Time-giving (not time-wasting) innovation – we recently discussed the concept at Bath Digital Festival 2019, during Dave McRobbie‘s talk ‘The need for humane tech’, and it confirmed for us how unsustainable technology is becoming.

Out of all the insightful events we attended, this one really struck a chord with our team due to the industry we work in, and how we can do our part to help change the future of technology and the way it affects or benefits humans.

As with most talks, Dave started by providing us with some context and tried to answer the question “how did we get here?”, to a point where tech is now manipulating humans. We got caught up in the inspiring mission of ‘moving fast and breaking things’, then barriers were broken and disruption for good happened (our peak moment as tech creators!), and then the problems started multiplying… We became addicted to technology, because of its designers and creators, and human attention became the new gold. Simultaneously, some of us started distrusting technology because of scandals like Cambridge Analytica.

The result? 😱😱😱

The impact and the (potential) solutions

“We aimed for tech surpassing human capability, but we have created tech that surpasses human vulnerability,” Dave said. Technology now has our undivided attention, and some experts believe that our brains are neurologically changing because of this.

The path towards a better future must include the development of humane tech, or maybe just more humane and respectful ways of using technology. Today’s digital excesses are harming humans, our mental health, and how our children grow – for example, this report by the Gambling Commission reported that 55,000 British aged 11 to 16 are classed as problem gamblers.

The problem resides in how a lot of tech is designed nowadays, with the goal to maximise engagement, addiction and consumption. And this is where user researchers and UX professionals can come in and make real change. However, in order to do this, they will have to overcome a few challenges along the way, like convincing stakeholders that growing revenue or increasing time spent using a platform are not the only metrics that matter.

Dave shared an inspiring video that you may have come across previously:

Our speaker also shared a few suggestions that could help us fix the problem in the long-term:

👏  Start by understanding human sensitivities
👏  Make content helpful, not addictive
👏  Remove distractions and temptations
👏  Focus on understanding your user’s personality
👏  Minimise user engagement to maximise user benefit
👏  Design with the end of the experience in mind

And some useful resources that you should check out:

💥 Centre for Humane Technology
💥 Gloria Mark‘s studies and research
💥 The book ‘Addiction by Design‘ by Natasha Dow Schüll
💥 Get inspired by the Okina app and People Matter
💥 The book ‘Ends’ by Joe Macleod and his website
💥 And, finally, Dave McRobbie‘s website and Medium



Maria Santos, Head of Marketing and Data Protection

If you would like to find out more about our in-house participant recruitment service for user research or usability testing get in touch on 0117 921 0008 or

At People for Research, we recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner up with a number of end clients who are leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.