TECH
01/12/2017 05:53 pm ET Updated Jan 13, 2018

Let's Go Humans

In the age of connectivity, big data and artificial intelligence (AI), the world is asking an existential question about the role men and women will play in our own future. To me, our role has never been more clear.

Humans can and will dictate the terms by which technological innovations complement -- not supplant -- our work and our play. Indeed, we are the inspiration for our industry. Innovators work long hours and late nights to change our lives for the better.

Self-driving cars are a great example. More than 30,000 American lives are lost each year in vehicle accidents. Self-driving cars will save lives and prevent injuries, and make our roads safer.

They will also provide greater fuel efficiency and eliminate traffic problems. They will take us where we need to go more efficiently and assuredly, and allow us to be more productive while getting there.

Imagine the sense of independence and liberation they'll provide to those limited by immobility, including many seniors and people with impaired vision.

Connected wellness devices both keep us in closer touch with our doctors and allow us to look out for our aging loved ones, whether we live across town or across the country.

Technology can even mimic how our eyes absorb information, giving the gift of sight to those with vision loss -- whether that's an older person watching her first sunrise over the ocean or a child seeing his parent's face for the very first time.

3D printing not only streamlines the parts-production processes for some of the world's biggest manufacturers, it also quickly delivers inexpensive prosthetics to children who otherwise couldn't afford them or would soon outgrow more complex and expensive artificial limbs.

Sure, augmented- and virtual-reality systems deliver unprecedented immersive entertainment right in our own homes, but they also help us recover from PTSD, dementia, paralysis and other debilitating conditions.

At CES® 2017, we were privileged to see the bright ideas born in our classrooms, labs, garages and offices are revolutionizing productivity, enhancing our day-to-day lives and enriching our experiences.

We came to CES to honor and celebrate innovators -- human innovators -- with our "Let's Go Humans" message. "Let's Go Humans" emphasizes the human element of technology -- the people whose lives are changed by these tech wonders, as well as the people who are driving the lightning-fast pace of innovation -- and the benefits of innovation to individuals and society overall.

Two historical developments contribute to today's greatest innovations. The first is the launch of the digital computer in 1946, leading to the invention of technologies that capture, store and analyze massive amount of data and information. The second is the internet, which has fueled the proliferation of digital devices.

Today, these technologies are creating a technological landscape where humans and machines work together to accelerate and improve our greatest ideas, and to address our greatest challenges.

We call this the Internet of Things, but it's actually the fulfillment of the original promise of the internet: billions of connected devices in turn connecting us to ideas, information solutions and each other.

And as these technologies evolve, they become faster and less expensive, improving access for everyone. Think about the evolution of the cellphone. In 1984, Motorola's DynaTAC cellphone went on sale in the U.S. for about $4,000 -- accounting for inflation, that's about $9,300 today. The revolutionary device took 10 hours to charge and offered 30 minutes of talk time.

Thirty years later, nine in 10 Americans own cellphones. And two-thirds of us own smartphones, which carry an average price of less than $600.

In 2017, mobile connectivity is about so much more than merely placing a call. Smartphone apps can read labels on medicine bottles for people who can't see. Our connected devices can talk to one another constantly, and we can talk to them all from virtually anywhere.

Smartphones can even detect and share information about natural disasters such as earthquakes, helping first responders pinpoint the locations of those closest to the epicenter.

CES showcases tomorrow's great innovations today. Technological game-changers such as drones, robotics, AI and so many other innovations on display at CES are a human endeavor. They're not designed to take the place of humans, but rather work in tandem with us, augmenting our reality, expanding our capabilities and furthering our reach.

"Let's Go Humans" celebrates this coupling. "Let's Go Humans" tells the stories of how individual innovators and their creations -- the devices and services that span the show floor at CES -- are helping better our world and amplify our humanity.

While the devices themselves remain cool and awe-inspiring, their true impact becomes clear when we reflect on the purpose these devices serve: To improve the lives of you, me and everyone else on the planet.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro