The path towards our future: for Matrix straight ahead, for Avatar reconsider now!

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Are you inspired by the technological developments and digitisation in the 21st century or scared – or both ? How do you feel about the following:

16 05target


  • Becoming citizen in any country you wanted?  Estonia is making a start by offering digital citizenship.
  • Eliminating the boundaries between personal and professional lives – or are your separating your professional from your personal digital communication (emails, Whatsapp, texts …). What would you answer to the question whether you would like to be contactable 24/7/365 have been pre-2007, when smartphones were introduced?


  • Allowing store managers to know when you are pregnant before your family does (see box to the right)?   
  • 16 05 icarosFlying over the Alps or into space to get fit – not in an aeroplane but on a fitness machine, that has been developed by German-based innovation company Hyve?
  • Living to over 100 – in this context you may want to visit or read: “The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity” co-authored by Lynda Gratton  and Andrew Scott, to be published 2nd June.
  • Being cared for by robots in your old age?
  • 10% of energy being produced being consumed by IT, as is the case in Germany?
  • Implanting a chip that prevents the experience of pain?
  • Modifying, erasing, and creating memories? Scientists have succeeded in altering memory in mice and are planning to start on humans next.

While I can see the positive side to all of the things above, I am also concerned.  I am wondering whether we are truly thinking about all the implications and consequences of any of the above. Are we considering potential dark sides of our innovations, and are putting measures in place to protect against them?  Would we actually be able to protect against the dark side in an endlessly connected world?  Is it not becoming more and more obvious that the belief that we are ‘in control’ is an illusion?

If it is more and more difficult to control, what are we doing to ensure that levels of understanding, of human awareness and consciousness, of ethics  and morals, are keeping pace? Do we really want to delete anything unpleasant rather than deal with it, process it, and grow through it? Particularly the last two bullets give me the creepy feeling that we are speed-walking towards Matrix (see box).  Is that really what we want?

All of this leads me to a much bigger question: what does it actually mean to be human?  What is it that differentiates us from computers, robots, AI?  Of course, I am not the only one asking this question. Julian Birkinshaw, member of the ILF Wider Community and Professor at London Busienss School has written an interesting article where he looks at and contrasts Artificial Intelligence, Crowd Intelligence, Team Intelligence and Human Intelligence. He comes to the conclusions that “The ability to ask questions seems to be one of the few remaining preserves of human intelligence.” (You can buy the article from Wiley’s website.)  If that is the case than I believe we should apply our human intelligence more!

Here one of my questions: Do we really want to continue to speed towards a future of Matrix, or can we start making decisions, big and small, that will lead us to a future of ‘Avatar’, which for me is about living with and through nature?

Of course, biomimicry is the path towards the latter. The US are home to biomimicry 3.8  and ask nature; in Germany an organisation focusing on biomimicry has been set up by Friend of the ILF Arndt Pechstein. For an introduction there is the brilliant online course designed by Friend of the ILF Denise DeLuca.  I have also just discovered that a Biomimetic Summit will take place in Barcelona 27th & 28th October this year.

The above is part of the Innovation Leadership Forum’s Mailout of 16th May 2016.

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