Staying Human in the Digital World
Interviews held by Oscar Westra van Holthe who speaks with other CEO's and experts from the European Leadership Platform's 2019 Annual Conference. This year's theme is: Staying Human in the Digital World.
Want to read this collective conversation?
Today I’m [Oscar Westra van Holthe] at the annual conference of the European Leadership Platform. The theme is “Staying Human in a Digital World”. So I thought: Why not ask the people here what they think the future will bring? So I had conversations with all these twelve people. And I made it into one collective conversation.
What does it mean to be human to you?
A human is to be free. Vulnerability. Survive nature. Have fun together! Feelings and sentiments. Compassion. Everything you don’t expect from a machine. Consciousness. Intuition. Care. Motives. It’s all about meeting people. To be creative. We’re going against entropy. That you have unconscious behaviour. The struggling with life. The ups but also the downs. That you have this sense: “This is what life is”.
So what digital trend do you see will make a big impact on us?
Artificial Intelligence. Robotics. Algorithms. Blockchains. Super-intelligence. Data. Smartphones. Social media. Twitter. Virtual reality. And the continuous advancements in computers –augmented reality, machine learning, deep mathematics– may accelerate the human race to continue evolving.
And so how does it make you feel?
I see lots of opportunities. I think it’s incredibly exciting. I’m intrigued! It is promising. I’m optimistic. I’m mostly curious. I’m scared at the same time. Frightened. Worried. Because it goes so fast, you can’t understand it. It is like the nuclear power invention.
And what will we see shifting in society then?
The tasks of people are gonna be changing very rapidly. It takes away the diversity. It speeds up social problems. There’s going to be a bigger disparity between the haves and the have-nots. We will see more anger. Heaps of loneliness. Alienation. Exclusion. When everything is monitored and will have repercussions, the majority of people will be cut off. The lack of human connection by people who are just thinking about world domination, power and money, go to war. We are trapped in this system with this huge power struggle between countries. We forgot we are a part of nature. People are actually much more aware than they may be were in the past of what they don’t have and [they] will come and get it. That will go at the heart of human beings. The question is: Where will it lead us to? I can imagine this will accelerate enormously. And I think the opposing force of this scary future triggers us to really think through what is valuable. Thankfully, AI is not that far, so there are lot’s of problems left. They have very little reasoning. Very little conception of what the world is like. No long-term planning. That will change over time but not as much as many people would like to see. AI is an instrument. A navigator in your car, it doesn’t diminish my human dignity. It’s not just what the computer does, they are pre-programmed, but there’s more to life than just logic. And too quickly, we think that everything that we do as human beings, can be replaced by AI. I don’t feel threatened by machines at all! We might solve problems that we cannot solve at the moment. For better healthcare. Cancer. Prevention. Global warming. Because most people are good. The key issue is that the technology will be used in favour of nature and humankind. Going forward, it will free us from the industrial prison that we are in. Work. Work. Work. But what if all that labour is gone? Maybe, artificial intelligence will run the whole economy. The more practical problems will be solved by machines. The thinking power –the field of logic – will be taken over by AI. It creates abundance. More quality time. It will give us the space again to reconnect other than just making profits. So, AI structures will distribute power. We will have to discover how to handle that. Instead of doing all this computer-work, we need to continuously adapt to use artificial intelligence for human interaction. To deliver better services. [To] create new growth platforms. And [get] more satisfied customers. And that’s just the beginning! AI will become an instrument to do good. For people to flow. To become even more human. The big question is: When is this going to happen? At first, AI will be mainly used by the bigger companies to generate more profit. Then, in the future, there might be other entities qualifying for full moral status that are not members of homo sapiens. If digital can have a consciousness, then there will be a big change. So you could have machines that, if they had the same behavioural repertoire as we do and the same inner life as we do, but they are made of silicon, rather than carbon, I think, a case could be made, they should have the same moral, political status, as we do. As long as it is not too soon, I’m not concerned that much. But the reality is that the pace of change is geometrical. There is a need for an ethical, global board, universal income. People thinking about these foundational questions. What is holding us back from actually using the full AI potential? Then, maybe down the road, [we should have] a wider social conversation. Because it should not go against your humanity.
And what does it ask from today’s business community then?
We need to force ourselves to see what the new developments are, how experts look at it, also the downside. We need to train our human connection skills. So, not only take care of financial value because as a business, you are solving a societal problem. It’s like with all change processes, you first should show, and tell, and explain what will not change –check our ego’s– and then people will be prepared to hear what might be changing. So they are stakeholders in the whole story. So, business should encourage people to dive into their own human being. For a lot of companies, it will be a huge step. We have not reached –at all– the full potential.
So, how can we stay human in the digital world then?
Don’t give up! Connect live. Communicate face to face. Stay human. Be a responsible citizen in whatever situation. Continuously listen to your gut feel[ing]. There’s so much magic in being human! Be aware of what’s driving your purpose. Be in touch with who you are. How am I as a human different from other human beings? Look each other in the eye. Be silent. Don’t push away what your feelings are telling you. And then see what happens! And, regardless of technical developments, one day, we need to accept that we are a part of nature. And maybe, we do not even have time for that. Maybe we will run out of resources in this planet before AI is even taking up. It’s time for leadership!
Thanks for the conversation y’all. Looking forward to the next one!