Politically, technologically, socially—we are seeing rapid shifts in the way we interact with one another and the world around us. And this pace is showing no signs of slowing down.
One of Thomas Friedman's latest opinion pieces for the New York Times shares some insights from a conversation he had about this rapid change with Dov Seidman, C.E.O. of LRN, a leadership development agency.
And (likely without knowing it) the exchange between Friedman and Seidman made a compelling case for the shared value of creating connection. It’s worth reading the whole thing (it is Thomas Friedman, after all) but if you’re pressed for time, here’s a semi-quick summary:
The revolution is upon us (again)
We are finding ourselves in the midst of a technological revolution that is challenging our whole understanding of the world around us and forcing us to rethink our place in it.
When this same question, “where do we belong?” was asked in the 16th century during the scientific revolution, René Decartes gave us the handy device: “I think, therefore I am” to articulate our relationship to the world. For those not familiar with Decartes—he posited that our capacity for thought is what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Enter the 21st century
While 16th century philosophers were focused on how humans differed from animals, 21st century thought leaders have a new peer to consider: intelligent machines.
So what sets humans apart from machines, if both have capacity for thought? And how will we create social and economic value if we are competing with objects that can move faster, more efficiently, and for less cost? The simple answer? Our hearts.
“Humans can love, they can have compassion, they can dream...they can inspire and be virtuous...[they] can build deep relationships of trust...
…our highest self conception needs to be redefined from 'I think, therefore I am' to 'I care, therefore I am; I hope, therefore I am; I imagine, therefore I am. I am ethical, therefore I am. I have a purpose, therefore I am. I pause and reflect, therefore I am.'
When machines and software control more and more of our lives, people will seek out more human-to-human connections—all the things you can’t download but have to upload the old-fashioned way, one human to another."
The human economy
Friedman goes on, (and I paraphrase): if the industrial economy was about hired hands, and the knowledge economy was about hired heads, then the technological revolution is leading us into a human economy, “which will be more about creating value with hired hearts*—all the attributes that can’t be programmed into software, like passion, character and collaborative spirit.”
*(While “hired hearts” is a potentially troubling phrase, Friedman offers the innocent example of Paint Nite, the franchise that employs artists to engage adults in creative expression via social gatherings that involved painting and drinking.)
The next right thing
The Friedman-Seidman conversation ends with a glimpse into the future:
“Leaders, businesses and communities will still leverage technology to gain advantage, but those that put human connection at the center of everything they do—and how they do it—will be the enduring winner…Machines can be programmed to do the next thing right. But only humans can do the next right thing.”
To make a long post, short: It seems that the Beatles got it right in 1967; all we really need is love.