It is commonly thought that the more machines become part of our daily lives, the more humans will be excluded from the world of work but actually, the more complex digital processes are, the greater the human involvement.
Technological progress has always been viewed with a certain diffidence. While it has literally revolutionised the world in which we live, work and interact with those around us in just a handful of years, opening up horizons in every sector that would have seemed science fiction just a few decades ago, there is also widespread concern that an increasing use of digital technologies may exclude humans from production processes, somehow making life within companies increasingly “artificial”, including for the creation of new products and services. A fear that perhaps arises from the possibility of automation of an increasing number of ever more complex processes, giving the impression that man is now “surplus”, something that can soon be done without. Yet, it will be the Digital Transformation that will put humans back at the centre.
Transforming data into knowledge
We live in the data era. The ability to read macro and micro data in increasingly diversified and complex ways makes it possible for the designers of products or services to take decisions grounded on very solid bases, while concurrently dove-tailing experiences to each individual user. After decades of mass production focused on the identification of special wide-ranging social targets, we are steadily moving towards the creation of a product or service designed for the individual, that can adapt and also learn: when we talk about Artificial Intelligence or the Internet of Things, we should not be thinking of humanoid robots like the beloved C-3PO of the Star Wars saga, fascinating as it may be. AI and IoT are already an integral part of our daily lives with products that can talk, communicate among themselves thanks to their connection to the internet and programmes able to learn, to self-implement their interactive and predictive capacities thanks to their deployment by the user.
Artificial intelligence and the internet of things are already here: we use them every day with devices that can communicate among themselves, learn, and evolve through use.
We use them every day, even when we are not aware of this, by using those technological devices we all have. An example is a smart phone that independently optimises night time charging based on our regular sleep patterns. Another example is a music reproduction software that can propose increasingly tailored choices of songs and artists that we may not have known of but perfectly meet our tastes. These are C-3POs that are already part of our daily lives.
Innovation requires diversity
If technological innovation is able to transform an immense mass of data into concise and timely information, up to the point of exactly meeting the requirements of individuals, this is thanks to two fundamental characteristics of the data: quality and completeness. Meaningless or incomplete data with visible gaps or that are biased can only produce false results or lead to decisions based on incorrect assumptions.
If the underlying tenet of artificial intelligence is the transformation of data into knowledge, the completeness of the data is a necessary condition for the reality thus created to reflect society as a whole and be truly inclusive.
If the principle is transparent, the way in which these gaps are generated is less evident: for example if, as we have seen, the Gender Digital Divide affects the opportunity for, and capacity of the female public to access technologies, a direct result is that data will be collected mainly relating to a male audience. What does this mean? That even the solutions – whether they are devised by a human being or inferred by an artificial intelligence – will tend to reproduce the same gap, in a vicious circle that will increasingly tend to confirm its initial bias and therefore to widen the distances.
That of the Gender Digital Divide is perhaps the most evident – and the most studied, even if only in recent times – of the biases that may lie at the basis of the development of AI, but the same principle is applicable in different ways to different segments of the global population.
This is why technology needs diversity: only real, deep and complete inclusion can provide the data necessary for technological development that is in turn inclusive and without fundamental bias.
Humans at the centre of Digital Transformation
Digitalisation, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence: it appears that technology is the star in our lives and that this trend is set to continue. Does this imply that humans will become co-stars? The answer is no, as actually, in order to guide a technology with an increasingly human face, what characterises the human being will increasingly be needed. The ability to look to the future, to adapt strategies, to develop new skills, to imagine a new future will make the difference between winning companies able to resist on the market and those that will disappear.
Start-ups entering the market, alongside more established companies that intend to play a leading role in the world being built will have to promote technology but without forgetting the human aspect.
What are the trends that will steer the companies of tomorrow or maybe already today? How can we build an technological world that is inclusive and truly representative of our contemporary world? What distinguishing traits should a start-up have? What are the key elements of the fourth industrial revolution that we are now living through?
Darya Majidi, CEO of Daxo Group and Daxolab and president of the Donne 4.0 Association and author of several books talks about these and other issues, including those presented in this article. Her contribution, together with that of other top experts in the business, impact and business plan sectors, is available in the digital hub GoBeyond Academy.
This is a completely free training course developed with Feltrinelli Education designed to grow business skills and encourage the development of successful sustainable ideas with a social vocation.