Technology and the art of application: surely just because we could, doesn’t mean we should?

Written by Lauren Gill

Technology and the art of application: surely just because we could, doesn’t mean we should?

I recently read an article in Computer Weekly about how AI could be a solution to the social care crisis. Working with Florence, a platform which is helping to tackle the staffing and recruitment challenges in the social care sector – I’m very interested in anything new coming to the table when it comes to finally changing the narrative around our beleaguered social care system.

It’s incredible to think that AI can learn residents’ favourite music, videos and games. It can hold a conversation, even tell if a person is interested in a topic and change it – adapting to their individual needs. Residents can interact with a robot and have their emotional and mental wellbeing needs met.

But I have to admit to being left a little cold. It’s easy to see that AI and robotics have huge potential to assist in social care settings, but meaningful and valuable impact is surely in the art of their application. A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Kate Adams, Director, Operations and Special Projects at Nesta Challenges. She spoke passionately about both the potential and pitfalls of the technological revolution which we are living through and it really resonated with me.

Just because we could use a technology to do something, it doesn’t always mean we should.

Working at Mantis, with our clients firmly situated at the interface between technology and helping people, I know there are plenty of examples of companies harnessing the power of AI for good.

Appello, provider of digital telecare solutions for the retirement and supported housing sector, for example, is exploring how AI can help support older people living at home, while Refero, which provides a platform of engagement across public services via video and voice technology, uses AI to triage medical appointments.

Our clients are innovating to save valuable resource but with people central to their thinking – technology never replaces human interaction where it is required to secure the best outcome.

I’m left pondering however if AI can ever be a satisfactory or desirable substitute for actually solving the deep-seated but not insurmountable problems with our social care workforce.

Technology deployed as a sticking plaster might make a difference on the innovative face of it – but aren’t we missing the point? People will always be at the heart of the best care, and technology is at its best when applied in a way that further enables those human connections.

So, as I climb down from my soapbox, don’t get me wrong – there’s no doubt that technology, when deployed with care (there’s that word again), thought and attention, has the power to drive real change – much as many of Mantis’ clients are delivering. But let’s make sure we don’t forget to put people at the heart of that change.

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