Jennifer Sertl pt. 2: [Full interview transcript]

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Jennifer Sertl is a thought leader in the emerging field of corporate consciousness – the convergence of neuroscience and existential philosophy fostering inspiration and subsequently creating strategic advantage and enhancing value. Read Jennifer’s full bio here…

Click here to watch part two of Jennifer’s interview, “Bringing Business and Innovation Together.”

Ramona: We speak about our digital devices as if they are just tools when in fact, the impact they have on our lives is much greater – the impact that they have on our relationships, on our sense of self, on our community – why do you think it is that we do speak about our gadgets just as tools?

Jennifer: I think that people are using apps to defer their own decision-making criteria. My son, when he was 4, he wanted to know “does your heart remote control people?” And what that made me realize is that his generation doesn’t distinguish between the tool and the emotion. The question you asked me was about the tool and our lives and we still see them as separate, maybe deferring more to the tool than our lives. But what frightened me, it frightened me from the standpoint of his experience of emotion is through a remote control and the fantasy is that, yes on one level your presence impacts people and, you know, people can be lit up by your presence or they can be turned off by your presence, but I think there’s this idea that if love is like a remote control then perhaps I can control it. I can turn it on and turn it off. And being human, is kind of messy in that there isn’t an on and off button of feeling and emotion. You may be really knowledgeable about certain things but you probably have dragons that you need to slay, but no matter how much intelligence that you have, you haven’t been able to resolve certain conflicts. So, I think it’s important to think about how are we teaching people what is human, versus what is technical. And I think it’s really important that we reinforce the usefulness of being human. I cannot believe that just came out of my mouth. We have to reinforce the usefulness of being human and use technology as a tool and not a default.

You know when you see the sunrise or a piece of ice melt, you don’t really see the molecules shifting or see the sun rising. It happens so gradually that you don’t notice a shift and my concern is that technology can be that way. Things can happen so gradually and be so pervasive that you don’t notice the shifts. And if we’re not rigorous, I think we could lose elements of our humanity.

Finding ourselves in the crowd…

Ramona: You said that you’re deeply concerned with people being as connected to themselves as they are in connecting to the rest of the world and it seems that there’s something in parallel with this idea of when we’re plugged in and when we’re unplugged.

Jennifer: Leadership today seems to have this tribal vibe to it, tribal leadership, tribal this and whatever. And I don’t know that people understand how much their own leadership, their own being a leader of a tribe, is impacted by the tribe in which you serve. In order to be able to add value, we might trump our own personal process of quiet and reflection. But you can’t take care of yourself if you’re taking care of your tribe and this environment, where everything you do becomes part of a data piece, I don’t think that people understand how much their own story is being told by the things they “like” and endorse. I almost wish that there was a way in which we could help them realize that you know, of all these things that you’re “liking” on Facebook and all these different things you’re endorsing, is this truly who you are? And I think people need to separate the activities from who they are and also from who they desire to be. So in this herd car technology tribe environment, I don’t think that people are able to separate out from how they hope to be in the world versus how they are being. And it’s not explicit. I don’t think there’s enough people asking people to play a higher gain and a more personal gain, meaning private gain.

Ramona: And not having a chance to unplug or be reflective, or just take that time, what impact do you think that has on our well being?

Jennifer: Our ability to think long-term and to anticipate short-term decisions, we know is impacted by that. We know that part of our brain that does cause-and-effect is injured by such technology and our ability to have empathy is impacted by technology. So what we’re losing is our ability to scenario plan, our ability to gain perspective, our ability to know ourselves, and our ability to empathize. Those four things are the things that , I mean when my son said “Mom, does your heart remote control people?”, you know, those four things I just mentioned are human, that’s what separates us from the gadgets. And I think it’s important to have things in perspective.


  • There is a tendency to think of humans in technological terms but Sertl says it is important to reinforce the usefulness of being human and characteristics that are uniquely human and incapable of being shared by technology (ex. love)
  • Fears that technology could evolve so gradually that if we’re not careful, we could lose our humanity without even noticing
  • What you endorse and “like” online creates your story, but is it really reflective of who you are? People need to separate who they are from who they want to be.
  • Technology is causing people to lose their ability to:
    • Scenario plan
    • Gain perspective
    • Know ourselves
    • Empathize

Click here to watch part one of Jennifer Sertl’s interview and follow her on Twitter @JenniferSertl.


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