I just finished a book on the swirling times we are in, called Thank you for Being Late by Thomas L. Friedman.
In it Mr. Friedman pauses to reflect on the forces currently reshaping our world. With the tumultuous, confusing, threatening, forces of advances in technology, (due to Moore’s Law), Globalization of the Market, and Climate Change, our lives are filled with upheaval… akin to the time of the arrival of the printing press.
Change is happening fast, fast, fast! …
and changing faster than last decade or even last month.
Automation and machine learning is gaining on us… but has limits (so far, but for how long?). I understand that a new AI program (Google’s AlphaZero ) took just four hours to learn the rules to chess before beating the world champion chess program, Stockfish 8, in a 100-game match up. See the article here.
The reach of individuals has reached a critical threshold, one person can now talk to the world via Twitter or Facebook. Populations and our impact on the planet have increased, and the population is expected to reach 10 billion by the end of the century.
How can we keep up? stay ahead of the machines? stay ahead of the global competition? in our lives, in our work, in our politics, our ethics or community?
The outlook can seem grim. And any observer of current events can make a pretty compelling case that we are in deep trouble. But I am optimistic. I think that we can use our talents to ride the accelerating forces and come out ahead. Part of it is to find out what we do best and do more of it. We have some wonderful abilities to learn, adapt, empathize, and imagine. So far these are uniquely human abilities.
Where can we look for help?
If we look for other places that might lend guidance, look for other systems that face constant pressure to change…we find that nature has been doing this for billions of years. Some lessons from nature might be:
- Practice Life long learning; learn or die might be the ruthless way that it plays out in nature. In business you might ask, what do customers want me to do better.. lower cost? better quality? a new way of doing business? Yes, Yes, Yes, and more! What will allow you to understand your customer better, and anticipate their needs?
- Embrace diversity, for therein lies our ability to adapt. Different points of view, much like different gene pools, should express themselves in increased levels of resiliency and robustness when faced with a calamitous change. In business this might mean having every team be cross functional and cross cultural.
- Enhance our practice of interacting with people, empathy, & understanding of the human condition. It can give us relevancy in the new world of machine learning. Maybe this is the last best holdout of the things that we as humans can do better than machines. In business this might mean simpler user interfaces, chat windows, and more places for human contact.
What can we do to stay relevant in these tumultuous times?
- stay open, adaptable
- learn a new thing all the time. Like reading this book!
- be in a constant state of learning. What do you like to learn? I just learned about Geometric Algebra (Clifford Algebra). Awesome.
- regularly re-evaluate – re-imaging your role
- stay true to your mission, but evaluate your mission too!
Although the future might appear grim through the lens of population growth, advancing technology, and market changes, I think we can have a bright path to a better tomorrow.
Thanks for reading,