Not everybody thinks that technology will necessarily bring us a better world. But very few among the few who deny it, can give their opinion in a manner as consistent and well-argued as Andrew Keen, essayist of success and an expert analysts of business and digital culture, who I have been able to listen live, confronting their arguments against Kathryn Parsons’, who argue the contrary. Kathryn is coCEO of Decoded, a company whose mission is to provide organizations and people with the capabilities needed to exploit technological advances, unlocking their potential in a disruptive way.
Technology on trial has been the first event of the newly created Aimia Institute, a community of marketing that firmly believes that the future of relations with the client goes through the generation of trust, commitment, and reciprocity-based fidelity. Aimia Institute was founded with the purpose of promoting the ultimate in customer loyalty through research, education, and the publication of the best content.
Looking for the truth within the crypt
The scene was allegedly neutral, but only in appearance. The solemn atmosphere of the crypt under London’s Church of Saint Martin in the Fields, in front of the National Portrait Gallery, gave initial advantage to Andrew. In fact he took it from the beginning of his argument using portraits of Rembrandt and Vermier as evidence that the domain of a technology like painting was in the past result of long and laborious learning that, united to great talent, gave as a result the explosion of genius and public recognition.
On the opposite, Andrew asserts, are the social networks and the ease with which users, without more baggage than his audacity and his opportunity, could have an immediate impact on millions of followers. The impact is most of the times so ephemeral and irrelevant, that it’s not able to change anyone’s life, but is massive.
For him, Andrew, the internet revolution and the social media involves a high risk, or rather, it is causing already division, diminution and disorientation, «killing our culture», in his own words. Million in solitude, multitudes of unknown friends, no significant contacts, ignorance disguised as true knowledge, data exclusively used for commercial purposes by barely-known entities. A threat, a powerful dynamic of change… for the worse. «Wikipedic ignorance», occurs to me summarize by modifying the conventional oxymoron.
May the new digital light illuminate the world
On the other side of the crypt (literally speaking), Kathryn passionatly defended the opposite position. The «digital light» through a better understanding of technologies would be able to empower people and transform businesses around the world. A great opportunity to change… for the best. Unfortunately for Andrew, all attendants agreed, although with the generalized conservative nuance «virtue is a position intermediate between two extremes». Without losing sight of the value of dissident warning that have this type of anti-tech critical positions (invaluable in times of uncritical unanimity), the truth, in my opinion, lies in a place much closer to the technology-friendly position than the contrary.
It is not to embrace technology and unconsciously obey the rules without criticism or analysis. Rather, it is a path full of risks. So, to know dangers and advantages, to have a good understanding of the game, will be essential in the future/present we citizens and consumers live. Loss of consciousness with the potential loss of privacy. The uncontrolled use of data by third parties. Here are two important current risks. Better education in the use and misuse, a better understanding of what’s behind and its possible impact, the ability to use every technological tool available, all that will change the world for good. Kathryn Parsons and Andrew Keen have contributed with their discussion to put lights on both sides of the road. To the attendants at the event and soon to all the Aimia Institute community. Today I’m more aware of this issue and therefore I want to think I’m a better professional. Probably too I´m a little bit more complete as a person.
By the way, the motto of the day, and in general of the spirit with which is born the Aimia Institute was a phrase from among the many coined so brilliantly by Winston Churchill: ‘If you have knowledge, let stars light their candles with it’. So be it.