Amber Case, an anthropologist who works in the interface between people and technology, spoke Tuesday in Palm Beach.

Right off the bat in her talk Tuesday at The Society of the Four Arts, Amber Case audience individuals an inquiry that may have entered their thoughts previously.

“Wasn’t the original promise of technology to give us more time, not less? How many of you have more time because of technology?”

Amber Case is an anthropologist who specializes in cooperation between individuals and technology. Right now she doesn’t think it’s a healthy one.

There’s a widely held belief that “as long as we add more technology to the world, all our problems will be solved,” she said. “I say, ‘Aren’t our problems usually solved by people?’”

Amber Case has given a great deal of thought to how people interface with technology. She is a specialist at the Institute of the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., and she’s written two books about it.

She was named one of Inc. Magazine’s 30 under 30 and one of National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers.

Early in her career, she was baffled by anthropologists’ fixation on studying exotic cultures.

“Where is the anthropology of seeing how fascinating we are?” she asked herself. “Look at these weird objects we hold in our hands and stare at? Where is the anthropology of ‘I look at this in the morning before I look at my significant other?’”

She’s not against technology, she said. She basically might want it to work better for people.

“It’s not that we’re not good at technology,” she said. “Most technology is not good at us.”

She has an expansive definition of technology that incorporates electrical power, traffic signals, shoes, and books as well as smartphones and self-regulating space suits.

Technology is a tool, she said. As analysts, Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown saw in a 1996 paper “the most successful tools are invisible because you focus on the task and not the tool.”

That is not what a great deal of new technology is like, she said.

“The technology we have now is not invisible and it’s not easy to use. It fails in many ways and we don’t know how to fix it.”

Quite a bit of it is likewise unnecessary, she said. She used as an example a “dystopian kitchen” loaded with smart devices, such as a smart refrigerator.

Some technology is even hazardous because it’s unregulated, she said. “We can deploy any code we want, even if it risks people’s lives, and there are no consequences right now.”

She advocates what she calls “calm technology” that gets the job done without being complicated and intrusive.

She used as an example a room lit up with climate status lighting, which changes color relying upon the climate.

“Calm technology allows people to accomplish the same goals with the least amount of mental cost,” she said.

“Many of our devices constantly interrupt us, distracting us from “human time,” the unscheduled time when we’re most innovative,” she said.

As indicated by Case, everyone doesn’t need to confront a future that is dominated by client unfriendly technology that implies to solve all problems.

“It’s OK to participate in the world in many different ways, and everything is going to be OK,” she said.

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