How New Leadership Succeeds In The Digital Age
I think that being human is largely about those things that we cannot—for the foreseeable future—compute, measure, algorithmically define, simulate, or completely understand. What makes us human, in my view, is not mathematical or even just chemical or biological. It involves those things that are largely unnoticed, unsaid, subconscious, ephemeral, and unobjectifiable. These are the human essences that I like to call androrithms that we absolutely must keep even if they appear to be clumsy, complicated, slow, risky, or inefficient compared to nonbiological systems, computers, and robots.
We should not attempt to mend or upgrade, or otherwise eradicate what makes us human; rather, we should design technology to know and respect these differences—and protect them. Unfortunately, the slow but systematic reduction or even discarding of androrithms has already started all around us. For example, social networks allow us to create our own profiles as we see fit, and revel in our fabricated identities, rather than wrestle with the one we actually have in real life, aka in our meatspace.
The brilliant—if somewhat politically derailed —German philosopher Martin Heidegger stated in his book Sein und Zeit (Being and Time) that “a human being is the only entity which in its existence has this very Being as an issue.” The German word dasein (being there) really describes it best.
Dasein speaks to the core of the difference between (wo)man and machine and is an important theme throughout this book: It is the sentient being that is at the core of our human desires—the mind, the spirit, or the soul, that elusive part of us that we cannot seem to define or even locate, but that nevertheless runs our lives.
This is a key neologism in my Technology vs Humanity book (i.e. it's a word I made up). I like to use the term in order describe what really matters for most of us: human ‘rhythms’ not machine rhythms i.e. algorithms. A super-computer can win in chess or GO but can't talk to a 2-year old. A person that I meet somewhere needs an average of 0.4 seconds to gain some kind of basic understanding about me, even without speaking – yet a computer still does not really understand my values and feelings after it has ingested my entire browsing and social network history of the past 7 years (an estimated 200 Million data points). Just try this IBM personality insight test:)
Androrithms include human-only traits such as empathy, compassion, creativity, story-telling and soon to be relicts (?) such as mystery, serendipity, mistakes and secrets. “Computers are stupid – they only provide answers” (Picasso) Computers are for answers, humans are for questions (Kevin Kelly). As I like to say: for every amazing algorithm we need to strengthen our already existing androrithm. Every technological advancement impacts on how we interact as humans, and in many future cases we will need to safeguard, hedge or kind of ‘national-parkize’ those human idiosyncrasies so that they are not diminished or even eradicated by the tendency of technology to present itself as a solution to everything. (A great example would be how people are increasingly looking towards technology to solve social challenges: political activism on Facebook (press Like rather than making sure the right people get voted), or on increasing security and digital surveillance to ‘solve’ terrorism)