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SingularityU Summit Greece 2018 | Messages, lessons & conclusions

28 Nov 2018

WRITTEN BY Mylonopoulos Nikos
Associate Professor of Digital Business

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The Singularity University Summit in Athens on 19 and 20 November 2018 was a monumentally impactful event. There were so many compelling insights that each attendee has chosen to keep different messages, lessons, and conclusions.

Here is my own summary.

The process of digitization dematerializes everything: every sector of the economy, every human activity. Atoms become data and algorithms. When that happens, the marginal cost of production and distribution falls to zero, therefore all prices tend to fall, very often all the way down to zero. This means that more and more people have access to tools and services that were unbelievably expensive and out of reach for more people only a few years earlier. Currently, half the world's population has nearly full access to the world's information and knowledge online, and the opportunity to participate almost equally to the creation of new knowledge and ideas. 

 

This collaborative innovation process fuels an exponential acceleration in technological change. Exponential change is unfamiliar to human nature. It means that whatever expectations we have about the future, they will likely happen twice as fast (in half the time) or even sooner. In other words, if the last couple of decades were full of technological surprises, the magical technologies coming up in the next five to fifteen years will be increasingly greater surprises and will arrive much more frequently.

 

Because we exploit our exponential breakthroughs in computing in order to improve research and development in every scientific field, exponential change accelerates all industries, from transportation, to medicine, to space exploration.

 

The awe-inspiring technological miracles that we shall experience in the next few years will change humanity and the course of history in unfathomable ways. No industry and no institution is immune. Technological change sweeps everything in its wake: The economy changes, including the rules of competition, consumer behavior, business models and business strategies. Organizations that fail to adapt fast enough simply go bankrupt. Disruption is the process by which a new technology with an innovative business model, coming from an unrelated industry renders the incumbent leader irrelevant.  The examples are too many, from Kodak to Nokia, to Sears Roebuck.

 

Society and labor markets also change radically, with new forms of inequality, technological unemployment, and the substitution of highly educated and highly skilled professions by Artificial Intelligence and other technologies. This means that the political institutions and the other institutions of society (e.g. education) are rapidly becoming obsolete, unable to either take advantage of unprecedented opportunities for radically improving human well-being or to mitigate the new challenges. The electoral tremors across the Western world are a symptom of this phenomenon.

 

Change is urgent. The future is already here and we are utterly unprepared. Adaptation is urgent for each individual, for each organization, for all our institutions, and for the society as a whole.

 

There is only one thing holding us back: Fear. Fear of the unknown. When we learn about exponential technologies, we realize that everything that we have been taking for granted, everything that makes us feel relatively comfortable and secure, is a thing of the past. The key ingredient for survival now is to cannibalize what makes us feel comfortable while we can, while we have some time left before the unstoppable course of history pulls the rug beneath our feet. Fear in this context produces irrational, unhelpful and self-defeating behaviors: short-termism, zero-sum contests, enlarged egos, authoritarian control, greater competition instead of collaboration. If only we could reign in on our fear and share more openly, collaborate more equally, show greater respect and compassion, choose and pursue purposes that are greater than our own narrow ego-centric interests. If we could do some of that, we would find the ways to address the new challenges and share in the fruits of the unbelievable abundance that technology has already brought. Exponential change only promises even greater, unlimited abundance, if only we are prepared to face the future with courage and a fearless mind. Fortunately, we have a growing number of positive, if less known, examples; we only have to look for them.

 

Technology came with opportunity as well as peril since time immemorial. This has been the human condition since Daedalus and Icarus, and Prometheus and Pandora. Technology as the human creative potential has always been a divine gift, truly liberating unless our hubris takes us to close to the sun or unless we fall for all those human weaknesses that Epimetheus released from Pandora's jar.

 

It's up to each one of us to take responsibility for the future of humanity in this unprecedented historical turning point, to rise above our fear-driven instincts and to create a better future for our children, our organizations and our societies. 

 


As education partner, ACG, represented by Deree and Alba Graduate Business School, supported the Conference in order to help make it an annual point of reference that will gather the most innovative, pioneering forces globally.

Alba's proffesor, Dr. Nikos Mylonopoulos was  this year's Master of Ceremonies while a group of 24 Deree students participated as volunteer ambassadors and had a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves with the workings of the Conference and interact with professionals and experts from the Greek and international academic, scientific and entrepreneurial worlds. 

ACG’s participation in SingularityU Greece Summit as education partner is aligned with the College’s strategic vision to become an agent of economic rejuvenation and a force of social change through education and knowledge, as it has been since its establishment in 1875.

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