The telephone invented by Graham Bell spread the fear that people would not leave their houses anymore to socialise. The first car brought concern that none would walk anymore. Was someone afraid that social media could capsize the order of western democracies, create addiction and reduce empathy?
And this is already history. The next step seems to be to interact with fake AI made profiles https://medium.com/fast-company/meet-the-fake-people-who-will-soon-crowd-your-timelines-f6324e8bd9ed and with baby influencers like Coco the pink princess. She is a japanese 8 years girl who has mastered the art of Instagram, gaining followers obsessed with her outfits, attitude, and couture lifestyle. She first learned about fashion from her parents who run a vintage clothing store in the trendy Tokyo neighborhood of Harajuku. Now, the eight-year-old has 683,000 followers. She represents the simple negation of what Ralph Waldo Emerson described as “Children…their mind being whole, their eyes as yet to be conquered” and could raise lots of questions whether if a child is a self-reliant organism, unimpacted by social influence and socialisation. Not to mention Freud who assigned a big role to humans for the successful bloom of a civilised human being, not just hereditary reasons.
The point here is another, about the overall life being a critical time for the person to be controlled so as to meet the needs of adult society, not just infancy. The question is about people being able to lead themselves at the time of AI, instead of being submitted to it.
Coco is the newest and cute metaphor of the Plato’s cave made of huge shadows projected by very small human beings, just a new form of the same worrying phenomenon: illusion in its multiple shapes; illusion of knowledge, illusion of friendship and illusion of health. When I teach to generation Y and ask to quantify the time they spent on their phones, they are all aware it is about 5 hours per day, at least, and when I ask about practicing sport is about 10 minutes per month. Are they also aware of the overstimulation by screens will make them miss the sleep they need to grow? That screen time reduces precious opportunities to interact with the others and help them learn? Are they aware that multitasking, “user-friendly” technology, and the culture of convenience are producing disorders that range from depression to attention deficit disorder to borderline personality disorder. The techno stress creates a negative relationship with self-esteem, further weakened by Plato’s cave giant shadows: 8 years old fashion experts and fake profiles of successful not-existing people created by AI.
Leadership at the time of AI is about using technology to support humans instead of converting them in machines. Leader now needs to be as mature as before, and also technologically wise. Still grounded and empathetic, and also knowing how to talk with machine learning experts and which data will make a difference. As my friend Javier Zamora says, a company is not AI driven just by using an algorithm, but by what data is processing and why. Leadership at the time of AI is still about what decisions to take and why, grounded on solid insights instead of giant shadows, distinguishing complex from simple, cuteness from beauty, knowledge from functional analphabetism.
New concept like digital minimalism, mobile phone galateo and internet free retreats are confirming what we already learned with TV abuse years ago: it is about people, real people by real relationship. Deep learning is great by clustering data lakes in a short time, natural language processing is fantastic in supporting calling centers in replying simple and repetitive customers questions.
But surprisingly Leadership timing in the AI era is still very slow, because it still takes years to learn how to write, so it does to learn how to lead, as in Plato’s times.