Reengineering Humanity: A wake-up call to question the world we’re building for our children and for future generations

An interview with Brett Frischmann, Author

By Ton Dobbe — Chief Inspiration Officer, Value Inspiration

Every week I interview entrepreneurs and experts from around the world to share their big idea about new forms of value creation and the potential we can unlock when technology augments the unique strengths of people to deliver remarkable impact.

Making humans better, not dumber

I got inspired by the big idea behind the book Reengineering Humanity; hence I invited the author, Brett Frischmann to my podcast. We explore the evolving impact of product innovation and technology and the influence this has on us in our day to day professional life. We discuss examples of how we engineer ourselves, and how we are engineered by others. In particular, the latter can become a risk to all of us. Therefore, we should ensure that the focus shifts to making humans better and more valuable, rather than using smart technology to actually make the user dumber.

The thing that triggered me most from my interview with Brett 
 “Ask yourself with every technology that’s supposedly smart: Who’s smarter? How are they smarter? Does the added intelligence actually deliver direct benefits? To whom? Who benefits by the additional intelligence?”

Why did this trigger me? What’s the bigger value here?

It’s the clear point about being honest and clear about what we aim to achieve with technology. The power of the technology we have in our hands today is beyond imagination — but it all comes down to utilizing it in the right and responsible way. That’s a responsibility we carry together.

Brett’s book is making a clear statement for this. As he quotes: “We’re increasingly building a world that engineers us to be more machine‑like, and potentially, put our humanity at risk. We’re building the world for our children, for future generations. Sometimes, we don’t stop to think about whether we’re happy about the world we’re building and why we’re building it a certain way as opposed to another way.”

I know I am preaching to the converted, but let’s keep front and centre that the biggest value is created when we use technology to make people better — i.e. solutions where the outcome becomes exponentially larger than the sum of its components: combining the unique strength of people with the unique strengths of technology.

We all know AI and Machine Learning are overhyped, and that’s hurting the business of those that get it right. AI seems to be part of every discussion, every blog, every news item these days — often with fake examples or the examples that create fear. So, let’s keep educating the market what remarkable looks like. Let’s set new benchmarks of what can be when technology and people blend in the right way.

What’s the more significant question/opportunity that raises?

It’s the question “What can we do (together) to grow the demand for true Intelligence Augmentation?”

One of the challenges I keep hearing in my interviews is the challenge of changing perception of potential buyers. How can we create demand for something they don’t know is possible, let alone available?

Is it by growing a larger community of pioneers that go beyond the ‘simpler’ ‘low hanging fruit’ automation examples? We’re just touching the tip of the iceberg with regards to what’s possible. More showcases will not only help grow awareness but also inspire new waves of ideas — which is good for all of us.

Should we start thinking about quality labels to separate the fake from the real? Adding the label ‘smart’ or ‘intelligent’ to a product is simple and cheap — and it’s often sending the wrong message. That’s where the industry gets a bad name. Do we need an industry standard for how solutions proof they are about making humans better, rather than dumber)?

Listen to the big idea behind Reengineering Humanity, and why it has the potential to transform the impact we can make by being more thoughtful about product innovation.