Managing the Transition: A Quest for Future Opportunities

How does technology influence your life? How can we go deeper into the mindset revolution? Are our brains becoming addicted to getting quick answers for everything? Are machines going to replace our jobs? Is history repeating itself? Is education related to how technology is evolving? Are millennials driven by Ego?

What do these questions have in common? They were all brought up during Unlecture’19 with Didier Schmitt.

Unlecture’19 with Didier Schmitt

Unlecture’19 provided an opportunity for all participants involved to discuss changes and risks impacting organizations the most and how to take advantage of future trends. Organized by Loyal Advisory, the opening intervention was delivered by the Unlecturer Didier Schmitt. The Uncommons Ricardo Parreira, Carlos Brito and Fred Canto e Castro gave their own contributions based on the Unlecturer’s intervention.

The unusual format of the event, and unexpected venue, promoted extensive discussion.

Is disruption a threat?

We all know that nothing ever stays the same. Changes come at an astounding pace. The trends of tomorrow will revolutionize the way we live, play and do business. In fact, new technologies have the potential to overturn much of what we know. Despite being scary, disruption can also be a huge opportunity. To seize this opportunity, you must discover what you are building for.

A fast-changing world requires quickly transforming capabilities to keep up with the pace. The window of opportunity to understand and manage the transition to a new future is now.

This was the objective of Unlecture’19. To help all participants gain insights and acquire future-proof capabilities.

Zombies and digital reincarnations

Many people believe that the digital revolution will decrease social relations. Some go to the extent of saying we are becoming digital zombies where, by default, our fingers are typing and our head looking down to a small screen. In fact, over the last couple of years, technology has forced us to reconsider how we shape ourselves and society.

A different perspective stemmed from considerations on office spaces. In the past, offices were extremely different from that of today. Faxes, printers, phones, receipt printing calculators, buzzers and pagers, floppy disks, and many other are a distant memory for some or a complete unknown for the younger professionals among us. All of this, and much more, is now in our smartphones. Offices were impossible to carry around and share. It has now all disappeared and dematerialized. It all reincarnated in the phone.

It makes us mobile. This created an amazing space between people, where we can share information of all forms in several ways. We can even interact with people across the world. We all have an emotional connection with our phones. Our phones know a lot about us. It knows our calendar, location, friends, email address, passwords, home address, etc.

Furthermore, the dematerialization of objects is no longer fiction. Ultra-high-resolution holograms are a close reality. One can imagine anything. Own anything (i.e. the Mona Lisa). Share anything. All in one click. Soon you will be able to send holographic flowers to a loved one and the system, itself, based on previous behavioral data, will tell you which flowers to get.

The will of Artificial Intelligence

Computers have the power to do a lot of things better than humans. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have unveiled a universe of possibilities. In a not so distant future, it is reasonable to assume that people will have their own personal AI companion. This companion will know everything about us. Maybe even more than ourselves. In this scenario, most people would trust their AI companion over politicians. We seem to be willing to give away our decision power to machines.

But the system has no will. No ethics. It is just reacting. Unlike humans, it is unable of waking up in the morning and decide to do something. Without emotions one cannot decide what to do, what to choose. So, at the end who will, in fact, make the decision? Are we ready to filter through tremendous amounts of information and consciously decide to choose? Humans are training technology to train itself, to evolve. But, the fundamentals of the system are still based on human decision, on human ethics.

Learning: the science of asking questions

Technology is evolving at a much quicker rate than educations systems. Workplaces continue to change and evolve. The jobs of today are definitely not the jobs of tomorrow. Children are being trained to memorize everything, rather than think. But the truth is that, in a not so distant future, we will have to be empowered to deal with machines that learn.

We need to prepare citizens and cities to deal with this evolution. Our brains seem to be getting lazier over time. Getting addicted to getting the fast answer. The easy answer. Similar to medicines, AI, and technology in general, might have an issue of dosage. Meaning, it being beneficial or prejudicial for us is only a function of the used dose. Nowadays we live in a world where there’s an enormous flux of information, leading to a lot of problems. Technology is democratizing information, but will the general public make better decisions? Are we teaching people to do this? “The machine” will probably suggest the best solution. But will we be capable of making better decisions with all the technological insights?

To do so, we must leverage both hard skills and soft (or human) skills. Colleges and schools are teaching us hard skills. Until now we have been building managers. We are focusing on giving people answers. Maybe we don’t need managers, maybe we need people who ask questions: scientists. The winners will not be the ones that answer questions but the ones that ask the right questions. The ones that think better and more. Remember to ask questions. Since skills are constantly changing, you have to learn how to learn. We need to prepare ourselves to this new world. It’s our responsibility to teach children how to be critical.

The technology revolution will happen anyway. There is no doubt. We need to think how we can prepare humanity for a mindset revolution. We must revolutionize our education system so that children can grow up with a different mindset and capable of dealing with technology.

Being one of a kind among the crowd

The digital revolution is about sharing and dematerialization. But it is also about disintermediation. Most of us no longer go to banks because they come to us. The same goes for travel agencies, they are slowly becoming absolute since technology has provided much better opportunities. The first thing people do when they are sick is to consult “Dr. Google”. This can be hell, for hypochondriacs, or heaven for those suffering from mild difficulties.

One size fits all will soon be over. Technology will allow us to send a 3D map of our body to get a custom size for ourselves. We will be empowered by technology and become one of a kind rather than one among many. Technology has the potential of helping us improve ourselves. Some argued that we should have augmented people without jobs, others that we should shape our brains so to not be dominated by technologies. It’s a case to say: “Designer Brains in the Pursuit of Human Perfection.”

Are we human? Or are we slaves?

Technological breakthroughs have, in fact, brought about several changes. Besides sharing, dematerialization and disintermediation, the confluence of so many technological changes has caused re-centration. We have lost control of so many things in our life and technology can help us regain control over our lives.

The same technology also has the power of helping us care about ourselves, others and the environment. We are empowered to go from passive consumers to active citizens. It can make us better humans. But, what does this mean? We need to go back to the basics. What was it like before the digital age?

Since the dawn of humanity, our genes tell us we need to own things to survive. The same genes tell us we are social animals. We need time to connect and enjoy each other’s presence. There is a constant imbalance between having and being. Having and sharing. Advancements in science and technology, specially the digital revolution, can make us more humane than ever before if we choose to have less and share more.

The Unlecturer

Didier Schmitt is a scout operating in the future. He is a scientist and a physician. His academic career focused on spaceflight and space analogues research. ​At the European Space Agency he is coordinating the future program proposal at ministerial level for robotic and human exploration.

At the European Commission his first focus was on space policy, and then coordinated scientific and technological foresight with the chief scientific adviser, as a member of the Bureau of European Policy Advisers to the President. Until recently he was a member of the space task force at the European External Action Service, the diplomatic arm of the European Union.

His military experience was as auditor at the National Institute of Higher Defense Studies (IHEDN) in Paris. He is a regular contributor to mainstream French newspapers on future issues in science, technology and policy. Didier is also the author of “Scion|ce – What you need to remember from the Future”. He currently leads also a team of designers in a series of fiction-science graphic novels.

The Uncommons

Ricardo Parreira – Ricardo is the CEO of PHC Software, a Portuguese multinational, and is passionate about leadership, business strategy and corporate culture. Throughout 30 years leading the company, Ricardo has contributed to over 33 thousand companies, across more than 25 countries, having better management tools. Ricardo has helped create an ecosystem of corporate culture at PHC where people feel happier, motivated and more productive. These efforts have led to PHC being recognized as one of the best places to work in Portugal.

Carlos Brito – Carlos Brito is a marketing professor at Porto University, Vice-President of the Portuguese Management Association, member of several consulting boards and Knight of the Porto Wine Brotherhood. Between 2011 and 2018 Carlos was Dean for Innovation at the Porto University. Elected in 2018 as Personality of the Year by the Portuguese Association of Business Angels.

Fred Canto e Castro – When he was only 20 years old Fred left university to start his first business, Sonder, with money he borrowed from his grandmother. Five years later, Sonder has placed thousands of people in videos for brands like Coca-Cola, Instagram and Nike. More recently, Fred has decided to put all his knowledge at the service of others. Fred is dedicated to helping others making the most out of their life and being a better version of themselves. With the support of the future King of Norway and his organization, Global Dignity, Fred is building #IAmHuman, a global movement.