“The robot will never have the ability to believe in something. So perhaps we will have at the end of this revolution a basis for a new human renaissance.”
(Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum)
We’ve heard all sorts about the digital revolution, its impact on global development and society. The presenting philosophy was, it seemed to me, buy in and buy large, get your kids coding young, or abstain, dial out and grow organic vegetables. Imagine my surprise then when I came across an interview with Klaus Schwab in Time magazine (25th Jan 2016), in which the economist and an experienced mechanical expert poured out not only his vision for technology but the role of the human soul in that. He said:
If we do not want to be dominated by technology, we have to become a more human society. What leadership style, what capabilities, do we need to master all these new technologies? I believe we need to emphasize the more human aspect in leadership as a counterweight to all of these technological advances. If you think about what a human being is, we exist because of brains, soul, heart. What we can replicate in a robot is the brain. But you never will replicate the heart, which is passion, compassion. And the soul, which enables us to believe. The robot will never have the ability to believe in something. So perhaps we will have at the end of this revolution – possibly, possibly – a basis for a new human renaissance.
Passion? Soul? Who is writing about these things in the Financial Times? Compassion? Heart? Did any of these feature at CES 2016? I hear in Schwab’s comments a call not only for more human leadership among those who breathe tech, but for more engagement in these new technologies and their management by those who speak ‘soul.’
These components of human existence – brains, soul, technological advancement – are not mutually exclusive. They are essential to global development of a kind that brings about the creative progress we instinctively work for with the human leadership we need and yearn for. Call it heart, soul, compassion, love, without it all our endeavours are no more than clanging cymbals or irritating phone chimes; we might as well be robots.