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Mapping A Very Human Future

By Rohit Talwar
How can we respond to technological shifts and create a genuine agenda for change that advances the prospects for all humanity?
Enriching Humanity in a Digitized World

Our hope is that our books provide a broad, stimulating, and provocative exploration of the ideas, developments, issues, and potential solution paths to A Very Human Future. So, what are the next steps to go from insight and ideas to experimentation and impactful change? Below we outline a brief manifesto of 12 critical action areas that we must focus on as individuals, society, businesses, and governments if we are to avoid the risk of being overwhelmed by the scale of change on the horizon.

  1. Extraordinary Leadership—In order for any and all of the ideas presented in this book, we need to develop leaders with a vastly expanded set of capabilities. What’s good for business in the future will be ever-more intricately entwined with what’s good for individuals, society, and nations. Our choices and their consequences will come under an exponentially more intense spotlight, and actions with negative outcomes could bring down businesses and governments at an increasing rate. Hence, the imperative must be to increase the investment in developing leaders who can understand and navigate a rapidly changing reality. Key here will be taking leaders out into the world to engage with those who are developing and implementing the ideas, processes, and technologies that are reshaping our world.
  2. Digital Literacy—Individuals, businesses, and governments alike need to acknowledge the central role of digital in all our futures, especially its relevance to our job prospects and to the health of economies and businesses. This means making the investment of time and money to learn about the technologies coming through, understand what makes them different from what already exists, and appreciate the scale of their potential impact. Governments can follow the example of Finland in providing a free online introduction, businesses should be prioritizing and ensuring high levels of digital awareness, and individuals need to take advantage of the wealth of free content available on the internet. There are literally no excuses for maintaining a lack of digital literacy.
  3. Education Systems—Across the globe, education systems, corporate learning programs, and adult education provision need upgrading. We need to ensure that these prepare people with the skills and awareness that will help them move easily from job to job and to create their own businesses. Proven accelerated learning models about that can help individuals acquire new knowledge and content rapidly. These approaches need to be accompanied with the acquisition of lifelong skills such as problem solving, collaboration, scenario thinking, and conflict resolution.
  4. Evaluating the Exponentials—With governments and businesses, in particular, there is a tendency to be too slow and conservative in the evaluation of and experimentation with emerging technologies. The result can be crisis responses when the impacts become far greater and more wide ranging than expected. Initial evaluations therefore need to take an outside-in perspective, drawing on input from outside the organization and relevant discipline to gather a much broader set of views. The earlier we have a feel for possible development paths, application opportunities, and potential impacts, the more comprehensive and effective our response strategies should be.
  5. Employer Responsibilities—In a world where technology may replace more jobs than it creates in the short term, we need a new debate about where the boundaries of employer responsibility lies. Be that helping staff with finding new jobs to paying higher taxes, the conversation and experimentation with different options needs to start yesterday. Equally, employers need to explore how they will navigate the boundaries between technologies that allow us to monitor every aspect of employee performance and behavior and the privacy, rights, and freedoms of the individual.
  6. Support for Job Creation—Governments and businesses alike will have an interest in ensuring that new meaningful jobs are created for those rendered unemployed by automation. Whether as customers or taxpayers, there is a need in the current economic model for people to be earning money. Hence, an expansion and improvement in the quality of retraining schemes will be critical, as will a massive increase in support for those wanting to start their own businesses. Experimentation is required to test out a range of options.
  7. Investment in the Jobless—A number of experiments are already underway with variants of guaranteed basic income schemes. Every nation will need its own exploration of policy options and to conduct experiments for how it will support potentially rising numbers of unemployed people, how it will help them retrain, and how it can address the broader societal consequences of declining employment.
  8. Creation of New Sectors—From human augmentation to autonomous vehicles and synthetic materials, we will see a number of new industries emerge and hopefully generate jobs. Governments need to assess the likely loss of jobs in current sectors. The results need to be compared to the potential for job creation through current levels of investment in research and development, supporting new ventures, and attracting inward investment. Where there are clear gaps, action needs to be taken rapidly to avoid the potential for a rise in long-term unemployment. Many of the new jobs will require the equivalent of a degree level education. This in turn points to the need to ensure anticipatory action in reshaping education curricula and supporting people to enter higher education.
  9. Addressing the Mental Health Issues—Across the planet, stress has become a growing challenge, with rising numbers affected and a massive associated economic impact. Addressing this means changing workplace cultures and management models, increasing provision of mental health support in society, and expansion in the number of people being trained to become therapists and counselors in the future.
  10. Technology Ethics—There is a challenge of trying to enforce global standards and guidelines on technologies that nations see as a core source of future competitive advantage. There is also the concern about the weaponization of technology and the protection of personal privacy. Nations and businesses alike have to take the lead in establishing clear codes of conduct on the technologies and their applications and demonstrate that they are holding themselves to the highest ethical standards. Citizen and consumer pressure will then act as a powerful lever on those who are slow to respond, although there will always be countries and companies that choose to sit outside such agreements.
  11. Draw Constructively on the Past—Creating a very human future doesn’t require that we erase the past. It is important to honor human history and retain the positive aspects. Ways of doing so might differ between cultures and countries, but the essence remains the same: uphold values and behaviors that place people at the center of all agendas. If we carry forward the elements of our past that celebrate humanity in all its forms, we can build a very human future at every level of technological development.
  12. A Very Human Dialogue—The debate about whether particular advances harm or advance society’s interests will rumble on, the key here is to maintain an open public dialogue. The challenge is to raise literacy levels and public awareness of the issues, so we can bring more citizens into the discussion to share their views on what society needs and wants as compared to what technology makes possible.

This article is excerpted from A Very Human Future – Enriching Humanity in a Digitized World. You can order the book here.


Image: by Stine68Engel


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