Technology is not the enemy… The real enemy is not being able to adapt to changes
I was not sure whether to raise my experiential questions or not, mainly because the conference I was at was not really one of those tech-oriented talks in which the audience consists of telecom engineers, physicists, code programmers or Star Wars freaks.
Nope. That day the audience was full of guys wearing nice suits and dresses, ties and high heels in a variety of colors that could easily paint a rainbow from the stage I was standing on.
After only 15 minutes of giving a boring speech about how I started my serial entrepreneur adventure around the world, counting my few successes and many, many failures, I thought it was time to check out how a bunch of smart corporate men and women would react to some artificial intelligence freak stuff.
I just wanted to test the waters and get an understanding of people’s readiness for the radical tech changes approaching our global society at the speed of light. Obviously, from people who clearly, not only dress differently than I do, but are also from non-tech backgrounds. They really represent people who are oblivious and ignorant to the latest AI developments (It’s OK to be ignorant in some topics). I decided to give it a shot and shoot out my first question.
How many of you had a baby in the last couple of years?
When I saw the amount of excited hands that were raised, my first realization was that there must be a baby boom going on in that country, and secondly, on a more personal thought, was that it’s time for me to get married. Half of the audience raised their hands (seriously?!)
This lead to my second question:
How many of you happy new parents really believe your kids will need to get a driving license in the future?
I don’t really think some of them understood my question because they started to look at each other with confused faces and their mouths open. I clarified that I was asking them if they believe that in 15-20 years their children will really need to drive a car. 9 out of 10 kept their hands up. The previous week, at a conference full of Star Wars freaks, I received the opposite response. 1 out of 10 had kept their hands up. The Force was with them.
I instantly tried to explain that they had to believe in transformation in the lives of their kids as well as in their own professional careers, and that it’s better be ready for the unexpected than stay in the ‘corporate comfort zone.’
In order for them to get a better understanding of the ‘change’ concept, I shared a short story with them:
Around 20 years ago, at my first conference as a speaker, right after I got my Master’s degree in Physics, I was speaking to a bunch of university students (Law School to be more precise) about how they will need to use computers and that the brand newborn internet will be used as a primary tool for their business (lawsuits, insurance, etc). They all laughed out loud. I didn’t blame them since my father and brother are both lawyers and they too were laughing at that concept at the time.
20 years ago, almost no lawyer believed that Computer Science and AI would become the best allies in such a business, a business that was running almost in the same protocoled way for the last couple of centuries. Imagine if we now provide the same issue to a fresh class of Law School graduates.
I informed my audience that in the same manner those young future lawyers dramatically changed their views and way of working, their newborn babies, in 20 years, will laugh at the literal idea of driving a car. And to break the uncomfortable will-to-change in that conference room, I gave them the good news – that most probably their kids will never die in a car accident.
I felt pretty good when I saw the half smiles of those new fathers and mothers who started to believe that AI powered cars will make them sleep much better in the near future.
But the bad news for those corporate ties and heels started right there (hey, I love nice ties and fashionable high heels, don’t take it personal). I launched a couple of deadly torpedoes their way, starting off with my next question:
By the way, how many of you are lawyers, work at insurance companies or in financial firms?
Again, 9 out of 10 raised their hands with pride - and all of the hands went straight down when I enquired about an online software named DoNotPay. None of them were even familiar with it.
I told them that this bot, or kind of ‘online App‘ - just to make things easier for them, was launched a year ago and was overturning 160,000 fine parking tickets in London and New York only within its first months of operation, without any lawyer involved. Everything occurs online and for free (that was the painful part for them).
The bot asks easy-to-understand questions to the online users using AI machine learning technology. Some of the lawyers in the audience were kind of smiling like saying... well, parking tickets, who cares?
Well, I informed them that this was a year ago and that DoNotPay is currently overturning 375,000 parking tickets per month and just yesterday they launched 1,000 new bots to handle more complex legal matters not just for ‘easy-peasy’ parking tickets but from consumer rights to landlord- tenant disputes, from employment law to asylum claims for refugees. Yes, 1,000 new bots- just calculate the number of customers you are going to lose in saecula seculorum.
The ‘easy-peasy’ smiles became a bit more anxious but my AI counter-attack didn’t stop there. I raised the question to all the guys working in auto insurance about what will happen if traffic accidents reach an almost zero level because in a few years, everyone, including their kids, will just realize that human driving is extremely dangerous. Besides that, all governments, led by today’s millennials, will ban intelligent humans driving any kind of vehicle on public roads, starting for the ‘most developed’ economies, like the baby boom country where I was giving my doomsday ‘insurance’ speech.
‘Oh wait!’ I screamed, Who works in medical insurance?
Everyone was so upset to raise any damn insurance hand.
I just expressed that all those fields will basically get swept away thanks to new bots, machine learning algorithms and the incoming quantum computing that literally will change 90% of the world, including their jobs, as we know it today within the next 20 years. And that was the moment when all my corporate audience really started to hate me.
During that last 5 minutes of my talk, I just brought out the good news:
Dear corporate guys, don’t get upset. New technologies mean new opportunities for your business, just innovate based on those changes, the same way that those lawyers have been innovating during the last 20 years, by getting into computer classes, sending electronic signed documents though smartphones and using cloud computing enabling them to fill more cases than ever before, and even creating more jobs and better services for their customers.
Technology is not the enemy, the real enemy is not being able to adapt to changes.
Before leaving I tested them with one last question, an exercise that changed their expressions from poker-faces to this-guy-is-nuts:
How many of you guys really believe that you are going to die?
I left without waiting for any answers, thanking them for their time and inviting them to answer me via email, plus recommended them to listen to one of my fave songs before they sent me their online ‘die thoughts’ - a Rock song from ‘Young Guns’ titled ‘I Was Born, I Have Lived, I Will Surely Die...’
“Don't turn away, don't be shy, you've got questions so do I,
Every day is a chance to change the story,
Don't run away, take a shot, give it everything you've got,
Without pain, tell me what's the point in glory?
I Was Born, I Have Lived, I Will Surely Die...”
Well, I am not so sure about dying but God bless Rock & Roll, human evolution and artificial intelligence.
Miguel Silva, Socio de 4BM