A few days ago I took a trip to Landing 42 at the famous Leadenhall Building.
Looking out over the snowy London skyline was amazing, but I was there to see something else.
— Fujitsu UK Events (@FujitsuUKEvents) February 27, 2018
I was there for our most recent Executive Discussion Event (EDE) based on the findings of our recent ‘Technology in a Transforming Britain’ report.
It was the perfect time to talk about change. As Chairman Michael Keegan highlighted in his opening address, uncertainty is the new certainty. And the typical response is one of two things: fear or excitement.
This came through in the report itself: two out of three business leaders believe they’re prepared for the future, but only 10% of the public say they feel the same.
Our guest speakers explored what might be causing this.
Ex-British Ambassador to Lebanon and foreign policy adviser Tom Fletcher brought a geopolitical perspective to the conversation, while UCL academic and Satalia CEO Daniel Hulme provided the technologists’ outlook.
In bringing these different standpoints together we came to some interesting conclusions.
Face change as one
Tom set the scene for the discussion with a prescient remark: we’re facing the reality not just of driverless cars but of a driverless world.
As far as he sees it there are three trends shaping the future of Britain and the world:
- A fall in public trust – As political uncertainty grows, people are losing faith in institutions and established systems of government.
- The impact of the 2008 economic crash – The fallout from the financial crisis still shapes our world. It promises to be as pivotal a moment as the Wall Street Crash of 1939.
- New technology – The development of disruptive technology, from artificial intelligence to virtual reality, is fundamentally changing the way we live and work.
Tom argued that these changes are drawing new dividing lines between those who want to build a bigger wall and those who want to coexist – or, to use Michael Keegan’s phrase, those who are excited and those who are scared.
In light of this we should see technology as a tool to bring us closer to the rest of the world.
It won’t just be Britain out on its own, which correlates with our finding that 80% of the public believe global partnerships will be key to their future.
Wrapping up, @TFletcher says we all need to become citizen diplomats – focusing on what brings us together rather than what drives us apart. Technology provides the tools but it needs people to make the change. #FujitsuEDE
— Fujitsu UK Events (@FujitsuUKEvents) February 27, 2018
Tom made a final point that I found particularly interesting: education will be vital to Britain’s future success.
But are we teaching our young people the right things?
We don’t need to force our children to learn long lists of irrelevant information, Tom said. Instead we need to teach them ingenuity, curiosity and how to adapt to a world on the move – an idea that’s very relevant to us and our work in education.
Get artificial intelligence to be your manager
Daniel began his talk by asking: what is data? Luckily most of our audience of world-class technology and business leaders got the right answer.
He then demonstrated how data can be interpreted in different ways, reminding us that while everyone is excited about insights it only works if you can use them.
This led nicely to Daniel’s definition of artificial intelligence (AI): a system that adapts itself. If it’s not learning, it’s not AI.
Now an extraordinary talk from Daniel Hulme @thesolvengine about what AI is really all about: goal directed adaptive behaviour done by a computer @fujitsu_uk digital transformation event
— Nicolas Cary (@geektwogeek) February 27, 2018
AI holds the potential to bring the biggest change to Britain in the coming decades, particularly if we do manage to create artificial super intelligence as Daniel predicts.
And as AI makes more and more decisions in our daily lives, we’ll find ourselves facing a problem of ethics.
If a driverless car finds itself in a situation where it has to choose between hurting two people, how will it decide? We will have to give AI a code of ethics.
This will be hard enough, but since AI is capable of learning for itself, we will also have to take care that AI doesn’t develop its own ideas of right and wrong.
Or at least, if it does, we need the ability to understand how and why it has reached its decisions – and to make sure that we humans are happy with the outcomes.
Finally, Daniel pointed out that you can commoditise AI but can’t commoditise talent. So management and recruitment look to be another big challenge facing Britain in future.
Daniel explained how his company works in a decentralised fashion: no managers and no KPIs. They use AI to identify who would be best to make a company decision, regardless of age or seniority.
I thought this was really interesting in the context of the Transforming Britain report, which found only 21% of the general public would be happy to have their CV judged by a robot.
A vision for Britain’s future
Despite their different perspectives, Daniel and Tom came round to roughly the same conclusion:
Britain, like the rest of the world, is transforming at a rapid pace. And we need to face change in the right way if we’re going to cope.
This means choosing optimism over fear. Find what connects us, as Tom suggests, or embrace new technologies to get rid of hierarchy, as Daniel advises.
Looking out over the rooftops of London really brought this home for me.
If we hadn’t embraced technological change 200 years ago, we never would have built into the skies.
And what a shame that would have been.
Download ‘Technology in a Transforming Britain’ to learn more.
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