As our world undergoes increasing digitization, it’s clear that humans bring their own unique and irreplaceable experiences, as highlighted by keynote speakers at Europe’s largest digital transformation event.
Taking center stage at the DTX + UCX event in London’s ExCeL, TV presenter and comedian Dara O’Briain, alongside UCL Professor and author Hannah Fry, engaged in a thought-provoking discussion about the profound impact of AI on both society and businesses. They delved into the crucial factors of emotion, intent, and readiness that must be considered as AI continues to gain prominence in our lives and the corporate landscape.
“The human world is random and chaotic – and the algorithmic world is clean and binary,” Hannah told the crowd.
“[So] smashing these two worlds together makes for some interesting stuff.”
Hannah emphasized that the pace of technological advancement often hinges on how prepared humans are for change.
She stated: “There are amazing ideas that exist, but the world isn’t quite prepared for them. The first electric car was actually made in the 1890s – but people weren’t ready for it!”
She also drew attention to the enduring presence of the software behind ChatGPT, which only gained recognition beyond the tech sphere after the introduction of “simple user interface that suddenly made it available to everybody”.
Dara offered the example of video calling as an instance where humans took time to embrace a new technology. “It was available for years but people found it intrusive, initially,” he explained.
“It took a pandemic to make it popular.”
He agreed that successful technological innovations are often those that feel “sufficiently familiar,” while any “mutation or variations” that are too radical can initially be unsettling.
Together, they concluded that certain experiences, such as comedy, remain inherently human and may never be replicated by AI. They emphasized that real people still retain control over “intention” as we navigate “an exponential curve”.
The role of humanity in a digital world remained a recurring theme on the second day of DTX + UCX 2023.
During a panel discussion on “managing change to make tech work for everyone,” featuring Christopher Harvey from Tesco and Sarah Jane-Osborne from Avison Young, the importance of creating a narrative around new technology was highlighted. Building excitement and buy-in among people was seen as crucial to prevent immediate rejection of tech innovations.
The panel also highlighted the value of “storytelling” in technology—a skill that humans excel at, allowing them to effectively communicate and promote innovations, a task that AI tools cannot perform on their own.
A key aspect of embracing modernity, which combines human and AI approaches, involves cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce. Wincie Wong, Head of Workplace Tech Capability at Digital X at Natwest, who transcended poverty through education, emphasized that knowing who you are and believing in your value takes you a long way.
“I realized that all my differences are not my disadvantages – they were my superpowers,” she told the crowd.
“My real passion is to create pathways for others to do the same, break through all these preconceived ideas and ultimately help a 300-year-old bank meet the needs of a changing world.“
“Part of that is creating a bigger tech workforce and a pipeline of engineers that will not all come from a tech degree. I like to find talent in unusual spaces, people from all backgrounds who are resilient and change-ready who can learn the tech and get a commercial result. “
“This is diversity and inclusivity working at the heart of business strategy.”
Gori Yahaya, CEO of Upskill Digital, highlighted the challenge of advancing to leadership roles in a diverse workforce.
“We developed a programme to give people confidence to progress up through an organization, applying for jobs, being authentic, navigating office politics and being career resilient.”
Amul Batra from Northcoders noted that diversity and inclusion efforts often align with customer demographics. “We regularly provide women returner programmes for companies with a predominantly female customer base: It works.”
Additionally, the show featured the presence of Every Child Online (ECO), a charity dedicated to closing the digital divide by refurbishing laptops, tablets, PCs, and mobile devices and providing them to UK schools. ECO’s participation at DTX + UCX 2023 allowed them to connect with various brands, including a Premier League football club.
In conclusion, DTX + UCX Europe 2023 Content Director Dominie Roberts encapsulated the insightful discussions and valuable insights that emerged from the event and said “I’m so proud of some of the conversations that took place as part of this year’s show and hope they’ve gone some way to inspiring IT teams and leaders on how to maximize humans in our increasingly digital world.“
“We are at a pivotal point in tech right now and I hope that our superb lineup of speakers and panellists addressing these issues head-on with insight and expertise will prove extremely valuable to our engaged audience at DTX + UCX yet again.”
“We look forward to welcoming everyone back next year.”