In the light the events over the last few months, I can’t argue with the sentiment expressed by Hal David’s lyrics in Burt Bacharach’s seminal song of the title (here is a link to Jackie DeShannon’s original 1965 rendition as a reminder) and I make no apology for the fact that many of you will now have the song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
But in my opinion, what we need in addition is more “thinkers-before-doers”.
I am certainly guilty of evangelising an innovation agenda during my innovation stimulation workshops but my growing concern is that we have become obsessed with getting things done without fully thinking through the consequences. The “jfdi” attitude that drives projects, fuelled by the mantra of “iterate, iterate, iterate” employing agile methodologies that encourage us to deliver faster and faster to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the consumer – without allocating sufficient time to think through the consequences of our services, products and actions and the impact that they will have on society, industry and us as individuals.
In ancient times, philosophy was a respected profession. I have no idea how philosophers made their money but I’m pretty sure they weren’t under pressure to meet any KPI’s or sales targets ……… I’m also pretty sure that before coming to the realisation that more organisations today should hire more philosophers, if either of my daughters had told me they were going to study philosophy at university, my immediate response would have been “good luck paying the mortgage with that one”!!
When last were you given the objective to “apply some deep thinking” as opposed to “deliver on this project” or “exceed this KPI”?
My train of thought was sparked by an unexpectedly philosophical conversation held with a cab driver on the way to the airport, in response to my asking the predictable “so what do you think of Uber” question that I’ve been asking cabbies the world over for a while now. Unlike many of the emotionally charged responses to this question that I’ve had in the past, this particular cabby provided an extremely thoughtful answer, saying that there was more than enough business for everyone and how he thought it was fantastic that there is now an entry point that enables more people to earn a living that kept them off benefits or even off the street in some cases of personal stories that he had about people he knew directly.
His fear for his livelihood and his continued ability to earn a living as a cab driver however, was focussed on autonomous cars – which led to a deep discussion on how Tesla was surreptitiously building a fleet of “car-bots” that could ultimately have the potential to completely disintermediate the taxi industry altogether. Exploring this theme we became embroiled in a discussion on what would still need to happen in order to see this vision become a reality and we quickly skipped over infrastructure and technology barriers, all of which seem entirely addressable.
We both agreed that the biggest barrier was deeply philosophical and revolved around the decision systems that would need to be programmed into autonomous cars that would face an inevitable, unavoidable collision – essentially, is the vehicle programmed to protect you, protect “humanity” or protect itself?
Neither of us had seen the TED talk below at the time of our discussion but even if we had, I’m not sure we would have agreed on the same set of decision outcomes.
I thoroughly recommend taking the 4 minutes to watch the video and then consider – who gets to make these decisions in the future? Who has the right to decide who lives and who dies? How will this impact society, industry and us as individuals?
Feel free to strike up a conversation, but please take some time to think, before you do.