By Gerry Murray. 01-12-2019
(Scroll down for a laugh)

"The more we let machines think for us, the less we can think for ourselves.” ~ Margaret Heffernan

As a long-time technophile, I attended a debate recently in Brussels, organised by the wonderful folks at Full Circle, entitled "The Future of Work - With robots & basic income, will work become Play?” 

All four panellist speakers presented thought-provoking insights and challenged the audience to look at our world outside of our current technological “box”. They all agreed that what we currently deem to be technological progress, may, in fact, be the opposite in terms of the consequences for the human race. A core common theme was: Is technology serving us as humans or are we becoming the servants and slaves of technology? 

One of the speakers, Margaret Heffernan spoke earlier this year at the TED Summit about the need for better human skills in an unpredictable and technology-driven world. It’s another thought-provoking talk. A key contrast frame in her talk is the balance between making things efficient with technology versus making them robust. She advocates that we need to move from a focus on Just-in-Time to an emphasis on Just-in-Case. One comment that stood out for me was: “The less compassion we need, the less compassion we have”

You can watch the full talk here 

Is Margaret in touch with reality? 

I think so. At the annual Belgian congress of the Project Management Institute (PMI) in October, there was a large focus on technology and its impact on the future of project management. However, there was also a stream on “The Human in the Digital World”, at which I spoke about the need to better understand and manage our brains. In subsequent conversations with experienced Project Managers, it seems that the human skills of project management could still be greatly improved. 

Is social media anti-social?

So, where does that leave us? It’s easy to dismiss some of these perceived naysayers, such as the panellists I refer to above, as being negative. However, we could also view them as being realistic. With election cycles coming round in several of the world’s largest economies, we find ourselves living in polarised and confusing times. Social media platforms are contributing to this. You may already have watched or heard the speech given by Sasha Baron Cohen recently. Normally a very funny man, he’s deadly serious about the impact these platforms are having on society. 

Once again, are we thinking for ourselves? 

A past prediction comes true

I’ll finish by quoting the famous American scientist Carl Sagan, who wrote in his 1995 book, Demon-Haunted World

"Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness."

Somewhat prescient, to say the least. Should we not also be listening to the voices of conscious today? Should we not be taking back control of our thinking? 

May technology serve you well this week…



Jack: Why was the robot angry?
Ben: Beats me.
Jack: Because someone kept pushing his buttons!

Ben: How many robots does it take to screw in a light bulb?
John: I haven’t a clue.
Ben: Three — one to hold the bulb, and two to turn the ladder!

Griffin: Why did the robot go back to robot school?
Brent: Tell me.
Griffin: Because his skills were getting a little rusty!

Some people claim Al Gore dances too robotically
He says its just his Al Gore rhythm

There once was a job application form that said: “help wanted! Looking for people that are bilingual, able to make a computer program and able to make a robot!”, which a street dog was staring at, and it entered the building. The dog then enters the interviewing room and sits on the chair. The interviewer looks at the dog, which looked determined, and said: “I’m sorry, but you will need to be able to make a computer program”. The dog, then proceeds to make a computer program, which ran perfectly on the first time. The interviewer, amazed by the dog, replies: “you are very talented, but the job also requires you to be able to make a robot”, so the dog makes a perfectly flawless robot. The interviewer, now amazed replies: “I’m sorry, but the job requires you to be bilingual.” The dog then replies: “Meow.”

Give a robot a fish, feed him for a day.
Teach a robot to fish, feed him for a lifetime.
Teach a robot to teach other robots to fish, you're out of a job.

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