Keynote Cristian Kromme

Technology as a tool for human evolution

Christian Kromme explains how we can embrace the digital future while staying human.

For most of human history, we lived stable and predictable lives. With vast technological advances, the world is changing at exponential speed, not just locally but globally.

Christian Kromme predicts humans will experience a tsunami of automation and digitalisation over the next five to 10 years; there is a giant wave coming at us—and very fast. ‘Imagine you are sitting in a boat,’ he says, ‘and you see this wave. Some people will worry whether their job is safe; many sectors will experience stress.’

Others, however, will feel excited, and find innovative ways to predict where the wave is headed and how to be at the right time and place to ride it. What it takes is an openness to disruption.

The power of disruption

‘Disruption is about human empowerment,’ he says. ‘Change is all about human needs. It enables ordinary people to do extraordinary things.’ It also behaves like a chain reaction and travels across industries.

With the iPod, we were able to move from buying CDs to carrying 1,000 songs in our pockets. But now services like Spotify are disrupting the disrupters. And ‘analog’ businesses are also being disrupted, even if, as Kromme points out, they don not quite see it coming. He gives as an example the person who repairs damaged cars. With the development of self-driving cars, accidents are predicted to fall by 99 percent in the coming years, directly impacting the car repair industry.

Predicting the future based on the past

‘If we want to understand where technology is going,’ Kromme says, ‘we need to understand where it is coming from.’ Kromme shares an insight he discovered that initially may seem far-fetched: That organisations behave like cells.

‘I researched the last billion years or so,’ he explains. ‘Cells went through seven waves of evolution: interaction, infrastructure, information, instinct, imitation, intelligence and imagination.’

He found that to get from ‘cell’ to ‘sapien,’ we went through the same seven waves, and that these waves are repeating themselves again as we evolve from ‘sapiens’ to ‘organisations.’

From this repeating pattern there are many lessons we can learn: That each wave is fulfilling basic human needs, technology is pushing us to self-actualisation and each wave creates new problems that help us evolve more as we solve them. According to his theory, the sixth wave, intelligence, represents the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

Role of humans in an AI world

AI will change the way we interact with machines. As technology becomes more sophisticated in communicating through speech, in maneuvering in our environment, in predicting our next moves, there will be a fundamental shift from humans interacting with technology to technology interacting with us.

How will this impact us? ‘Almost 80 percent of our economy is currently based on hard skills we perform until we get the golden watch,’ Kromme says. ‘But many jobs will disappear. How can we stay ahead of the machines? By focusing on human soft skills, such as compassion, purpose, flexibility and imagination.’

Our world is undoubtedly going more and more digital, and faster than ever before. To ride the wave successfully we should find a way to ‘go digital, but stay human’.

Cristian Kromme
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