When You Are in Denial, Fear Technology

But if you take control, the new world we are creating has never been better

Erik P.M. Vermeulen
Jun 16 · 4 min read
Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash

Search. Read. Listen. Learn. We are all looking for ways to remain relevant in the future. Constantly. We know we must do something. But it isn’t always clear what that should be.

Information isn’t an issue. The number of conferences, seminars, workshops on the topic abound.

Digital is the magic word. Transformation is the solution. But how?

The “why” is obvious.

Technology is everywhere. We are surrounded by it. Smartphone. Smartwatch. Sensors. There is no escape. We are more and more digitally dependent.

And even if we don’t notice it, technology is interacting with us, observing us, learning from us. Computers are getting smarter and outperform us in more and more areas.

Technology is helping us solve “problems” created by previous Industrial Revolutions. Pollution. Poverty. Technology will lead to more inclusion.

And in an aging society, technology also plays a significant role. It will help us live longer and better at home.

Technology is liberating. It frees us from the dull and standardized work and processes that we have created in our modern societies.

The technological revolution has its problems. Privacy. Loss of future jobs. Disruption. Inequality. Bias.

What should you do to deal with the digital transformation? I had an interesting discussion at a tech and innovation event in Sydney last week.

The conclusion was that we can only enjoy the benefits of emerging technologies if we take control of technological developments. By controlling technology, we control our destiny.

During the discussion, three things came up that we need to do if we want to control the current technological revolution.

First, we are prisoners of specialization. Specialization isn’t a bad thing. But unfortunately, it often leads to “silo-thinking.” And silo-thinking is devastating in a world that is characterized by the explosive growth of technology.

Diversity is the key to deal with digital transformation. Different views need to be incorporated into the development of technology. Speed. Convenience, Safety. Security. Protection.

Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary thinking has never been more critical.

Oh yes, I am sure you have heard the term “multidisciplinary” and “interdisciplinary” before. But often those words are just vague and meaningless terms.

They only make sense if we understand how to collaborate. And this is easier said than done. I work at a university, and multidisciplinary research comes at a premium. Multidisciplinary research attracts more funding. It creates status.

But too many times, multidisciplinary research is forced. It’s formalized. It doesn’t come naturally. It doesn’t lead to the much-needed informal discussions. Also, it’s often limited to two disciplines that are already indistinguishable. But the digital transformation needs many more disciplines working together. Discussing. Experimenting. Co-creating.

We must learn how to collaborate. We have to learn to be open-minded. To speak each other’s language. Genuine interdisciplinary research should be encouraged and promoted.

Digital transformation means the end of generations. Age isn’t important. Every perspective counts. Formal hierarchies and seniority don’t matter. It’s about sharing experiences. Sharing ideas. Sharing views.

Only “best-idea-wins-cultures” will remain relevant. Of course, we have to respect each other’s views. But seniority will not necessarily lead to better ideas.

Stop Silo-Thinking. Embrace Collaboration. End Hierarchical Organizations. It all sounds so simple. But history shows that it isn’t simple at all. These ideas are not new or original. You must have heard them before as well. And yet still, we struggle with the digital transformation.

So, the main lesson I learned last week in Australia?

You have to disrupt yourself.

This sounds worse than it is. By disrupting yourself, I mean that you have to be willing to think out of the box about yourself. You don’t have to forget everything you have learned so far. But you have to be ready to go beyond what you have learned. You have to dare to cross borders. Try to understand other perspectives (even if they seem strange to you).

But, more than that, it is important to teach others. Share your knowledge with other people who aren’t your direct colleagues or peers.

Again, this is much easier said than done. We tend to be drawn to people who think like us. We are hard wired for confirmation bias.

So, why would you want to do this? You will probably not be rewarded for it. Our society doesn’t reward out-of-the-box thinking. Still, this shouldn’t stop you.

It was great to meet people in Australia who don’t give up. People who try to break down the silos. They are the ones that ensure that we (human beings) remain in control of our destiny and that we use emerging technology in a way to create a better world.

And, by the way, this reminds me of the famous Apple commercial of 1997. “We need more people who see things differently.”

We need more people like this than ever before.

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Erik P.M. Vermeulen

Written by

Fascinated about how new technologies are turning the world upside down. Sharing what I learn as a writer, teacher, and traveler.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +541K people. Follow to join our community.

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