve never met in person and perhaps never will. And yet I care for some of them every bit as much as I care for the friends and family I know in my non-virtual life. So it really pissed me off that the Thought Police at Facebook kept me from talking with some very close friends for a whole month.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been hearing that technology is going to make everyone’s life easier. Yet with one mouse click, some dimwit at one of the most dominant tech companies in the world made my life more difficult. Then it occurred to me. Technology has always made my life more difficult.
How many hours have I spent troubleshooting computer problems for myself and others? How many times have I had to request a password reset? How many times have I wanted to pitch the remote through the TV screen while trying to navigate my super-deluxe cable service? I don’t know if my life is any better because of technology. It’s just different.
That said, I believe we may be on the cusp of an era wherein technology actually does make our lives easier. The problem with technology up to this point is that it has always required you and me to operate some piece of equipment, whether it be the knob on your black-and-white TV, the frustratingly complex timer on your VCR, Excel running on your PC, or the dozens of apps that found their way onto your smartphone. You always had to know what buttons to push.
When you look around today, though, it’s easy to see the tremendous advances in technologies like speech recognition, data analytics and artificial intelligence. Deployed properly, these technologies let you do more than bark commands at a computer. They let whatever device is at the other end – your phone, your refrigerator, your smart toilet, or whatever – do some of the thinking for you. The technology becomes predictive and assistive. It … dare I say … makes your life easier.
I’ve been in this industry more than 30 years and the technology race has always been about who can add the most features. My online banking app can help me balance my budget. Well, my online banking app can poach an egg. Stop it! We don’t need more “features.” With all the information we’re bombarded with daily, we need to make our lives a little easier.
That’s my advice for credit unions and fintech vendors alike. Don’t try to cram more and more features into your products. Instead, create elegant, unobtrusive technology that really makes my life easier. I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one who wants this.