If you look at the future through the lens of pop culture, things can be very frightening. Technology and humanity are almost always at odds. Whether it’s movies like Ex Machina, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Passengers or even Wall-E, there often is an imbalance between man and machine. At our Brussels CX17 event, keynote speaker and futurist Gerd Leonhard discussed how he envisions the future of customer experience and technology’s place in it. Lucky for us, he anticipates less of Hollywood’s doom and gloom and much more of technology and humanity thriving and working together.
We’re at a technology take-off point
Technology is advancing rapidly. The technology that seemed big or out there 10 years ago are commonplace today. Can you believe the original iPhone was released only 10 years ago?! “Innovative” ideas like the paperless office, cloud computing and basic artificial intelligence (AI) are no longer differentiators. We are at a point of exponential change. From this point on, technological advances will happen faster than ever—so fast, in fact, that it’s nearly impossible to imagine the world 10 years from now.
Change as a constant
“Humanity will change more in the next 20 years than in the previous 300,” noted Leonhard, during his presentation. And this will happen because technology is changing us. It’s changing how we learn, how we organise and how we live our day-to-day lives. Just look at how much our phones have changed our lives. We don’t memorise phone numbers anymore, we don’t take appointment cards from doctors’ offices, we are never cut off from the world. Everything we want or need is stored in this “external brain.”
While all this technology is undeniably helpful, it also brings new challenges. Most notably, we must discover our place in this ever-changing world. We must identify and capitalise on the things only humans can do.
The role of humanity in a tech-driven world
According to Leonard, “anything that’s routine will be automated” in the coming years. And this will lead to dramatic workforce changes. But don’t get nervous; technology won’t replace humanity—it will allow mankind to evolve and grow to address new, more complex challenges. In a world of automation, it will become our job to do things that computers can’t. Employee skills will need to shift and grow in relation to the changes in business routines. Critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence will become valuable commodities.
The key components of the future are algorithms, or technology, and “androrithms,” or the human touch, noted Leonhard. Qualities and capabilities such as intuition, ethics, storytelling, imagination, compassion, empathy, mistakes, lying, cheating, etc., will be what humans bring to the table. While technology can cover our routine tasks, humans will be responsible for things that machines don’t understand. To truly thrive, we will need to work with technology to optimise our skills.
Preparation is key
We must be future-ready if we want technology to work for us. Leonhard anticipates these five game changers for business:
1. AI or intelligent assistance. Software that handles the basics so humans can focus on more complex issues.
2. The internet of things. With more connected devices, we are building a new meta-intelligence.
3. Machine learning. Big data isn’t going away; with machine learning, technology can analyse and learn from data.
4. Quantum computing. Machine power is growing exponentially. Today’s computers are a million times more powerful than those of the past.
5. Brain and computer interfaces. Digital assistance is growing. In a few short years, we will have computers that can read human expressions and understand language.
It comes back to people
It’s an inescapable fact that technology is changing us. The stuff of science fiction is becoming commonplace, but that doesn’t mean we’re headed toward a dystopian universe. The human element becomes increasingly valuable as technology helps us automate routine tasks. Today’s business isn’t about the brick and mortar or the product legacy; it’s about the experience you provide to your customers.
At the end of the day, technology will help us add value and create new possibilities for our customers. As Leonhard stated, the balance we should seek is one in which we “embrace technology but not enough that we need to be augmented to exist.”