Move Over IQ and EQ

The Emerging Role of TQ—Technology Quotient—in Today’s World.

Almost everywhere we turn and look, technology is becoming a part of our lives. Sometimes passive, sometimes active, but the role tech plays in our lives is here. Adoption varies greatly.

And then it happened.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced people of all walks, persuasions, and professions to change. From social habits to professional engagements, the flurry to change and adaption has, in and of itself, become a defining element of this time. The ability to adapt, adopt, and apply technology to our lives creates an entirely new measurement of success to go along with IQ and EQ: technology quotient or TQ. This metric determines who will survive and thrive and who will not, especially in the medical field for both doctors and patients.

Technology defines much of healthcare innovation. We have a host of vaccines to deal with the current pandemic, yet some skepticism against vaccines and concern about how quickly they came to market also exists. Telemedicine changed how we interact with doctors, but once the fear of being infected abated, use if the service abated. In the United States, the Commonwealth Fund showed that while telemedicine visits increased significantly in early 2020, there seems to be a significant decrease, yet still above baseline values. My research saw usage decrease almost back to pre-COVID19 levels in some cases.

Since then, however, both outpatient visits and virtual visits have returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2020. However, according to IQVIA, a health care analytics company, lab tests resulting from emergency room visits and visits to medical offices fell 90 percent. The number of mammograms plunged 87 percent, colonoscopies 90 percent, and Pap smears 87 percent. PSA tests for prostate cancer declined 60 percent. It is still too early to conclude this is an ongoing trend, although those numbers have yet to recover. But the relationship clinicians and patients have with technology has been pushed to new levels of engagements. However, we are still far from any level of equilibrium.

The role of desperation in innovation

Italy is a different story. As the pandemic swamped the medical industry, telemedicine was not formally recognized, immediately available, and was expensive. Desperation became the mother innovation and, ironically, became a significant enhancement of the national TQ.

The Foundation IRCCS Carlo Besta Neurological Institute sought and obtained approval from the Ministry of Health for its telehealth plans to address rare neurological diseases, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, and child neurology. Using an existing business agreement with video-conferencing platforms for remote, secure connections, the institute integrated a structured workflow with a two-week pilot at clinics, before rolling out the plan more widely. Between 10 March and 10 June, the service delivered more than 1,540 telemedicine services, including 694 neurological visits. The success of the program is driving certification.

COVID-19 has pushed the world in this direction. The future success of technological innovations in the future will be determined by recognizing the value of TQ.

But beyond COVID-19, we stand at an amazing and turbulent point in human history. Everything from household gadgets to sophisticated clinical tools is transforming our lives at a rate on an exponential curve. That curve seems a smooth upward shape to a mathematician but is a roller-coaster ride for those who experience the dramatic ups and downs of obsolescence and innovation in real-time.

Think about this: It took 67 years for the airline industry to reach 50 million customers. It took Facebook three years and Pokémon Go 19 days to reach that same adoption rate. That is the dynamic in which we live today, mediated by technology. If there ever was a time to use the word “renaissance” it might be today and in the context of technology and TQ.

Integrating TQ is critical to success

While we consider IQ and EQ to be fundamentally critical to our success, we can expand the equation. IQ + EQ + TQ presents a new dynamic that allows us to thrive in today’s (and tomorrow’s) world. This new techno-relationship can directly enhance our cognitive capacity and even facilitate a broader and richer human engagement. While this dynamic is not without complexity and concerns, it remains virtually inevitable. As TQ grows, this engagement can cross-pollinate with our traditional IQ and EQ capabilities allowing for a more dynamic and fulfilling human experience.

Integrating TQ with IQ and EQ will play a practical and functional role in society, business, and education, quantifying the human “techno-status” of adoption and integration. We can even flip the argument and seek to establish an IQ and EQ for technology. While it may be the case that technology needs to be more empathetic, maybe humanity needs more empathy for technology. Our ability to quantify TQ may allow us to measure and track changes to reflect desired shifts in academic, professional, or even social settings. In today’s business world, a common strategy is to drive technological adoption by employees. TQ, as it evolves and becomes more defined, can be a guidepost for change and innovation.

A future of engagement and collaboration

Engagement must include technology — but not as a peripheral component defined by its silicon-based existence. Technology will need, perhaps even demand, a seat at the table. Today, people and computers are working together. We see synergies emerge with superior results to either working alone. Technical skill, cognitive capacity, fatigue, social biases, and many other factors can be addressed and optimized to advance experiences and outcomes.

The battle of man versus machine might be ending where cooperative engagement provides transformative solutions to a wide variety of problems and opportunities. The connections are powerful and yet enigmatic. They create a reality where man and machine are connected inexorably for the benefit of humankind. Today, the smartest person in the room, might not even be a person, a physician, or a teacher at all. It very well may be the computer. This startling revelation forces us to consider the emerging reality that human capabilities are from definitive. As the bicycle taught us over a hundred years ago, these abilities can be enhanced and unlocked with a simple mechanical advantage. This same concept is true for technology today, and what becomes unlocked is humanity itself — from cognition to physical ability to sensory awareness. In this process of transformation, our role must not be a passive participant. As our exponential world unfolds before us, intrinsic intelligence and empathy will help us ride the technological wave to an exciting new world. But our ability to assimilate these technological changes into our lives and our bodies may be just as important.

Originally published in WIRED Italy in March, 2021