Digital disruption, Artificial Intelligence, robots taking over our jobs – the Internet abounds in pessimistic articles warning us about the negative impact of technology on society. All we hear is that we should be careful and fight against it, or else humanity will come to an end. The importance of having an ethical debate around technology is undeniable. As a tech enthusiast (and slightly tormented human), I often wonder: “am I on the wrong side of the fence? Does technology mean the end of humanity? Can’t technology serve noble purposes?”. Then came Digitalis…
What is Digitalis
Digitalis is a book by Google Belgium CEO, Thierry Geerts, that addresses those questions. Written in the same vein as “Abundance: the future is better than you think” by Diamandis and Kotler, this book exudes tech optimism à la Bill Gates, and chooses to focus on the potential of technology instead of its limitations. It suggests that if we want to continue to improve our society, we should go with the flow of innovation rather than constantly fight against it.
The book covers virtually any societal area – work, education, mobility, healthcare, you name it – and shows which positive outcomes technology can have for each of them.
Why you should read it
It’s much easier nowadays to focus on what could potentially go wrong with technology. I do think that side of the argument is tremendously important though: criticism paves the way for improvement. But while I’m all for healthy pessimism, I’m not sure the “doomsday” approach to the impact of technology on the future of humanity – one that most media thrive on today – is the most constructive. Maybe we shouldn’t be so fatalistic? We should give our species a little more credit and use the potential of technology instead of enduring it. After all, we are the ones who created it.
Digitalis is not only great for those who want to see the bright side of technology. It’s also meant to push Belgian companies to take action and innovate. As Belgians, we tend to underestimate our potential for innovation (or anything else, for that matter). More often than not, we defend our attitude by saying that it’s not in our DNA to put ourselves forward (unlike our neighbours the French and Dutch… ?). Digitalis defeats this assumption: “we may have forgotten it, but we have reinvented ourselves several times in history, and our country has played an important role internationally”. So why stop there? Why can’t we, Belgians, be pioneers of digital innovation?
Isn’t Digitalis just promotion for Google?
I did ask myself that question, and my conclusion is: does it really matter? Of course, the author is probably biased towards technology. But while reading this book, I was under the impression that he was being very cautious about even mentioning Google. The point of Digitalis is to sketch today’s digital landscape and inspire Belgian companies to innovate, with or without Google. So is Digitalis promotion for Google? Maybe, but then it’s carefully hidden amongst otherwise very useful insights (and if that’s the case: props to Thierry Geerts for the great content marketing ?).
Tech optimists: yay or nay?
Our fear of technology probably derives from the fact that we expect it to solve problems that humans themselves have never been able to solve, such as social inequalities and the integration of low-skilled people into the workforce.
So maybe tech optimists are wrong (although there are some facts to disprove that) but again, the question is: does it really matter? If we are all going to suffer death by robots, shouldn’t we in the meantime be naive optimists who innovate, rather than pessimists who give up without trying? I know what my answer would be.
Are you a tech optimist too?
Are you also a tech optimist who wants to innovate? Then come over and share your passion with us. We’ll make sure everybody knows about it!