Robett Hollis, Cassie Roma and Sarah Hindle on how technology has helped make them a better human

Technology often gets a bad rap for the effect it is having on our wellbeing – just look at the Netflix series Black Mirror. If you paid attention to the reports, you might think devices are only transforming us in the worst kind of ways. We’re addicted to our screens and the dopamine hit that comes from each like or comment, the details of our lives being displayed online is making us increasingly anxious, invisible algorithms are swaying our opinions to become more polarised, and on top of all that, tech is making us more isolated and less social than ever. But for all the problems that have arisen, technology is also a medium that can spark magic. For some, it’s helped lessen their effect on the environment. For others, it’s helped them broadcast their ideas to the world. We reached out to a range of people in business and asked them to share how technology has rewired their lives, for the better. Here's Aranui Ventures' Robett Hollis, The Warehouse Group's Cassie Roma and Tech Futures Lab's Sarah Hindle. 

Robett Hollis, Aranui Ventures founder

What technology platform/app/programme/invention do you love that has helped make you a better human?

Better for the head? Notes app. Being able to instantly document my thoughts, feelings and ideas to mentally unload in the moment has been huge for me in clearly mental bandwidth. Knowing it’s there and safe makes me feels no IP is lost and I won’t lose sleep. Better for the heart? Tracking my weight and health has been a huge one for me over the past six years as I 'try' to stay fit. Better for the soul? The Muse app and headband. Real-time tracking and feedback of your brain waves for meditation. Forced alone time and practising focus like this has really help me. Better for the ears? Bluetooth Headphones for hip hop.

When has technology helped you accomplish something truly transformational?

The shift from dial-up to broadband internet speeds that allowed us to create the world’s first same day turnaround action sports web video series. And overall, the fact that you can now run an entire business with only a cell phone and no office totally blows me away, because business life was a LOT different 10 years ago. So essentially, the smartphone changed the ENTIRE game both personally and professionally for all.

Cassie Roma, head of content marketing at The Warehouse Group

What technology platform/app/programme/invention do you love that has helped make you a better human?

I really don’t remember a time in my when technology didn’t play some kid of part in my day-today life. I remember sitting the back of a revamped yellow school bus that was full to the gills with small children and computers learning how to type ‘properly’ and being more concerned with why I needed to learn to type. To that end, I think it’s the simple keyboard – in all of its iterations, sizes, and mechanical workings – that has changed my life, my world, & my outlook over time. I’ve always been passionate about connecting with other people, about sharing ideas and about writing. The humble keyboard, when attached to a computer or phone, has expanded my mind and my world in boundless ways. Through keyboards I’ve been in touch with beloveds whilst half a world away. I’ve also met people who I otherwise wouldn’t have – people who are now family by choice. My reality is built upon words shared and typed over the course of a lifetime. Apps, platforms, and channels have helped to me to gather and curate information. They’ve also served as creative outlets through which I feel seen and heard. That said, without words I wouldn’t be as comfortable in my own mind, body, and life as I am today. And yes, I know keyboards well pre-date modern technology. I’m an old soul though, which means that utilising foundational tools with new tech is perfectly a-okay with me. 

When has technology helped you accomplish something truly transformational?

When it comes to personal transformation and achieving great things, I really can’t look to technology as being a part of my accomplishments thus far. Maybe it’s because I’m finally feeling comfortable in the space I take up in the world, or maybe it’s thanks to a realisation that true, human connection is what drives everything we do – but it’s actually been the learning to turn off technology  that’s helped me find out what matters to me at my core. What transformation is and means to me as an individual is different today than it was this time last year. This time next year, I’m sure it’ll have evolved even further. I am voraciously curious and technology has helped to fuel my curiosity. I’m comfortable in my own expertise now. And, I’m comfortable in spending time amongst the yet unknown. This is a long-answer to say that by consciously unplugging at work and at home I am far more intentional in how I engage with everything, from daily e-mails to mindless scrolling on Instagram. Everything in precarious balance is how I like to live. And, being happy with the precarious nature of life and work is exactly the transformation I needed from tech. 

Sarah Hindle, general manager of Tech Futures Lab

What technology platform/app/programme/invention do you love that has helped make you a better human?

The Guardian News and Media App. I discovered The Guardian through a good friend before I left New Zealand to live overseas. I love it because knowledge is strength. This app gives me instant access to the most critical issues of our time; from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. It exposed me to a world outside our insular Kiwi news media and sparked my curious mind. When I moved to London, it surprised me to learn that it was regarded as a left-leaning news outlet, and made me think differently about the way our news is constructed and presented in New Zealand. It has a cool supporter model which has just seen it break even just three years after reporting a £57 million loss. In a funny twist, both my partner and I ended up working for The Guardian as part of their digital first strategy. 

When has technology helped you accomplish something truly transformational?

This is a nod to ‘old’ tech: the plane. Travel has been a formative feature of my life. I’ve always taken big chunks of time out between roles, and those events have truly transformed my thinking, my perspective, my future, and my sense of place on this planet. Travel has helped me be more purposeful in what I do and taken me outside of my comfort zone. There’s something unique about immersing yourself in a culture that’s unfamiliar and a landscape that’s foreign for months at a time, whether it’s Berlin or Bolivia. Online carbon credits have helped me feel less guilty about jumping on a plane! 

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