APPS AND X-FILES
What to do in the dead of January? Why, explore the paranormal, of course! And I’d love for you to join me. You may be wondering how this is relevant to anything industry related. It may be cliched, but the concept of technology has always been on the cutting edge of science fiction. Given the degree to which real estate companies are now vying for the next piece of technology in order to win the amenities arms race, we thought it might be a good time to explore the real benefits of these tools against some of the less desirable outcomes highlighted by those science fiction story tellers. It may not be paranormal per se, but thoughts of AI becoming increasingly intelligent and independent have been alarming us since we first heard the name Skynet.
In a more modern take on the perils of advanced AI, my friends Mulder and Scully recently showed us what might happen if humans were completely replaced by technology. While this may seem far-fetched, we’ve been noticing a trend in the industry where companies are now touting the addition of technology into their tenant engagement offerings as the ultimate solution. This gets into precarious territory, because it hints at putting technology at the front of the equation, where x=solution and x is technology. Tech is an extremely valuable tool and one that should be high on the list of features and benefits in the modern office building. But this tool cannot realize its greatest potential without the input it needs from real humans creating the engagement.
Mulder and Scully found a way to illustrate as much while they dined on sushi of all things in the episode "Rm9sbG93ZXJz", which actually decodes to “Followers” in Base64 (see, I know things). In keeping up with the modern desire for advanced AI, the restaurant Forowa where they dine (also translating to “Followers”, weird) is managed by an all-robot staff. Our heroes are also showing us an all-too common trend, choosing not to personally engage while they dine and preferring to keep their noses in their respective devices. When they do choose to communicate, they even do so via text. It reminded me of how my daughters will text me from two rooms away. Drives me crazy! But I digress. When Mulder encounters a problem with his meal and attempts to get it resolved, there’s not a soul around to help him. Literally. Nothing but machines. This proves problematic because machines have no mechanism for caring. The episode progresses this way, as throughout the tale both agents are held somewhat captive by technology. From Scully’s terrifying ride in a self-driving smart car to drones that come looking for Mulder, the episode calls into question how much we trust technology. And it asks where we will eventually draw the line between the value of technology versus the benevolence you can only get when engaging with the human element.
Now, I’m not so crazy as to believe that robot waitresses are going to send assassin drones after me if I fail to give them a tip or a high rating on the restaurant’s app. But it does beg the question, how much do we rely on technology and how much do we believe it is the solution? The answers to these questions will determine how far we let technology take us and will leave us wondering when it might just take over, period. (Enter Morpheus, stage left.) As office buildings today struggle to answer the call from tenant companies to create greater engagement and experiences that reach their employees, many properties are turning to technology for answers. This technology represents a tremendous support system, but it will never be a replacement for the actual people who are needed to bring this engagement to life; those who will design the experiences, create the engagement and build the relationships, all through a thoughtful lens. As long as we remember to bring these two vital components together, where y+x = solution with y being our teams, we can create a powerful bond with tenants that cements loyalty while also attracting new tenants into our properties. This is where people, place and technology come together to create the most desirable environment to work in and thrive in. This is where tenants will choose to renew and where new tenants will look to lease. I bet you’d even win over the Smoking Man.
-Laura DeRousse | Founder & President