That’s the question Yuval Noah Harari asks the audience at the World Economic Forum 2018. His presentation is sandwiched between Merkel and Macron and his answer is clear: NO. Within a few decades we have mastered the algorithm of life and our lives will be completely different. It’s a convincing story and I like the bigger perspective he’s sketching.
But today I had a great dialogue with Professor Jan van der Greef in preparation of the CEO Circle that we (Global Leaders Academy) are organizing. Upcoming Thursday and Friday we will have our second session (of six). The enquiry of the circle is: ‘How can we synthesise nature, technology and humanity for the well-being of all living species?’ As you can imagine, this leads to wonderful conversations. Jan doesn’t agree with Yuval. The world is not as malleable as the latter states. Science is a wonderful way to explore, discover and inquire into what’s happening. But it doesn’t give answers. We won’t discover the algorithm of life. Nature is way too complex for us. Or for the computers we’re inventing. Did you know that elephants communicate over distances above 20 kilometers? That Humming birds have a heart rate of 1000 beats a minute? That they will die if they don’t eat for two hours? So that they bring themselves in a coma state at night and drop their body temperature over 20 degrees to survive? That we all emit light that can be measured? Do we do that to communicate with each other? So many answers that science can’t answer. Jan will dive into pharmaceutics with us: 10% of the prescribed drugs are helpful to you. 90% are not. But for sure we’re heading towards the sixth mass extinction, he states. So no humans anymore. But do you know, after the past five mass extinctions the bio diversity increased enormously! The nice thing is, he is not pessimistic, he just states what he is noticing. Without judgment.
The second guest of our circle is Pieter Haasnoot. He will show us where technology is heading. Do you know the App Moodies? It measures -independently of the language you’re speaking- how you, or somebody you’re secretly recording, feel. And it’s pretty accurate and challenging. Way beyond: ‘okayish’. One of us was confronted with the following text of the App: ‘Loneliness. Coping with an emotional load. Concerns. Creativity born out of distress.’ Something similar is possible with facial recognition: the software behind the camera knows if you’re lying or not. An insurance company in the States uses it to assess if you speak the truth while claiming. Within six minutes you will be paid if the verdict is you’re a truthful person. But the big thing for him -just like Harari- is the ownership of data. How come that we share everything on the internet and we allow that someone else in a tiny place in California makes fortunes with it? How come that we don’t regulate the ownership of data? Who should own our data? And how can we do that?
No answers yet but challenging thoughts. I’m looking forward to explore this the upcoming days.