Redefining Innovation And Reintroducing Humanity

Redefining Innovation And Reintroducing Humanity

Howard W. Buffett proposes that technology is incomplete in facilitating philanthropy, and needs to be combined with consistent, committed action.

Paloma M. Vazquez
  • 21 september 2010

Howard W. Buffett, director of agricultural development at the U.S. Department of Defense and grandson of businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffett, delivered a powerful speech at the Mashable & 92Y Social Good Summit. Buffett shared his reasons for why we need to redefine innovation and reintroduce humanity – taking a personal interest in, and action on behalf of the people and causes we care about.

To illustrate his point that technology is incomplete in facilitating philanthropy if its isn’t accompanied by humanity and action, Buffet shared an experience in which he communicated via e-mail with the eldest daughter of a family left without employment and subsequently forced to flee their home in Tajikistan.

Buffett recognizes that he was ‘busy and forgot to pause and reflect on what was actually happening’ – which we can surely personally relate to. It wasn’t until after he’d solved their immediate problem that he realized his focused attention to solving their problem within the parameters of an e-mail exchange didn’t fully grasp the struggle that the girl had to put into getting her e-mail messages to him. Her writing in broken English, walking to the internet cafe and payment for internet service to send each e-mail wasn’t necessarily visible in the e-mails that neatly hit his inbox. Technology – while convenient and oftentimes taken for granted by many of us in developed countries – failed to capture and illustrate the extreme effort and resources that this family put forth in order to communicate their plight.

We’ve selected some of the other key considerations and challenges raised by Buffett;

  • The solution to bridging the divide between technology and social justice is to reconcile innovation with the human elements that drive it; we need to bring humanity back into the equation
  • Technology has in recent years transformed human suffering into data – number of lives lost during a natural disaster, number of people left homeless, etc. Data and photographs associated with these situations have been so loosely broadcast and transmitted that they’ve lost the power to inspire action
  • While technology has made it possible for people to give money, it has created powerful barriers to personal engagement
  • Too many people ‘watch on a screen, when they should see with their eyes’
  • We have tried to respond through technological innovation; but instantaneous communication and the ability to simply send money has abated our will to act
  • Our faith in technology has led us to believe that we can remedy social ills by simply carrying a device, or that a phone can create massive change from within our pockets
  • This model of philanthropy leads to short-term relationships during human crises – when the initial surge of media and public interest is over, we simply shift our attentions to the next crisis
  • Technology satiates the idealistic need to get involved, but fails to create a sense of personal responsibility to facilitate true, long-term change
  • We need to redefine innovation as not just the capacity to act, but include what it has directly accomplished; how many lives we’ve touched and people we’ve saved by Tweeting that ‘text your donation’ message
  • Otherwise, we risk having our capacity for caring to remain stagnant, while technology expands
  • Need more than just the ability to develop tools, but to empower people to commit their resources, time and actions to a cause

While we don’t know the exact answer, Buffett’s message is inspiring and clear; true, long-term and impactful social good is about more than just the short-term, idealistic satisfaction of texting a donation or donating a portion of your purchase – it’s about being moved to human, compassionate action and consistent involvement in solving a problem, be it local or global.

Mashable: “Howard Buffet Calls Upon Us to Redefine Innovation [VIDEO]”

Image by Veer.

Veer has recently relaunched its site,, with a simplified, easy to use interface allowing for enhanced and simplified image search.  The site, which is a go-to source for creative and affordable stock photography, illustrations, fonts and merchandise, helps people add style to business, marketing, and personal design projects.


Turn Any Wearable Into A Mental Health Tracker

Fitness / Sport
Work Yesterday

Amazon Is Experimenting With A 30-Hour Work Week

The online retailer is launching a pilot program that will allow a technical team to work with a considerably shortened schedule

Fitness / Sport Yesterday

How The Rio Olympics Stood For More Than Just Games

PSFK rounds out the Rio Games with our picks for the finest moments beyond sports


Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Work

See All
Retail Yesterday

Mobile Travel App Embraces Cognitive Computing

The Orlando Tourism Board is looking to IBM Watson to provide personalized local recommendations for visitors

Automotive Yesterday

Bike-Friendly Apartment Building For Swedish Cyclists

A residential space is being designed for commuters to easily transport goods

Advertising Yesterday

Nike Takes Over An Entire City Block With A Giant Running Track

The Unlimited Stadium is shaped like a 100-meter sole print of the brand's LunarEpic sneaker

Gaming Yesterday

Fortune Cookie Service Brings Bad News To Your Doorstep

To promote their new delivery service Blackbox, the creators of Cards Against Humanity are delivering unfortunate messages in an edible form


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

PSFK Op-Ed august 23, 2016

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs Yesterday

New Mentorship Ecosystems Benefit All Levels Of An Organization

PSFK’s Future of Work report explores how technology is being leveraged to support cross-team communication

Arts & Culture Yesterday

This Picture Frame Could Be The Lava Lamp For A New Generation

Slow Dance makes real objects appear to move in slow motion

Work Yesterday

Editorial Roundtable: How Will Companies Staff The Workplace Of The Future?

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX examine the ways that a people-first workplace might disrupt the job hiring process

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Airport Mural Puts Passengers In The Clouds

The installation in an Amsterdam terminal lets travelers float through a series of billowing 3D digital shapes

Automotive Yesterday

DevBot Is An Intelligent, Driverless, Electric Car

The unmanned test vehicle from RoboRace is a preview of upcoming AI race models

Augmented / Virtual Reality Yesterday

AR Ski Goggles Make Racing Down The Slopes Even More Immersive

Israeli startup RideOn weaves digital overlays into the thrill of skiing with an unconventional pair of protective eyewear


Rio Olympics
Innovation Coverage From The Rio Games

Advertising Yesterday

Japan Wants To Make 2020 Olympic Medals From Recycled Electronic Waste

The Tokyo Games could showcase the first-ever gold, silver and bronze awards made from discarded phones and computers

Culture Yesterday

This Small Town Has Become A Hide-and-Seek World Championship Destination

An old abandoned village in Northern Italy has become a massive playground for over one hundred competitive players

Design Yesterday

Garmin’s New Smartwatch Is Challenging The Luxury Market

The brand adds a premium version of its popular multi-sport trainer to its accessories collection

No search results found.