The exponential growth of technology is accelerating at such a pace that it is in danger of overwhelming humanity in a tsunami of data, futurist Tariq Qureishy told delegates to the Ideas Arabia conference.
“The power of data, the power of artificial intelligence is so strong that actually it’s more powerful than nuclear weapons,” Qureishy, founder and CEO of Dubai-based MAD Talks, said.
“That is a very sobering thought. We have total control of nuclear weapons, and no control on data, effectively. That’s the shift that we’re going through.”
Qureishy proposed his solutions to life in a rapidly changing world in a lively talk entitled Technology versus Humanity: 7 Secrets of Thriving in the Future.
But first he explained why technology is such a threat, suggesting among other things that three-quarters of current S&P 500 companies will have disappeared by 2025 — and that half the companies that will replace them don’t exist yet.
His litany of failed business models cited the usual suspects — Kodak, Nokia, Blockbuster and others — but he noted that Kodak, still worth $40b in 2012, was then surpassed by Instagram.
That, he said, was because they thought they were selling cameras and developing pictures. Echoing an old Kodak advertising campaign, he said, “Kodak was in the business of memories and moments. They forgot that.”
But, he warned, the future was no longer an extension of the present, and people could not rely on past experiences to guide them.
The internet commoditised knowledge 25 years ago, he said, adding that 85 per cent of the curriculum he studied at Harvard Business School was now available for free on the net.
“Content and data is completely commoditised. Twenty five years ago it was knowledge. Today it’s expertise.”
In five years, he predicted, specialists such as doctors, lawyers and engineers would find their expertise redundant. “You may have acancer specialist, an oncologist, come to you and he will have either Google Glass or Watson next to him who’ll diagnose everything in a split second ... The doctor’s new job is to become a care-taker, a caregiver. A lawyer’s job is to become a trusted adviser.”
In this landscape, he said, people needed to become less technical and more human. “This is the big game changer,” he said.
Ten years ago, the world’s largest companies were finance and oil firms. Now they were tech firms.
“It’s the end of the financial and energy world and we are now in the tech world,” he said, later adding. “Data has become the new oil.
“Trust is the new currency. Trust has always been important, but more and more and more. Do I trust you? Do I connect with you? That’s going to be the differentiator as we go forward.
“We have to build ourselves as human beings more and more. That’s why I have this thesis of technology versus humanity. Humanity needs to grow; technology is growing anyway. We need to become more human, more trustworthy, greater integrity and so on.”