In a recent conference, the hot topic of discussion was about what would become of the subject of leadership in the coming age of AI and ubiquitous digitization. Then there are the ones that talk about the workplace and begin with the preamble on the millennials, and there are a few more that almost every expert worth his or her two bits pays homage to. I am no expert or futurist on most of these subjects and neither would I risk an opinion on this crystal-gazing as a prediction, but I do have a word or two to add as a layman with a sense of humor. Here are top two of these refrains in the conferences that I find to be terribly overplayed in their own unique ways.
Millennials: Most of the experts would like us to believe that millennials have arrived from Mars and that they have characteristics that aliens have, and that understanding them will require extra-sensory perceptions. They would like us to believe that never before a phenomenon like this has ever taken place on the mother earth. I find our opinions about the millennials an exact replica of the opinions that every generation has of the next generation – our grandparents had that of our parents and our parents had that of us – and lo & behold, we are having that of the next – except that we are calling them millennials; just because they were lucky to have timed themselves to be on earth around the change of the millennia.
Let’s try to pen down what we say about the millennials generally, and all that you have to do is try and remember the refrain your parents had of you.
- Too distracted to focus on one thing
- Has no focus on one thing more than a few minutes/hours/days – too fickle
- Too irresponsible
- Deteriorating work ethics/no loyalty/no patience/no respect
- Too self-centered/thinks only of oneself/no social qualms
I am sure you get the drift. I think what is happening is that with the solitary exception of hand-held devices, there is hardly anything that separates them from the previous generation. Even on that count, people said the same things when the youngsters discovered LP records/magnetic tape records/CDs/television. You can repeat my previous 5 points as a description of the youth that grew up in 70s/80s and the 90s.
Millennials are just another generation who have newer toys and newer ways of enjoying life —they will come of age just like the generations before who came of age after the necessary phases of experimentation, realization, and awakening. They will continue with some and find some new peculiarities. So the next time you hear someone opine too strongly on millennials and paints a picture of impending doom – don’t bother beyond a certain level. The world has survived the advent of new generations for thousands of years and there is no reason to believe it won’t survive the millennials. In any case, they are better than us in many crucial ways however, that is a subject of some other day.
To believe that ‘this time it is so different that it will cause the end of the world as we know it’ is a classic case of over dramatization
Artificial Intelligence and Digitization: First thing first – I think it’s a case of rebound echoes. Most parrot this phenomenon because everyone else is parroting it. Almost everyone begins his/her speech with the preamble – “In this day and age of artificial intelligence and digitization....’’ to fill in anything and everything that needs to be filled. A few years ago the same preface was ‘’In this day and age of VUCA...’’ Around two decades ago this was ‘’In this day and age of globalization and liberalization...’’
Every decade has a theme. There are certainly factors which are more dominant, more visible and more frequently at play than others and it is important to take note of them. However, to believe that ‘this time it is so different that it will cause the end of the world as we know it’’ is a classical case of over-dramatization.
There is no doubt that artificial intelligence and digitization will certainly change many things around us. It will change many processes, make many jobs redundant, change the nature of relationships between man/woman and the machine, make lives simpler and richer in many ways and yet cause disharmony in many ways. TV did that. Computers did that. I think fire did that and so did the wheel. Automobiles did that. Every new technology does that. The only thing that is different is the manner in which it impacts and changes things on the ground. Humankind has survived all of them – and I have no reasons to believe that humankind will not survive artificial intelligence and digitization.
Every time a new technology made human efforts simpler and made some jobs redundant, human enterprise and ingenuity found new channels of expression.
They found newer areas to become experts in. They found that they could spend the time so released can be used to solve newer problems – either hitherto unattended or new problems that might have surfaced.
So the next time in a conference some serious looking old bloke tries to scare you of your redundancy with the advent of the artificial intelligence and digitization, you can be sure of one thing – most likely he/she certainly has lost the plot and is shouting for help. There is enough unsolved, unresolved, and unattended for the rest of us crying for our attention.