Superhuman: Will robots replace us, or make us better?

May 18, 2016

The future is not technology, the future is how technology enables us to achieve more. Robots will not replace us, there is no imminent “singularity”, instead new possibilities are enhanced by our extra-human potential.

We are all familiar with the tsunami of technological innovation which is changing (and more significantly, will) change our lives. From genetics to robotics, informatics and nanotech, internet of things and big data, we are inspired (and often overwhelmed) by the speed and potential of the new possibilities. Ray Kurzweil even talks about reaching a point of “singularity” by 2045, when technological capability and intelligence will surpass and subsume humanity. I see the future differently.

Superhuman is about using technologies to enhance our human potential. 

Digital technologies enable us to reach and interact like never before, social networks enable us to connect and collaborate like never before, big data enables us to know and personalise like never before,nanotech gives us the power to exist and effect like never before, robotics enable us to support and serve like never before,  internet of things gives us the freedom to live and act in realtime, genetics gives us the power to be like never before. The “innovation” (not the technical invention, but the practical application) of these technologies is not how they replace humanity, but how they enable us to achieve more.

Technology enables us to be more human … To do things we could never do before, individually and together.

The fourth industrial revolution is here. Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum recently declared it the most significant step forward for business in a generation. Previous industrial revolutions drove a transformation in our worlds. From machines to automation, computers and digital connectivity. Now we are entering an age where robotics and artificial intelligence will rival the current practices of human beings. The revolution is not how robots displace people, but how the two work together to achieve more.

Business is being transformed … But technology is not the transformation, it is just one of the enablers of future growth and prosperity.

In a world of scientific business – big data analytics and behavioural economics, predictive targeting and search optimisation, supply chain automation and social networks, customer co-creation and community building, 3d printing and lean delivery – it is easy to forget people, humanity, emotions and life. These are the things that still matter. The change in business over the last 150 years has been dramatic – Business 1.0 was about automation. 2.0 was about mobilisation. 3.0 was about digitalisation. Like the fourth industrial revolution, “Business 4.0” is about connecting the new science and technology with the power of humanity to engage people, develop solutions, drive sales, build relationships in better ways than ever before. It requires new thinking, and new actions.

Business 4.0 changes the game … It is about having a bigger vision, to harness the new possibilities, and to deliver superhuman impact.

In my “Gamechangers” book, I call it the ideas economy … where it is the power of ideas by which you win or lose … And everything else can be done by technology of partners. Therefore it’s about using deeper insight and richer imagination to create nigger and better ideas … That engage and enable people to do more … And so out-thinking the competition, inspiring customers and turning intangible assets into financial success … Look at Periscope $100m before launch, WhatsApp $19bn in 3 years, Uber $50bn in 5 years! How? By thinking bigger, smarter and better … outthinking the competition … and being human!

What do you think?

The FT recently launched a series of videos called “Living with Robots” exploring our emerging interdependence with technology.

Peter Fisk delivers a range of keynotes and workshops on the theme of Superhaman

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