Sitting in a videoconference can be a crap experience — how can we make them more empathetic? In this sobering piece for Aeon magazine, Robert O’Toole, a senior academic technologist and philosophy graduate at the University of Warwick, argues that instead of letting video calls corrode our humanity, we should design tools to enhance and re-humanise them. "How do we improve things? How do we re-humanise videoconferencing and other essential technologies? The tech industry’s answer is to add more features. But that’s not sufficient, and most often makes things worse. To start with, we need theories about 'being human' and, more precisely, 'being human with technology' — theories that can guide us in designing better technologies and their use. This is nothing new. The philosopher Martin Heidegger redefined being human as ‘being there’, amid the cultural, material and technical complex through which we make ourselves and are made by the world. He turned philosophy’s attention towards mundane tools, materials and practices: hammers, nails, wood. Basic tech. This is the ‘equipmental totality’ through which our projects are materialised, and which brings meaning to our lives."