In fraught times, technology isn’t always helpful.
Its sheer speed and ubiquity can magnify difficulties and damage relationships.
And that’s before Elon Musk buys it.
Perhaps it’s worth, then, spending a tiny moment considering a technology that actually perpetrated undoubted good.
This week, thousands of poorly, expensively dressed people have been congregating in the French seaside town of Cannes to celebrate, well, themselves mostly.
It’s the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, a place where ad agencies and PR executives pretend they care about their clients while, in truth, they’re desperate to feed their egos by winning an award.
One of those winners, however, has come from a slightly unlikely source.
Motor Neurone Disease is unsparing. A disease of the brain and nerves, it debilitates without mercy. Stephen Hawking had it and battled for many years through unspeakable discomfort.
One of the first things sufferers lose is their voice, such a vital part of who they are. Yes, they could try to digitally preserve it — the process is called voice banking. But it’s slow. It can take months.
So Dell and Intel worked together to create a short story that sufferers could read before their voices disappeared. By reading it, their voices would be more quickly copied, there to be a signal of themselves when their vocal chords functioned no more.
The story itself describes what they’re feeling and how they’re experiencing a change they can’t control.
If you’re not moved by seeing how this technology affects MND sufferers, your heart is hard.
In a film called “I Will Always Be Me,” those who tried the new technology explain how much it’s meant to them.
“I saw the neurologist, and he said, ‘prepare for the worst,'” says a man. MND will, one day, kill him.
Another man explains: “It’s really important to be heard and not to be forgotten about as the person who can’t speak.”
They read sentences such as “I will always love you.” The sheer magnitude of what they’re doing and what they’re trying to preserve is crushing.
“I couldn’t have written it any other way,” says one participant.
Instead of three months of work, the new technology requires just twenty minutes of reading.
This idea won the Grand Prix in the Pharma category at Cannes. Far more importantly, where previously only 12% of MND sufferers even banked their voices, now 72% of the newly-diagnosed have done it.
In a world of too much useless or damaging technology, it’s chastening to be reminded of how it can truly help those suffering far, far more than many ever will.
“This is going to be Yvonne’s voice, as opposed to that robotic voice,” says a sufferer’s husband. “You could still be a mother. You could still be a wife. It’s Yvonne.”