November 22nd, 2014

find yourself,
break out,
rock the boat,
don’t go by the book,
start from scratch,
break the rules
or sink into oblivion!

“Talent and genius operate outside the rules.”
(Carl von Clausewitz, general and military theorist)

Humanity revisited

November 21st, 2014

Have we effectively reached peak people? Are there too many people on this planet? Not in terms of available food and water, but in terms of “useful“ things to do? What is “useful“? What is humanity going to do to avoid becoming redundant?

In order to stay relevant and “in control“, we have to fundamentally change. We have to rethink life and reinvent ourselves.

“What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.”
(T.S. Eliot, playwright and essayist)

We are not and will never be perfect. But the challenge is not to become perfect, the challenge is to become better.

Can we trust ourselves to do the right things?

To be continued …


November 20th, 2014

Is there an alternative to work? That – and not the future of work – is the real creative challenge in my opinion. And if there is an alternative to work, we must obviously rethink the work ethic – the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance our character – as well. Richard Buckminster Fuller was onto something, when he claimed that “we must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living“.

Another interesting observation in this context is that humans only started to “work”, once they settled down during the Neolithic period. Nomads, i.e. hunters and gatherers, didn’t really “work“. Wouldn’t you agree that the time has come to de-stigmatize the nomads? And why do we have to settle down?

To be continued …

The future of work – part 3

November 19th, 2014

“Man is going to be displaced all together as a specialist by the computer. Man himself
is being forced to reestablish, employ and enjoy his innate “comprehensivity“.
Coping with Spaceship Earth and the universe is ahead for all of us.“
(Richard Buckminster Fuller, design scientist and philosopher)

Apropos efficiency

November 19th, 2014

How meaningful is it to be efficient, if it means to lead an efficiently – but subconsciously controlled – boring life? We should reconsider, whether efficiency really is the non plus ultra. After all, it kills diversity, ultimately making entire systems more vulnerable.

Just look at the car makers. In their quest for efficiency through outsourcing, they are paying a very high price, as demonstrated by millions and millions of cars recalled over the past years.

Also think about this: What if customers were just as obsessed with efficiency as companies? Consumerism would be dead, wouldn’t it? And then what? Customerism?

Fascinating idea.

The future of work – part 2

November 18th, 2014

According to Erich Fromm, “the danger in the past was that men became slaves and the danger in the future is that men may become robots“. I think that he was partly wrong. Since humans will never be as efficient as robots, they will ultimately be replaced by them. I.e. humans are not good enough to become robots in terms of efficiency.

This rise of the robots raises some interesting questions:

Are robots the modern slaves? “Latifundium“ reloaded? Who owns them?

What will happen, once human labor is not competitive anymore and robots produce everything? Who – or what – will buy the products and services and how will they pay for them?

How long, before robots have “robot“ rights? Who – or what – will enforce these rights? Will “they“ ever be unionized?

Will robots watch ads and buy useless stuff like humans do?

What will we do all day long? Can you imagine over 7 billion inventors, thinkers, philosophers, politicians and – heaven forbid – bureaucrats?

Will most of us have to work for the robots, because we won’t have the money to buy or lease robots to do the work for us? Would robots want to hire humans?

Will robots spend as much time in meetings as humans do?

Would a robot worry about being replaced by a human? Would the robot have to?

How will robots understand humans, as empathy is needed to do so? Will they want to understand humans? Will they need to? Just do as the robots do?

Will we have robots as friends? As best friends? Would robots want to have human friends?

Will we adopt robots instead of having children in the future? Would robots want to adopt humans?

Will we return to the Roman system of “panem et circenses“? By the way,  at least the Romans had an army. In tomorrow’s world, that will be fully automated as well.

While this list of questions is far from being complete, it is a good starting point for an essential human challenge.

To be continued …

The future of work – part 1

November 17th, 2014

Looking at the long-term future of work, we have to accept that, as long as efficiency rules, what can be automated will be. Machines, robots, computers – and those controlling them – will take over the production processes. Therefore, forget about manufacturing jobs, as they are disappearing already and look for automation to take over elsewhere as well. For example with software taking over business processes.

The economic advantages are obvious: No wages, no pension plans, no social security, no unions, 24 hour shifts, 7 day weeks, no holidays etc. And when the machine is too old or becomes inefficient, we simply dump or recycle it and buy or lease a new one.

And it won’t stop there, if you think of AI. On August 3, 2014, Elon Musk posted this tweet: “Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital super intelligence. Unfortunately that is increasingly probable“.

The machine that is doing it for us, is increasingly also the one that is doing it instead of us. In an increasingly automated factory, machines are not the imperfect humans, but humans become the imperfect machines.

When does convenience become the enemy?

To be continued …

On education – part 4

November 16th, 2014

To close the gap between skills and wisdom mentioned in earlier posts, ethics and ethical mentoring have to become an integral part of education from early on.

“The best way to teach morality is to make it a habit with children.“
(Aristotle, philosopher)

We must not only be taught to do things right, we must also be taught to do the right things. Just one example: As long as it’s called cheating in school, collaboration is going to have a tough time at work.

Who has the moral authority to do that? And who will educate the educators?

On education – part 3

November 16th, 2014

“We receive three educations, one from our parents, one from our school masters and
one from the world. The third contradicts all that the first two teach us.“
(Charles de Montesquieu, lawyer and philosopher)

On education – part 2

November 15th, 2014

When it comes to change, education plays a crucial role.

As we have seen, skills have a shelf life in today’s rapidly changing world, meaning that the “education – work – retirement“ model has effectively – you guessed it – retired. Do robot counselors, simplicity experts, new science ethicists or climate change reversal specialists ring a bell? These are just some of the new jobs in the near future. A future, in which lifelong learning is not a must, but a fantastic opportunity to add to the quality of our lives.

We must therefore look to enhance our willingness and ability to learn, thereby redefining the relationship between “life-time“ and “learn-time“. “Work and learn“ becomes a lifelong experience leading to more than one career. For schools, it means teaching what’s become relevant and un-teaching what’s become irrelevant.

But there is a problem. In some cases, learning is anchored as a duty in our brain – something that we must do – rather than a positive experience. Not only that, but quite a few people – including myself by the way – didn’t study what they were really passionate about to begin with. Often, because they didn’t know or didn’t dare to say. The unfortunate consequence being that these people often wind up in the wrong jobs, potentially turning into disgruntled, unmotivated and disengaged employees. Being perceived as bad employees, they risk being fired sooner or later. But there are no bad employees per se, there are just plenty of people in the wrong jobs, often having been taught the wrong things. Everyone loses: Employees, employers and society. What a terrible waste.

Judging from my own experience, I believe that we have to spend more time to find out what children are really passionate about and educate them accordingly, as opposed to churning out human replacements for the economy, regardless of individual talents. Remember what Galileo Galilei once said: “You can not teach man anything, you can only help him discover it in himself“.

And then I also like this statement from Robert Buckminster Fuller: “The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them that they had to earn a living“.

To be continued …