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On Passion and Robots

My overall ambition is to help people and organizations to reach their full potential. I believe that technology is an important aspect for that and I am passionate about security and privacy and how they play a crucial role in determining if and how we can take advantage of the seemingly endless potential of technology. But I also ask myself what the consequences of this technology is. It is visible already today that in the close future we will face a massive change in society. Entire job categories will disappear and robots (mostly software based) will take over many of today’s jobs. Take the transportation industry for example. While Tesla’s “autopilot” clearly still has it’s challenges in a couple of years cars, trucks and buses will be able to drive autonomous. What happens then to all the cab and truck drivers that are on our streets on a daily basis? And that is only the beginning. More and more sophisticated tasks will be done by Artificial Intelligence AI.

What does that mean for people that are studying or thinking about what kind of job should be in their future or where they should develop professionally? Is it physics, chemistry, sport or rather social studies or… How does one choose today a field so that chances are good that robots aren’t replacing you shortly out of university? It is an important subject as not everything that technology will bring will be good for everybody. The answer to this question is not easy as our understanding today is very limited what impact AI robots will have on our lives. But some aspects are in my view clearer than others and might be a start.

The first point where we can differentiate us from bots are morals, values and ethics. Our personalities can make a difference and I see that as a clear advantage over machines or for that matter towards other people as we will not just be competing against bots but against a relatively larger workforce for fewer jobs. While we can program behavior rules I don’t believe (or maybe hope) that we will achieve developing a moral artificial intelligence.

Second, what differentiates us are emotions. To be able and willing to show and feel passion and feeling for other people. Think about it as mentally or physically giving somebody a hug. Not everything happens at an intellectual level and looking ahead I believe that compassion will become again more important. Especially as in many places it seemed to have gotten lost.

The third element is creativity. Bots already today write short stories but creativity is something that I believe (or again maybe hope) is beyond programming. Be able to tell a story will be something that stays human still for a long time.

The fourth aspect is to solve new and hard challenges. I don’t believe that robots will be able to solve the really hard questions in the foreseeable future. To systematically and more important intuitively draw conclusions, to listen to a feeling/intuition and follow it up to find the solution to a hard problem. To have a dream and suddenly things fall into place in a way that one has not foreseen. To run through a massive amount of permutations is what computers do best but to see connections that are not clearly visible and be courageous to try out and find new paths is where humans shine.

And the final thought but maybe the most important is passion in what you do and to challenge, enable and inspire others. If you truly want to make a difference then finding out what you do with a passion is the best way to show that you are making a difference. There are the people that are lucky to already know from very early on where their passion is and what they want to do and then there are the majority where it takes longer to find out. Too many though give up in that process and focus on doing what gets them through the day. But will that be enough in the future? I fear not. And with inspiring and enabling others brings the possibility to act as a multiplier for all aspects above and with that truly solve the important problems together.

So if you make a choice in what to do and in what direction to evolve wherever you are in your career stage – take into account the rapidly changing technology and that robots are advancing. Focus on the things that are hard and that not everybody can do, be passionate about it and don’t forget about empathy and caring about people. Then I am convinced that you are successful also in a world where robots are everywhere.

Welcome to Reto Haeni's security cloud

A cloud can be many things. A white patch in a sunny blue sky, the source of a powerful thunderstorm or almost unlimited computing power. My cloud is a place where I am discussing security, technology, productivity, IT-business alignment and corporate citizenship with a few lightning bolts once a while. I welcome all comments and feedback and if you have a question please use the contact form below.

About the Author

Reto is partner at PwC focusing on Cybersecurity and has over 15 years work experience in an information security and risk focused IT environment. Prior to working at PwC he was Microsoft's Chief Security Officer for Western Europe and also has work experience as group CIO, Chief Risk Officer, Technical Director and Program Manager.

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