New Technology May Help Prevent Relational Breakdowns

An article on CNET describes technology invented by Nissan to keep drunk drivers from being able to start and drive their cars, thereby keeping them off the road.  It got me thinking…if we can use technology to stop people from doing destructive things with their cars, perhaps we could also use it to help them avoid destructive behaviors in our relationships.

Here are some elements of the safety system developed by Nissan to determine if drivers are too drunk to drive:

  • Odor sensors on the seats detect alcohol on the breath
  • Sweat detectors on the shifter knob measure perspiration
  • Camera that monitors eye alertness

So what are some ways we can use technology to prevent us from causing relationship breakdowns?  I think we have to focus on anger; anger seems to be behind many of the things we do to harm our relationships.  Here are some ways in which we might let our anger go unchecked and harm our relationships:

  • Email Letter Bombs
  • Angry Tirades
  • Crying

Let’s look at each of these and see if there is some technology we can use to prevent them from occurring.

Email Letter Bombs – Email letter bombs can be a career and relationship killer.  They happen when we lose control of our anger and attempt to use email to straighten something or someone out. 

I think the technology already exists to prevent us from creating and sending email bombs, flaming emails, or even dumb instant messages.  There are grammar and spelling checkers that can be reconfigured to look for specific words or phrases (e.g. you stupid idiot, I hate you, you’re an ignoramus).  You could also have a keystroke monitoring program that would check for those words and phrases and prevent you from typing them or sending them.  You could also develop a macro to run in outlook that would check for inappropriate phrases.

Angry Tirades – Another potential relationship killer would be launching into an angry tirade or going off on somebody.  Again, the technology may already exists to help prevent you from doing this.  It would simply take the reconfiguration of an existing device on the market – the implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)

The current purpose of an ICD is to jump-start a heart that is stopped or to stabilize a hear that has an irregular heartbeat.  The device uses a high voltage shock to start or stabilize a heartbeat.  However, we could quickly re-purpose one of these devices to measure a fast heartbeat – a sign that we are angry – and then deliver a high voltage shock that drops us to our knees.  That high voltage charge just might be enough to help us get over our anger and help us pause to reflect the ramifications of our situation.

There are some downsides to this approach of course.  The most obvious downside is that a fast heartbeat could result from not just Anger but also Fear and Excitement.  So, a device based on a fast heart rate might not only help us prevent our anger from boiling over, it might also harm us if we go too excited.  So for example if the Cubs won the pennant, we might get a dose of unwanted high voltage. 

Crying – In some relationships, crying is an acceptable emotional response.  However, in most work situations, crying is going to be viewed as a little bit out of place.  Especially if you use it to explain why your project is late (similar to how you might use crying with a police officer to wriggle out of a ticket). 

So what can we do to prevent crying at work?  Well, we can re-purpose the Nissan eye-monitoring camera to scan our eyes.  If excess moisture is detected, those eye-monitoring cameras could immediately trigger a high powered fan.  You could also include some sort of blast furnace to provide sufficient heat to immediately dry any tears.

I encourage you to think about creative ideas for applying technology to help us with our relationships.  Or, we could spend our time and energy focusing on being more aware of our emotional states and then managing our emotions.  Which is what this blog is (normally) all about.

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