Human Advice Vs. Robots

By Lewis J. Walker

My friend complained, “My smartphone is smarter than I am.” For all of its wonders, there is one thing that technology cannot replace: the human element, your being present face-to-face and not in cyberspace.

Texting, tweeting and e-mailing are not as powerful as personal interaction, having a real conversation, appreciative inquiry.

The Radicati Group, a technology research firm, notes that on average business users sent and received 121 emails per day in 2014. Business use of email continues to grow. The growth of consumer email traffic is slowing as younger persons in particular turn to social networking sites and text messaging. Have you noticed families in a restaurant where no one is talking or even looking at one another? Each one is playing with a phone, tablet or gaming device.

Writer David Russell Schilling, in an interesting article a couple of years ago, cited Buckminster Fuller as having created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve.” Up to 1900, human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II, knowledge doubled every 25 years. Today, knowledge in different fields of study increases at varying rates. “But,” says Schilling, “on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.” Things are moving so fast that IBM postulates that knowledge can double every 12 hours.
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The folks at GWAVA, the archiving and messaging security company, say that each day 294 billion emails are sent along with 40 million tweets, 6 billion Google searches, with 3.5 billion Facebook messages posted daily. The amount of data and information in cyberspace is ginormous.

Here’s a question: Is technology detracting from your personal relationships, or enhancing your overall capabilities? You may be in contact with more people than ever, but do you have fewer close relationships than you once had?

At this year’s Academy Awards telecast, Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons told everyone, “Call your mom, call your dad. If you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive, call them on the phone. Don’t text, don’t email. Tell them you love them and thank them and be there as long as they want to talk to you.” What a novel idea.

When it comes to life planning and financial planning, nothing beats a face-to-face conversation. We seek counsel or turn to Google to get answers to questions. We tend to focus on the answer when the real key to understanding is in the question.

Innovative thinker Dan Sullivan, founder of The Strategic Coach, and a coach to business owners and entrepreneurs, said, “I’ve always believed that it’s more important to have really great questions than really great answers. Really great answers tend to close things down, while really great questions open things up.”

Think about it. Any quest in life involving two or more persons, to be effective requires asking questions, getting the back story, reading facial expressions and body language, going deeper in seeking to understand a person’s (or a team member’s) purposes, goals, fears, level of understanding and commitment.

Given goal achievement, what are the challenges, alternatives, resources, and expectations? You can’t get that level of context from an email or tweet. A phone call is better but you still miss being fully present in a person-to-person exchange.

Life is a series of transitions. Once a person finishes basic education, life is measured in major events — career choices and changes; advanced education; marriage; buying a home; raising children and planning for educations; starting, developing, and selling a business; divorce; serious illness, injury, disability; loss of a loved one; planning for retirement and issues of aging including long-term care; living a life of meaning and purpose right up until your last day.

Planning for major life transitions requires effective personal interaction between you and key persons important in your life, including your spouse or partner, grown children, other loved ones, business and professional associates, and your team of financial advisors.

You did not court nor win the love of your life in cyberspace, even if you met on a dating site. Comprehensive financial and life transitions planning requires a commitment of time and effective personal interaction.

Lewis Carroll wrote, “What is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?” What good is all the knowledge on the Internet if you don’t share what is important in conversations? As J.K. Simmons urged, “Call. Don’t tweet or text.” Better yet, go visit. Hugs and being present rule.

Lewis Walker, CFP, is president of Walker Capital Management, LCC in Peachtree Corners, Ga. Securities and certain advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance Inc.

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