We interviewed Patrick Couch of IBM, an expert on AI & Cognitive Technologies, and a featured speaker at Digital Workplace Summit 2020. Take a peek of what is to come at #DWSUM2020.
S&F: Thank you for joining us Patrick, it is so great to have you here! Let’s jump right into it. How will the workplace and marketplace continue to converge and merge in the upcoming decade?
PC: We are all defining ourselves as brands on social media platforms, and this demonstrates our value as employees more and more. We are hired based on the image we present of ourselves on these various platforms. The endpoint of this trend is the self-employed influencer who is a company, a brand and a segment-of-one in a fully digital work- and marketplace no longer tied to spatio-temporal coordinates. Everything in one. Whether or not we think of it, we are all digital influencers or at very least we influence ourselves.
S&F: Do you think digitalisation will continue to re-create the world in the image of a global village?
PC: This seems self-evident and the Covid-19 virus serves as a digital butterfly that shows that we are all, to use another Marshall McLuhan concept, on the same Spaceship Earth. We are seeing that more and more people are acting with the understanding that we are all in this together. We are all in the same boat.
S&F: So from your professional experience, what societal changes do you see regarding trust in government and business?
PC: Well once people have access to the digital global village, loyalty will continue to shift from nations and corporations towards those individuals who they feel embody their own values. Greta, Bernie and Trump are all great examples of this transference of loyalty.
S&F In your opinion, will circularity continue to supersede linearity as the informing model for sustainability?
PC: Unless linearity cuts its ties to materialism, it will end up in a cul-de-sac of its own making. Not even the cheerful factfulness of Hans Rosling could do away with the cost of progress or acceleration. Of course, this impacts the work and marketplace dynamics. If you want to be both sustainable and linear, you have to go digital.
SF: Transparency is on everyone’s mind these days, will it continue to build momentum as the overarching strategy for growth?
PC: One of the reasons AI has not yet displaced jobs as predicted, is because it hasn’t scaled. And the reason it hasn’t yet scaled is that it’s not yet trusted to run things for us. Automation requires predictability and when we can’t predict the outcome of our algorithms, it’s because we don’t understand them and we can’t understand them because they are not transparent to us. Just think of Amazon’s hiring AI or Apple’s Apple Card debacles. Establishing trust will require transparency and once you have transparency you get understanding, and once you have understanding, you can get buy-in, launch change programs and achieve scale and THEN you will get growth.
SF: Interesting. Do you see other factors that you think will drive future growth?
PC: Radical self-reliance and personal responsibility will continue to grow in importance as key success factors for individuals embracing the inevitability of a digital workplace. The days of the benevolent father-figure style corporate board are as invalid as the notion of the ‘good despot’ or ‘trickle-down economics’. The corporation’s structural loyalty is to profit. One’s own loyalty should be to one-self. On a digital playing field, friction is zero and thus change can happen instantly. No union-agreement will be honoured if the pressure on the workplace or marketplace is great enough and so self-reliance and personal responsibility is a key success factor for personal sustainability. Think resilience through digital flexibility or sustained relevance through adaptiveness.
SF: Going back to the idea that we are a global village, how do you think we strengthen this bond or sense of community?
PC: Community will continue to dismantle the notion of individualism as the primary model for digital resilience. In a village everybody depends on everybody else. The same is true of the global village. Notions such as corporations, nations, trade-pacts, and blocks are only proxies. Digitalisation makes null the need for proxies. We could have segments-of-one on a global scale and individual direct-democracy if we wanted to. Fully enacted, digitalisation turns the entire planet into a peer-to-peer network where we are all nodes. And EQUAL nodes for that matter. We are all peers. And the notion of peers is what builds the notion of community.