Our era of human & machine collaboration – Digital Leadership Day 2023 talk – Lassi Kurkijärvi

Our era of human & machine collaboration – Digital Leadership Day 2023 talk – Lassi Kurkijärvi

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Hi there! I'm Lassi Kurkijärvi. I work as an Executive CTO at Sofigate, the business technology company. Today I'd like to talk about the era of humans and machines collaborating that we're living in right now This talk was given at the Digital Leadership Day in Finland organized by the Business Technology Forum. This English recording is my attempt to summarize a few key points about the transformation that we're going through and how companies and individuals can prepare for it. Hopefully this raises some thoughts so don't hesitate to reach out to me to discuss! In addition to my work at Sofigate you might know me from Finnish National TV where I'm part of the morning show panel to discuss what's happening in digitalization both in society and regarding us individuals What really inspires me is humans and what we can achieve together! One of my life's best experiences has been to be part of Team Rynkeby, one of the world's largest charity cycling events. I've been a team captain for Helsinki and seen firsthand what people who believe in a common goal can achieve. Try to keep that mindset when you're listening to this

talk about what do we want to achieve when we're looking at new technologies. On a personal level my family drives me on since I think about the future that we want to build for our kids. Obviously wish it to be one that I want them to live in instead of one I fear they might live in. Of course a lot of the thoughts I'm sharing here in addition to my current work at Sofigate come from having had the privilege to work with a lot of leading corporations and charity organizations both employed by them but also as a consultant working on digital transformation and other transformation projects So with this frame in mind let me take you through three different angles related to the era that we're living through now. First, I would like to ask you to use our human superpower of empathy: putting ourselves into the shoes of the people who lived for example in the 1900s. Often we think we are living in

this unique disruptive moment it time but just imagine that decade! Automobiles which you used to be a luxury product started rolling off a factory product line when Ford brought out the T-model Ford. The big societal changes: women were given the right to vote in Finland and of course even our whole concept of reality was challenged by Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity. Imagine that as disruption! In the 1910s it's quite a similar story: the Spanish flu killed tens of millions of people in a global pandemic and of course the first world war where modern weaponry was first used in large-scale combat killed millions of young men on the fields of Verdun and Somme but on the other hand up here in the north a small plot of land that used to belong to Sweden and then Russia suddenly became an independent country: Finland! In the 1920s we decided we have to send all the kids to school – now that's a disruption and of course radio slowly becoming commonplace started bringing the events of the world live to people's living rooms. Electrification sweeping across

the land brought electric power to replace manual power The 1930s came sweeping away the optimism of the 20s. The 1929 Wall Street Crash leading to the Great Depression and that leading to the rise of fascism around the world, when democracies failed to deliver to people what they needed On the other hand the commercialization and spreading use of antibiotics suddenly stopped people from dying of medieval diseases. That's another big disruption! The 1930s leading to an even even more dramatic decade 1940s and the Second World War Now through those sad events the world ended up in a cold war but technologically there was also the splitting of the atom where suddenly harnessing that immense energy source there was the possibility to use nuclear weapons for the first time and hopefully the last time in human conflict but of course the promise of free energy also propelled us to the 1950s – a new era of optimism The Helsinki Olympics of 1952 connecting Helsinki to the capitals of Europe via airplane Now the telephone – an old invention – was suddenly being used everywhere. That's truly connecting people when you're not reliant on letters anymore. Television also becoming widely available started really showing people what happened all around the world. Then 1960s! Only 60 years later than the first

human-powered flight we shot off to the Moon with the Saturn V rocket taking taking Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to orbit the Moon and land on it! Of course urbanization suddenly filled cities with cars while socially the next generation refused the values of their parents and the hippie movement was born. Now that's disruption! 1970s – the rise of popular culture! Star Wars and also of course people being able to consume it "Watching Whatever Whenever" as Sony promoted their betamax. The world also faced a big energy crisis with the oil crisis making people realize maybe we don't have a free harmless abundant energy source after all. Now of course we forgot all about it in the crazy 1980s with the yuppie movement. Then Commodore 64 especially in Finland becoming the computer of the republic – people at home suddenly realizing we could have these personal computers. And personally I wouldn't be here without

this invention: widespread adoption of modern cancer medication again saving millions and millions of lives. Then big disruption in the 1990s Finland joins the European Union! Suddenly mobile phones appearing in everyone's pockets thanks to Nokia and of course quite a lot of other globally recognized brands being born: the googles, ebays and amazons – that was already almost 30 years ago! When we try to put things into time perspective the 90s was quite a unique decade! The 2000s: suddenly globalization really starting to change our supply chains, the crash in 2008 again showing us the financial system is definitely not something that's going to last forever. Steve Jobs launching the iPhone and propelling us into another revolution of how we access information, access services and of course do business. It's a bit too early to say about the 2010s but maybe to point out a few things: a quarter of a billion people have bought Minecraft! Now that's a new generation who are familiar with walking around in virtual 3D worlds constructing what they want, imagining what they want! Again the rise of fascism in new forms but also an artificial intelligence beating humans in the game of Go which we thought was for a much longer a time the domain of humans.

And the 2020s with our pandemic with floods in Europe, floods in Pakistan and other climate crises caused events starting to show us that we are running out of time. It already is a fascinating decade but it's by no means unique. So I hope you found this this exercise opening your mind to really seeing that this is not the first time us humans had to adapt. Of course one one thing which may make things seem that everything is happening much faster is that adoption rates once the inventions are being brought available to people are getting much higher faster so in that regard we are we're maybe seeing something unique. This is something we should keep in mind now that artificial intelligence technologies are getting more and more commonplace. But I think it's reasonable to still

stop and think about what Roy Amara said: "that we overestimate change in the short term but underestimate it over time". In the long term that's what causes the fact that that not many listed stock companies these days make it past their teens or their 20s or at least even to the healthy human young age of their 30s. Things are not going to change over a few years but in a decade a lot will change. I think we should always take a look at the impact of technology not just from the sense of what um what it does in itself but if we think of business what kind of automation and efficiency will follow from there. Computers were a job title in the 1950s but you don't see many human ones left. Also think on the social impact: how do we guarantee

digital equity that those inventions spread far and wide and make everyone's lives better? And of course think about the social impact once technology changes business. How do we keep re-skilling people because humans belong of course in the center of all this? Now to continue on this human story I think it's important to realize that those successful publicly traded companies, those enterprises that have already disappeared in the last 120 years, they did not fail because they didn't see those new technologies coming, but they failed because they had outdated ways of leadership and they were unable to transform – unable to adopt those new technologies and I think part of it is that we've still tried to train people to think about an illusion of control. I would like you to remember one of my favorite authors and professors: Ellen Langer from the Harvard University who says that "certainty is a cruel mindset: it hardens the mind against possibility" – this was from her book Illusion of control in 1975. So, about possibility. Now let's take a look at what's happening with AI Technologies right now. I'm just gonna very quickly skim through

some examples and then we can consider the uncertainty and the possibilities. With Synthesia it creates videos from plain text in minutes using AI actors to actually get extremely efficient and high quality video production Or maybe Pragma? Supporting sales teams, replacing your intranet getting fast replies for your customers when they are curious what your products offer instead of them having having to struggle and ask for help on Teams or Slack helping to really perfect your client message If you look at the availability of free AI generative stock photos that's already replacing a lot of the bad quality free stock images we see used in presentations. Now the opportunity for example created by AI generated imagery you can either consider a tragedy for illustrators or an opportunity as we've already seen great examples of people starting to use those tools to create even more impactful and better photos. Poised? I use this to train for my talks and it is an AI powered communication coach. Now if you're a communication coach who tries to help people use less and less mannerisms in talks you might either see this either as a big threat or you might actually implement this into your workflows and start working with even more customers. Murf.AI creates voiceovers in just minutes

Sembly takes meeting notes and generates insights based on your team's discussions and really again brings extra productivity to any team who doesn't have an assistant right now and maybe some assistants can find new ways to work even smarter. Maker AI helps draft blog posts, Flair is an AI design tool for branded content, or here Interior.AI an interior design app which allows you to take a photo of your room and then it generates design ideas based based on that PatentPal since a lot of patent applications are actually quite similar why not use a generative AI for intellectual property applications? Or maybe if you're a coder GitHub already has their Copilot which uses the OpenAI to suggest code and entire functions and based on some comments from my friends it's actually quite close to working together with a junior developer Interesting isn't it! Now I'd like to go back to Marshall McLuhan you know he predicted Facebook and Google and so on... but he passed away in 1980! A great thinker and one thing he said is that throughout humanity's history we've always shaped our tools but thereafter our tools have shaped us Now if you think all the way through history our lives are very different due to the technologies and then the social impact and the business impact those technologies have had – so again this is what will happen over time But right now I think it's it's something that I've heard a lot of people ask me I spoke to the leadership team of a creative company just a while ago and they were worried will machines replace their people – but for me it's not that simple as I think the answer is not either or but the future is about humans and machines working together. Now why do I believe in this? Let me tell a personal story: I used to play chess in the 1990s as a teenager near Tampere and I stopped when Deep Blue the IBM artificial intelligence beat the first human Grand Master in the world to lose to a computer, Garry Kasparov and yeah for a 15 year old that was a bit too much to take but luckily Garry Kasparov did not stop playing! He invented something we call Advanced Chess which is humans and machines playing together against other humans or against AIs – crucially humans and computers working together are still much better than just machines playing alone or humans playing alone so there is something there. We are now seeing new research emerging that creative

people who use AI are are similarly doing things better and now I already mentioned Lee Sedol losing in go against Google's Deep Mind but what's interesting there is that the players who then have started playing against the highly advanced go AIs are actually developing new strategies they are thinking of the game in new ways that previously wasn't even thought possible so this is something interesting that I predict will happen elsewhere too once we start adopting more and more AI tools into our ways of working. Humans and machines working together will also make us humans better and we are seeing this happen in business. Lemonade the insurance company is optimizing claim handling not by having machines handle the claims alone or just putting them to people in a more efficient way but really creating a partnership between humans and AIs. And example from the Swedish employment agency where they're working together with Sofigate and we're using Service Now the low code platform to automate claim handling. Something can go automatically, something gets flagged for humans but crucially the lawyers can also themselves constantly improve and create new kinds of rule sets. So they're humans and machines really helping helping humans not just work faster but put their focus on something humans are good. We're seeing the same thing for example

in pathology where we're trying to diagnose serious disease from samples taken from people and you know an experienced pathologist might be about three times faster than a junior, but then again an image recognition AI is about nine times faster than a junior. But if you combine the AI and the senior you're getting over 30 times improvement since the AI can guide the human to look at certain areas or the human can then flag something for the AI and suddenly a completely new way of working emerges. This is also put in practice for example in one of the largest orthopedic hospitals in Europe where the Oravizio solution is being used for shared decision making between doctors and AIs but especially shaving a crucial time from those patient interactions: from not having the doctor sit tapping away on the computer but having a real discussion with the patient about how to improve outcomes and how to have better results from surgery. Of course Level AI also showing this kind of technology in using call centers Now this has all been studied quite a lot already by for example Harvard Business Review. In their 2018 article on collaborative intelligence there's a

great list of five principles: if you reimagine your business processes Embrace employee and leader involvement, actively direct AI strategy Responsibly collect data and redesign work to incorporate Ai and then cultivate related employee skills you are well on your way to realizing those performance improvements that we're all yearning for. So I highly recommend that article from HBR and if you are thinking what your organization should do I really think you should focus on your own transformation instead of putting too much thought on technology and thinking of how you'd construct something like your own AI. We already see the globally leading platforms investing billions and billions in R&D so why not use for example ServiceNow's Nnow Intelligence tools that are that are there for you to optimize your workflows using AI technology and bring your humans to work better with computers. Salesforce can be used for optimizing your customer interactions with the Einstein intelligence and even SAP bringing new kinds of optimization solutions that really help you realize business value. So as long as you focus on how your organization and how the people in your organization can take advantage of these new Innovations brings success. So finally I think the crucial stop now is to think: Now that everything is possible what should we do? What should we try to achieve with these new technologies since we've now seen that there's a lot of new tools that are coming out in quite a fast speed for us to use? So what should we do with those tools keeping in mind that even though right now we overestimate the change, we underestimate it in this coming decade? Now one risk is how hard will the robots make us humans work! We're already seeing this in the U.S – this article was

published three years ago just before the pandemic when we started realizing that people's satisfaction with work is going down and I think if we look at the trends like quiet quitting falling employee satisfaction this really is an area we should tackle How do we make work more inspiring instead of work more grueling for people? We should always assess the impact of our actions because success happens on multiple multiple levels. In your company or in your organization think about did you learn something – did you create an experience as a team that's good and motivating? But for your customers are you able to change their behavior and also will your customer reach better results or other goals thanks to your transformation? Then finally the level of society does something change in the world through the things you are doing and will people be living better lives as a result Now this is the only picture in this presentation that I ask in an AI for – the Midjourney app to draw for me I asked it to draw computers helping humans or hindering humans from being better humans Now this is Midjourney's interpretation – it took them took them about 15 seconds to draw so quite interesting technology. But herein lies the big question: technology itself is neutral. But here we have an unmanned drone which can be used to defend your country against aggressors fly or maybe over a disaster area and find lives to be saved. Or as we know now currently they are used in the cruel attacks in the Russian war against Ukraine trying to destroy a country's energy infrastructure. Now that's good and evil uses for technology. Now this is a bit of science fiction but I already had my genome sequenced over 10 years ago and an insurance company could easily pick up a sample and maybe figure out whether or not give me life insurance. Or maybe for the next global

pandemic we could be able to inoculate people and make sure that they don't die of medieval diseases. Then – the same technology that enabled us to explode those nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved my life when I had cancer. Now that's cognitive dissonance for sure! But again it shows technology can be used for good and evil and we are in this situation where we are an ageing population all over the Western World. How do we realize the productivity gains so that we are also able to lead good lives and and really make sure that our children are having similar opportunities as we've had? Of course with the climate crisis we realize that we need to change and we need to change now – and I believe that new technologies do give us that opportunity. There's three human superpowers so we already practiced empathy so let me start with two others Adaptability – looking back at those 120 years what us humans have done is that we've adapted. You remember Marshall McLuhan saying that

we shape our tools they shape us – that's our ability to adapt – we're probably the most adaptive species on Planet Earth! Which probably shows why there's more than seven billion of us. Now learning – I think it is crucial I don't think there's anyone right now who can say "I don't need to learn with these new technologies arriving". We should learn and understand how we should transform our organizations to take advantage of them and really create those gains that we're hoping for. And finally empathize with our fellow human beings. Suddenly a lot of people have come to me saying they are scared or they're worried that these new AI technologies will replace them, kind of similar fears that we've heard people speak about in automatization before. And we should take this seriously! We should consider how we re-skill people, how we use these technologies to make work better for people not worse and I think this empathy enables us to use technology to create a better world Thank you for listening – don't hesitate to reach out I'm very happy to discuss more with you and your organization. How we can help you take advantage of these

technologies and what kind of transformation do you need to drive to make sure that you are able to benefit. Thank you so much for listening – have a great day!

2023-02-05 17:34

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