The challenges of leadership and digital disruption

The pace of digital disruption has left 50 per cent of businesses and public sector organisations fearful or worried that their organisations will not be able to keep up with what is still to come over the next five years.

As technology continues to transform business models, a new breed of corporate leader is emerging who is digitally-savvy and assiduously curious. Rather than fearing change and obsessively trying to retain control, the most accomplished CEOs accept that for an organisation to compete globally and attract and retain the best talent, they must be highly collaborative, operationally focused and ruthlessly strategic.

It is not enough for businesses to simply be aware of digital advance they must interpret what these could mean for them and how they might benefit. Senior executives of large incumbent organisations have many legitimate concerns and questions about the opportunity that digital presents.

Whether due to unclear monetisation models, baffling market valuations, inflexible IT systems or never-ending jargon and predictions, digital can certainly seem disruptive, and not always in a positive sense.

Despite a sea of uncertainty, it is becoming evident that organisations that successfully leverage digital technologies for new growth operate with a different set of rules and capabilities, and see a greater return also.

Below is a list of seven critical management concerns:

1. Sense and interpret disruption
Merely sensing change is not enough. The trick is to interpret what these changes mean to the business and, more importantly, when they will have an impact.
If business leaders are unable to interpret these change signals, they are no better placed than those who did not see change coming. Research shows that half of business leaders expect competitors to change at least some part of their business model.
The key question is: What will these new business models be, and when will they become relevant?

2. Experiment to develop and launch new ideas more quickly
Ask most entrepreneurs about how they innovate and they may look nonplussed. Most digital disrupters do not see themselves as “innovating”, per se.
In their minds, they are solving specific customer problems the best way they know how. As such, innovation is a consequence, not a goal.
Solving customer problems requires two actions: experimenting more and learning to self-disrupt. Digital technologies enable a new way of experimenting at almost an unlimited scale.

3. Fully understand and leverage data
Businesses hold almost unimaginable amounts of data, and are grappling with how to use it to develop new products and services that bring new value to their customers.
Mastering the art of exploiting data, not only by turning it into useful information, but also by finding new ways to monetise it, will be fundamental to how businesses run in the future.

4. Build and maintain a high digital quotient team
While IQ and EQ measure intellectual and emotional intelligence respectively, the time is ripe for “DQ” ‒ a measure of the digital quotient (or digital savviness) of organisations. As companies evolve their digital capabilities, they need to measure and rapidly build their teams’ DQ ‒ not least among their senior members.
Some organisations are pursuing a strategy of “acqu-hiring” ‒ buying the right skills through acquisitions of technology start-ups, or by establishing formal relationships with the start-up community.

5. Partner and invest for all non-core activities
One of the characteristics of effective digital leaders is their intuitive understanding that the journey is not one to be undertaken alone. A recent report that I read indicated that companies will be increasing their partnerships and alliances as they attempt to boost digital growth in the next three years.
Whether looking for new application programming interfaces (APIs), corporate development or business development partners, aligning with an ecosystem of partners is critical to digital progress.
The more they invest in others, the more organisations extend the team that is as vested in their success as they are.

6. Organise for speed
Two elements are essential for businesses to be organised for speed: according to “digital leader” aspirants, the first is CEO-level support and the presence of a dedicated central team to drive new digital growth.
The second is a team of “fixers” ‒ those at the centre of operations who are independent, respected and can draw on the right skills at the right time.
Many organisations are establishing the role of chief digital officer (CDO) ‒ a sound choice when that person also has the power to drive change and has responsibilities that are distinct from the chief information officer (CIO), chief risk officer (CRO) and chief marketing officer (CMO).
New structures are emerging to help organisations respond more quickly to digital change. Banks have partnered with accelerators that help bring new ideas, while many retailers have set up venture funds to access disrupters.
Other companies have acquired digital teams to enhance their internal capabilities, often funding entrepreneurs who know little about their industry to create a start-up that could seriously hurt their respective businesses.
This counterintuitive process can reveal some implicit industry assumptions that are holding back the business.

7. Design a delightful customer experience
Customers’ primary motivation for repeat business is the quality of their experience. Digital technologies have reset expectations here.
Today, a banking customer using a mobile banking app does not compare it with apps from other banks, but against their best mobile user experiences for usability or functionality, whatever the industry.
It’s important that organisations put the customer at the heart of their business and stand in their shoes when designing beautiful customer experiences.

Digital technology has already broken down the old, familiar business models but the effect it will have on the future of organisations’ operations as it evolves remains significant and unknown. So, CEO’s and business leaders are rightly concerned about keeping up with speed and objectives.

Embrace the change, or get left behind
While executives do not necessarily need to be literate in coding, it is imperative that they understand the role that digital technology plays in a modern organisation, especially if they are to realise the benefits of optimised productivity, efficiency and responsiveness to customers. In fact, nine out of 10 senior decision makers say digital technology is essential to a business’s future success.

Meeting customer expectations before someone else does
Delivering good customer service has become more challenging due to an overwhelming consensus that digital, and a hyper-connected society, has changed customers’ expectations. Business must adapt the way they do things to keep up.

Business to business organisations that may not have originally seen these consumer-focused demands as relevant to them are also feeling the pull, increasingly citing digital media as being very important from the perspective of recruiting talent, engaging colleagues and disseminating and sharing information across teams. As a modern day leader it’s critical to understand not only what technology exists, but how to utilise it to satisfy consumers’ and employees’ ever increasing expectations to drive a competitive advantage.

A modern workforce is a collaborative workforce
With the increase in the use of digital tools for working, boundaries are blurring and businesses are becoming more agile. To enable collaborative working, CEOs are turning to their CIOs, CROs and CDOs to make use of technology to achieve this.

By taking a more collaborative approach with all leaders in the business, digital can be used to transform business processes. By reaching out to the wider team, the CEO can unearth processes and areas of the business that could become more efficient and effective through digital technology, such as customer service and workflow management.

Digital is an enabler, not a disrupter
Having acknowledged that digital technology will play a central role in future success, business leaders cannot afford to show fear of, or reluctance to implement it. Instead they must lead by example, embracing technology with a clear view of the potential advantages to be unlocked.

Using technology to meet the rising expectations from the consumer is a must in today’s marketplace. Business leaders need to first understand what customers expect and then make best use of the available technology to meet their customers’ needs.

By embracing technology and using it in an innovative way, business leaders will be better positioned to maintain a competitive advantage by driving innovation, productivity and efficiency throughout the business.

Finally, when leaders move toward improving their observable behaviors, they have the extraordinary ability to positively influence employees to willingly become engaged. That’s a powerful investment that pays dividends not only in developing good people, but by directly affecting the organisation’s bottom line.

My conclusion is that leadership in today’s world is a balanced mix of universal characteristics and digital leadership traits which has the potential to guide us through years of transformation with optimism and idealism. Technology continues to prove that it can be used for the benefit of mankind, but only if we set sail on the right course and with smart individuals that make our journey, progress, and performance so much worthwhile.

As Robin S. Sharma once said:

By seizing the opportunities that disruption presents and leveraging hard times into greater success through outworking/outinnovating/outthinking and outworking everyone around you, this just might be the richest time of your life so far.

Challenges in best practices and governance within education

I had a very interesting and heated debate recently with a friend discussing education, edu-tech, best practices, governance, and the student/teacher relationship in education.

My good friend stated that “Best practices” is the worst practice. The idea that we should examine successful organisations and then imitate what they do if we also want to be successful is something that first took hold in the business world, but has now unfortunately spread to the field of education. If imitation were the path to excellence, art museums would be filled with paint-by-number works.

The fundamental flaw of a “best practices”-approach, as any student in a half-decent research-design course would know, is that it suffers from what is called “selection on the dependent variable.” If you only look at successful organisations, then you have no variation in the dependent variable: they all have good outcomes. When you look at the things that successful organizations are doing, you have no idea whether each one of those things caused the good outcomes, had no effect on success, or was actually an impediment that held organisations back from being even more successful. An appropriate research design would have variation in the dependent variable; some have good outcomes and some have bad ones. To identify factors that contribute to good outcomes, you would, at a minimum, want to see those factors more likely to be present where there was success and less so where there was not.

We discussed the subject for hours – with the thoughts in mind, I thought I would provide my observations from education in the UK to the problems and then to globalisation and best practices.

Students up and down the country are anxiously discovering their education results. For the majority, their future depends on the grades they achieve – their place at university, or possibly their first full-time job.

The fact is, every student needs a teacher or coach, every person in life needs a mentor:

Until recently, many teachers only got one word of feedback a year: “satisfactory.” And with no feedback, no coaching, there’s just no way to improve. Bill Gates suggests that even great teachers can get better with smart feedback – and lays out a program from his foundation to bring it to every classroom.
Some would have you believe students’ success depends solely on their individual grit, determination, and raw talent. Of course, these are important, but they don’t make up the whole picture. A student’s success also depends on things completely outside of their control: whether they have had to work to support their studies, whether they have had a quiet space to study alone, or how well-funded their college was.

Successive governments have neglected and underfunded these young people, and many of those receiving their results have witnessed this neglect first-hand. A friend of mine, at college in Hillsborough in Sheffield, was only taught for the first half of each lesson. For the second half, a teaching assistant would supervise silent study.

Education is a seamless web. Difficulties caused by a poor start in life cannot always be fully compensated for later on, and every stage of a person’s education will affect the next. Our education system today is more rigid than it used to be. It fails countless people for whom a good college course or university degree is just not possible in their late teens. The students who must care for relatives, or who must work to support their hard-up family while their friends and peers study hard, lose out severely under the current system. Funding for adult skills has been cut by 35 per cent over the past seven years, and the number of mature and part-time students has plummeted dramatically over the past ten.

Before students even receive their results, in fact, before they even start school, some already know they’re at a disadvantage. New research shows there is a widening gap between elite state schools in the south-east and schools in the rest of the country, while figures also show the gap between state and private schools sending students to university has widened since tuition fees were tripled.

Then consider those students who, after receiving their results, will be heading off to university. With the Government’s recent removal of maintenance grants, and their plan to raise fees above £9,000, student debt is soaring: those starting in September will graduate with around £50,000 of debt, maybe more.

Sky-high tuition fees and the rising cost of living have been blamed for “overwhelming” stress levels felt by the majority of students, with one in seven admitting they have been chased by debt collectors as a result of missing rent payments.

A survey commissioned by financial technology company Intelligent Environments found three-quarters of students who receive maintenance loans feel stressed about the amount of debt they accumulate while studying, with over a third (39 per cent) saying they cannot afford their weekly food shop.

Disadvantaged teenagers four times less likely to apply for university

Over a quarter of students admitted to missing rent payments, with three in five polled (58 per cent) running out of money completely before their next payment is due.

Students who experience financial difficulties and worry about debt have a higher chance of suffering from depression and alcohol dependency, new research has found.

Conducted by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust, the study showed symptoms of anxiety and alcoholism worsened over time for those who struggled to pay the bills, while those who were more stressed about graduate debt had higher levels of stress and depression.

Mass demonstration against Tory cuts to education was confirmed in London

The study asked more than 400 undergraduate freshers from across the UK to assess a range of financial factors, including family affluence, recent financial difficulties, and attitudes towards their finances at four time points across their first year, allowing researchers to examine which came first: financial difficulties or poor mental health.

The study also found students who had considered not going to university or had considered abandoning their studies for financial reasons had a greater deterioration in mental health over time.

As a result of globalisation, many people are becoming interested in ranking systems which show how their own countries compare with others on a variety of measures. The World Economic Forum publishes an annual ranking of countries on economic competitiveness; the United Nations a ranking on human development; the OECD publishes comparisons on the quality of healthcare systems. Even a ranking for happiness can be found.

My belief is that change is needed to develop education and to introduce better understanding to practices:

A truly international approach to ranking countries on education should take cultural differences into account before benchmarking and characteristics of good school systems and good teachers.

We can and should learn from each other. But we should also understand that to make a Best practice, work requires translation to a different culture / value system.

The same applies to the discussion on the autonomy of schools. In high power distance countries (by far the majority of countries in the world) Autonomy will only be possible in a
clearly defined and limited mandate that is given by the central power holders. It shold be defined top down.

As Nelson Mandela once said:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Predictions for the start of 2018!

2017 was definitely one interesting year, and as the Chinese say: ‘We live in interesting times’.

‘2018 will be a year of political turmoil and environmental crisis caused by dramatic and unprecedented weather’, says Craig Hamilton-Parker in a recent blog post.

A man who successfully predicted the unlikely victory of Donald Trump and the UK’s vote to leave the European Union has come up with a new round of prophecies for 2018.

Craig Hamilton-Parker has prophesied there will be a terrorist attack on a British motorway, revolution in North Korea which overthrows Kim Jong-Un’s regime, and a chemical weapons attack by drones on a European city.

On a less morbid note, Mr Parker also predicted Prince Harry would become engaged to Meghan Markle.

Christmas holiday’s are always a period for introspection and once my dreaded cold had calmed down, I started to reflect on some of the most influential push buttons of business and ‘leadership with technology and operating in the new business world came to mind’.

2017 has come to a close and businesses are preparing to enter 2018 with an instant bang.

What do entrepreneurs really expect heading into the new year?

A shift in IT spending: “A significant number of enterprises will begin to invest in a dedicated security operations center as part of the shift away from prevention towards detection and response … Hybrid security offerings combining on-premise and SaaS/Cloud solutions will become the dominant architecture with customers beginning to integrate these offerings starting in 2018.” – Prakash Nagpal, vice president of Infoblox.

The Cloud will fragment into microservices: “In 2018, technology companies are going to ditch the buzzword ‘cloud’ in favor of the next big trend in IT – ‘microservices’. This is where companies will increasingly look to scale by essentially breaking up their IT and thinking smaller and using more SDN and NFV type approaches. Enterprises should also take note fast – moving to smaller applications makes it much easier to scale and decreases risk, while increasing efficiencies.” – Craig Walker, CEO of business communication platform Dialpad

The rise of the sharing economy: “Digitization and the sharing economy will disrupt more industries. Already, retail (Amazon), automotive (Uber and Zipcar), and the server market (Google, Amazon) have been disrupted – and we have had two years without another major industry being disrupted. Given this, financial services and healthcare are ripe for disruption.” – Prakash Nagpal

Banking models will begin a radical shift: “Millennials want to bank wherever they want and whenever they want, which does not align with the traditional banking model. It’s predicted that digital banking will grow to more than 2 billion users by 2020. As a result of this shift, the traditional brick-and-mortar banking solution will be replaced with a technology first-mindset. In essence, your wallet will be your phone.” – Dave Mitchell, president of NYMBUS

Speed is key in modern banking: “The banking channel will strive for speed. Lending, banking services, statement processing and other banking channel players are scrambling to get online and get faster. We expect the scramble to continue as the industry seeks to eliminate middle men – like brokers – and better serve their customers.” – Vernon Tirey, co-founder and CEO of LeaseQ

Mobile banking means more mobile cyberattacks: “All are experiencing a big increase in attacks on their mobile banking and transactions. Expect that to continue. Approximately 80 percent of financial institutions’ customers are doing online banking, 50% are on mobile and that’s growing. More customers equals more opportunity for attacks.” – John Gunn, CMO of VASCO Data Security

Machine learning and Blockchain will grow more prominent: “Two of the most interesting IoT developments to emerge in 2017, with the most potential for innovation, were blockchain and machine learning. They likely won’t go straight to market in the new year – we’ll likely see more proofs of concept instead – but, we have seen some fascinating PoCs already.” – Mike Bell, EVP IoT & Devices at Canonical

Machine learning will become more responsive in customer service: “Machine learning will play a bigger role in sales and customer support in 2018. Lower costs and increased availability of speech analytics tools mean more businesses will record and monitor calls within their contact centers. Instead of simply guiding callers through prompts, speech analytics will help to categorize them and analyze responses in terms of what you say and how you say it. Insights like these will be used to guide agents, in real time, to get the best results from each interaction.” – Chad Hart, head of strategic products at Voxbone

AI implementation will help business capitalize on large troves of data: “Although discussions on the topic of data may not be new, until now most business have been focused on forming teams and building data pipelines, but the data itself has not produced much disruption. With the right people and tools in place, companies can now focus on using data to drive growth. Companies will look to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) to gain a competitive edge.” – Jennifer Shin, founder and chief data scientist of 8 Path Solutions

IoT cyberattacks will become more common: “There will be an increase of random IoT hacks and attacks because the tools are easy to find and use, and also because of all the unsecured IoT devices – Gartner says there are 8 billion connected things in 2017 and expects 20 billion connected devices by 2020. Anyone can go onto the dark web and start using available malware code, not to mention the readily available services such as hacking, malware- and ransomware-as-a-service, which can all be hired for next to nothing. It’s very easy these days for someone with little knowledge to launch a sophisticated attack, and there’s clear financial incentive – in the last three years, business email compromise alone made $5.3 billion.” – Christian Vezine, CISO at VASCO Data Security

IoT devices will become more secure: “Expect to see at least 2 or 3 large-scale, botnet-style attacks on IoT-related hardware in 2018. To remedy this, the industrial space may pick up a trend from the consumer space, where device updates are downloaded automatically, and give the user little say in the process.” – Mike Bell

Industry will employ more low power wide area networking (LPWAN): “LPWAN technology can be unwired and run for a long time, with minimal power consumption. Its potential applications include heartbeat communications and predictive maintenance for industrial equipment like basement boilers, which can be otherwise difficult to reach … LPWAN provides better penetration and range in hard-to-reach areas, which opens the door for groundbreaking new industrial equipment use cases.” – Mike Bell

Economies are growing. Stock markets are climbing. Employment is healthy. These are all positive signs of the marketplace as a whole.
But the fate of individual companies has never been more uncertain, and the window of opportunity is closing for many companies unprepared or unable to adapt to new market realities.

Many factors are combining to define the fate of companies: Unmet customer expectations are resulting in churn; the lack of digital transformation gains is translating to loss of market share; industry lines that protected some are crumbling; and longstanding, durable business models are failing.

For some, it feels like a burning platform mandating bold action; for others, it will be the quiet but real deterioration of their business.
Customers demand what they demand. And when companies fail to deliver experience by experience or live up to their brand promise, customers will take flight.

Evolving customer expectations will challenge everybody — leaders, followers, and laggards. The across-the-board plateauing of CX (Customer Experience) quality reminds us that customers continuously re-evaluate experiences and reassess loyalties.

Leaders will adapt and, ultimately, thrive. Those slow to change will struggle. And the distance between the two will grow.

2018 will be a year of reckoning for those that have held on too long or tried to bootstrap their way through transforming their business.

Simply put, the distance between customer expectations and the reality on the ground is becoming so great that a slow and gradual transition is no longer possible. Incrementalism may feel good, but it masks the quiet deterioration of the business.

Whether CEOs in these companies start to use their balance sheet wisely, find new leaders, develop aggressive turnaround plans, or do all of the above, they and their leadership teams must aggressively get on track to preserve market share and market standing.

Finally, leaving you with a new year quote and thought by Melody Beattie:

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”

A True Christmas and New Year Message

May peace fill all the empty spaces around you, your family and your friends and your colleagues at this special time of year, and in you, may contentment answer all your wishes.

Raise a toast to yesterday’s achievements and tomorrow’s brighter future.

May comfort be yours, warm and soft like a sigh.

And may the coming year show you that every day is really a first day and a new year.

Let abundance be your constant companion, so that you have much to share.

May mirth be near you always, like a lamp shining brightly on the many paths you travel.

Work with the best of your abilities in 2018 and show to the world your power to create wonderful and superior things.

New Year 2018 may turn out to be a year when you are put on the road to everlasting success and prosperity.

Be the change that you wish to see at your workplace and take initiatives to make things better.

Wish your tomorrow is more prosperous, happy and successful than yesterday and today.

Looking forward to another year with hunger and passion to exceed at work and you are sure to meet with success.

Let new beginnings signify new chapter filled with pages of success and happiness, written by the ink of hard work and intelligence.

May the New Year bring us more wonderful opportunities for success.

Here’s wishing you the gift of peace and prosperity throughout 2018.

Why do we read or even have horoscopes?

Every day, every week, every month and even every year millions of people inspect their horoscope for news about their life and whether their life is about to unfold and change. We have all seen words like; ‘your zodiac sign influences your future, discover your horoscope 2018 here’. ‘Select your zodiac sign and obtain your free horoscope prediction for 2018!’. The signs of the zodiac have existed for hundreds of thousands of years. They are ancient signs that people have looked to for guidance, but exactly how truthful is the information, and can it be relied upon?

Evidence from Nicholas Campions’ book, “Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West”, suggests that over 90% of adults know their sun (zodiac) signs. Some surveys also indicate that well over half agree that the signs’ character descriptions are a good fit: Ariens are energetic, Taureans stubborn, and Scorpios secretive, for example.

The zodiac signs consist of 12 astrological signs, each based on a single month of the year. The 12 zodiac signs are: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. The ruling planets are one of the following: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. There are those who dismiss astrology as false, but the truth is that the signs of the zodiac do have some value to them.

Have you ever wondered why the zodiac has never been dismissed as pseudo-science?

There’s a reason for this and it’s because there’s no way to actually dismiss them entirely. Humans have been using the zodiac for literally thousands of years. Through inspecting the alignment of the planets, masters of astrology have managed to comprehend certain truths of the world.

It works in the same way as the movements of the moon control the tides of the oceans of the world. For example, Mars is the planet of passion. And Jupiter is the lucky star.

Over the centuries, kings, popes, and historical figures from Benjamin Franklin to President Reagan have consulted with astrologers. They trusted that astrology could provide valuable information about the future, insightful analysis of the past and, wise counsel they could depend on as being accurate. In fact, J.P. Morgan once said, ‘Millionaires don’t use astrologers, but billionaires do!’
Two types of people are incredibly passionate about astrology: those who love it, and those who love to hate it.

Astrology sceptics scathingly dismiss the field as false and facile, and those who buy into it as stupid. Certainly it’s easy to mock the notion that the entire universe is aligning itself to tell you what kind of business start-up you should create or what romance you should seek, or whether today is a good day to start that diet.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy does so aptly in the video below:

But it seems rash to think that astrology, which has been practiced by humans for millennia, is complete fabrication. Personally, some of my best friends who enjoy astrology are among the most intelligent people I know. Perhaps they’re seeing something that the eye-rolling sceptics have missed?

Astrology’s belief that individual behavioural traits are linked to the cosmos may sound silly, but similar ideas become significantly more respectable in the mouths of more well-regarded thinkers, from Plato to Jung. And while each school of thought has very different nuances, these philosophical fields do influence each other. “Astrology draws on the main philosophical current that comes down to us from Classical Greece,” says Nicholas Campion, professor in cosmology and culture at University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Astrology’s focus on external forces encourages people to be aware of their limitations (as determined by the planets), as well as how to respond to these limitations. Campion compares this idea to Stoic philosophers’ belief that life is determined by uncontrollable factors, such as where and to whom you’re born, but that we can choose how to respond to these circumstances. Or, as the Marxist philosopher Friedrich Engels wrote, ‘Freedom is the appreciation of necessity.’ “These paradoxes are common to many other philosophies,” says Campion. “They deal with issues of whether we can be free or not.” Whether thinking about the planets or the fates of birth, it’s useful to recognize that one’s own life course is partly determined by factors outside of our control—and even more important to recognize and have empathy with others whose paths are laid (or blocked) by circumstance.

I believe that the true value of astrology is its ability to tap into the part of our minds that naturally gravitates towards things like divination and the occult. By tapping into this inner meaning, it forces the mind to think in a different way. And this alone can generate some meaningful insights.

The accuracy of a horoscope is directly dependent on the power of interpretation of an astrologer. If we consider the power of interpretation of the present astrologer (who is able to predict up to a maximum of 30% accuracy) as 1, then to get a 100 % accurate answer the power of interpretation would need to be 1000 times the present power of interpretation. The power of interpretation and intuition can only be increased by spiritual practice. In this current era 65% of our lives are destined. If we use the 35% of our free will to do spiritual practice we can overcome or be insulated from our destiny. Spiritual practice is the only way to counteract an adverse destiny..

Some people say that astrology is about helping you to understand what you already know. It’s just a matter of forcing it from deep inside you. It’s no coincidence that a variety of successful people have used astrology to further their personal lives and careers.
It’s not compatible with the scientific method. If anything, it’s the polar opposite of the scientific method, and that’s why some people are willing to dismiss it as nonsense immediately. It’s an example of a closed mind. Open your mind and you can unveil hidden insights that you’d previously never known about.

Ultimately, whether the planets really shape our personality or experiences is entirely irrelevant. Astrology is a way to impose meaning on life. “I think that unless we’re capable of making meaning, we probably can’t get out of bed in the morning,’ says Campion. ‘Making meaning is part of functioning.’

The signs of the zodiac do have some value to them. Choose the right astrology expert and you can take advantage of a horoscope that guides you through life and helps you to find new meaning in things.

What is your star sign?

Can we truly renew ourselves?

We live in a very fast paced technological world, running from one place to another and tasking ourselves from one thing after another, it is not surprising that we cannot prioritise exactly what is important in our personal and business lives. Because we get so busy doing all the things we have to do, making them all seem a lot more important than they actually are, we start to panic and live in this constant state of urgency with much anxiety. As a result, we start to accumulate a lot of stress and tension into our bodies and forget what it actually feels like to relax and enjoy life.

Every person I know is looking to redefine their life personally and/or professionally. They want to know themselves better: be happier, more successful, healthier, authentic, integrated and whole Each of us is, to some extent or other, a reflection of the experiences of our lives. However, whether and how we succeed is determined at least in part by how we cope with those experiences and what we learn from them.

When I wrote my first book, ‘Freedom after the Sharks’ I described a very difficult and emotional family life with professional setbacks. My belief through my personal journey developed the strength, determination, and skills to create a successful family, business and happy life.

There is nothing more exciting than living a life of constant self-renewal. Self-renewal is the attention you give towards ensuring that your life is forward-moving, with every step bringing you closer to who you really are. It entails stripping away the old and stale, so that you become increasingly aware of the purity of your true essence.

A wonderful quote by Rabindranath Tagore where he once said: “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

Every time you renew yourself, you relate to your world with a renewed sense of aliveness, seeing beauty and colours through fresh eyes. As you experience this newness, your life-force is activated. Life, inside and outside of you, becomes enriched and inspiring.
Most people have heard the saying ‘The next big thing in your life is right around the corner.’ This is an anticipatory mind-set, one I encourage you to live with each day. Don Meyer, one of the all-time winningest college basketball coaches, once said: “Positioning, anticipation and technique create quickness. Therefore, you can always get quicker.”

It is a quote I think about often. I add to this great man’s words, by saying, when we get quicker, we get better. We become more whole. Thinking quicker, acting more on the behalf of our loved ones and ourselves we take care of family, business and find fulfilment.
Quickness manifests itself in our thoughts, as when we have quicker, sharper intellect, we act and make decisions with greater effect. Anticipation leads to excitement for living. The verve with which we carry ourselves comes from self-satisfaction of living in the moment, and a future-seeking mindset of joy, believing that things will keep getting better.

If you are feeling stuck, dull, bored, or lacking inspiration, it may be time to take steps to renew yourself.

During this period of growth and excitement, take inventory in your life. A period of renewal is a time to examine your emotions.

Here are three ways to begin this process of examination:
– Begin by thinking about all the things in your life that are holding you back. Write these down on a list. This could be things like envy of your friend or thinking negative thoughts about a loved one.
– Once you have your list, identify the key themes. In other words, what are the negative emotions that permeate your thoughts, and thus, the things you’ve written on your list? I’m willing to bet you can identify emotions like envy, anger, laziness and anxiety. These destructive emotions lead to fear. The bad kind of fear, fear of success, will always hold you back from what you want to accomplish
– Come up with a solution for all the things that hold you back. But don’t just write it down. Integrate it into your life. Start living out the solutions to the things that hold you back. A prime example of this is, if you have always doubted your ability to finish a project, like completing your work objectives or KPI’s, figure out exactly how you plan to do this. Once you know the answers, it’s so much easier to achieve the solution.

It is normal to feel stuck and uninspired from time to time. In fact, feeling stuck and uninspired is necessary for you to transition to being bigger and better. When you recognise that you have reached a point where you are stagnant in life and then do something to shake things up, you are taking an empowered step to grow to stretch yourself to actualise your highest potential. Thus, it is an opportunity to experience a new feelings of aliveness and passion… that everything is pulsating with an abundance of possibilities.

The majority of us were created with everything we need to live successfully in this world; millions of emotions, thoughts and possibilities are inside each of us. Over time that changes because we make choices about people and the world; how we’re seen and treated and what we think will truly take care of us and make us happy and successful be it money, job, relationships, owning things.

Sometimes we limit ourselves with our choices, and we go away from our true brilliance, infinite potential and purpose in life.

The good news is this: you can get back to it. Genuine happiness and success will be yours, when you make the choice to find out who you really are to know, respect and honour your rare individuality.

The greatest care and gift you can give yourself is the profound pleasure and knowledge of being able to say: ‘This is who I truly am and this is what I want in life.’

Marcus Aurelius once said:

“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”

Do we have limitless borders in today’s world?

Last week was particularly interesting and one could even go as far as to say disturbing, so much so I decided to write about these observations, which can only be described as ‘no limits’ and ‘no boundaries’ for others.

It is amazing what an influence we have on others, especially children. Yet, I sometimes ponder on the fact that we are reluctant today to say anything is ‘wrong’; that even using the word ‘wrong’ can be branded as being ‘negative’ or too aggressive.

We hear the expressions “no limits” and “no boundaries” presented as a philosophy of life that is positive.

Interesting research showed that nearly a third of people questioned for a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said they had personally been a victim of yobbish behaviour, illicit behaviour or had witnessed an incident in the 12 months.

More than eight out of 10 people say anti-social behaviour has risen in England and Wales over the past 12 months, the Government’s main crime survey has revealed.

It is not uncommon to hear people experience these behaviours – what 20th Century psychiatrist Erik H. Erikson called “the problem of identity”.

Why are so many today troubled with “the problem of identity”?

There may be many reasons, but one is clearly the philosophy of ‘no limits, no boundaries’.

Could you imagine a game of football with no boundaries, no rules, no posts, no clock or no scoreboard?

How do we know ourselves? By our boundaries, our limits, by having some sort of order in our life. There are those who live by no boundaries, but this way of life often ends with a jail sentence.

It is a very good thing to stretch our limits, to raise the bar, but even those dudes on You Tube doing “parkour” don’t jump off cliffs! Well, not many of them. They realise that even parkour has its limits.

Boundaries become most significant when considering children. In a world where children can and are caught up in an emotional, physical and spiritual shipwreck if their boundaries are crumbling, it is important that firm boundaries are set to ensure that the child grows with confidence and knowledge to tackle life’s challenges.

If you’ve ever had a written contract or tenure dishonoured on you, you become a devoted fan of boundaries very quickly. Liars, despots, dictators, cult-leaders, and corruption all show that a world with uncertain boundaries and laws is anything but beautiful.
By contrast, in daily life we hope that people are reasonably faithful to who they really are. With the rapid expansion of social life in cyberspace, judging the authenticity of identity has become complicated.

In 1969, before cell phones, laptops, and smart watches, Americans were willing to believe that men walked on the moon. Now, progress toward eradicating deadly infectious diseases is threatened by a growing number of parents who have misgivings about childhood vaccines and delay or refuse vaccinations for their children (American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2014). In a time of sophisticated video editing, anonymous posting, and computer-generated imagery, we can’t be certain if an online video is a hoax, a secure website is safe, or an email is from whom it purports to be.

We understand who we are partly in terms of our role in relationships and in terms of social comparison. As we spend more and more time in cyber-society, we should be wary of becoming dependent upon it for our sense of identity. For some people, engagement in social media has extended their sense of self to the identity they have in cyberspace. Their smart device can become an extension of their self. If a person has become so attached to their smart device that they are stressed when separated even briefly, he or she might need to re-evaluate the social priorities in their life. We are so much more than the number of likes we score on social media. Being with the ones we love brings satisfaction and fulfilment to our lives. Virtual reality should enrich and extend our relationships, not replace them.

Relationships that evolve around more eclectic interests are more complex. Socially richer, they can meet emotional needs and foster a sense of bonding and belonging. However, the same warp speed that facilitates the birth and growth of these friendships can also torpedo them when online communication reveals an unexpected negative trait, belief, or opinion. Virtual is not identical to face-to-face communication. Unlike face-to-face, online conversation lacks the contextual cues and body language, intonation, and personal feedback that can correct misunderstandings or modulate the severity of reactions or expressions. Online rants can be or appear to be less tolerant, unforgiving personal attacks or hypercritical judgment. The virtual essence of the online world creates psychological distance that diminishes the regular limits on extreme behaviour, such as public accountability, consequences, or even social-emotional feedback of facial expression and body language cues. Such distancing can result in more extreme offensive language, behaviour’s, or threats.

Unlike real life, online relationships can vaporize suddenly with an unfriending or simply an end to responding. In daily life, we can use our next encounter to apologize, explain or correct. The online world might offer no such opportunity. Moving from one such experience to another can ultimately invalidate them all, as they become devoid of substance or meaning. This might explain in part why people feel worse after spending time on social media. Research suggests that some people feel social media time was wasted or meaningless.

If an online experience has become hostile, it isn’t always easy to disconnect. Research has shown that many people become anxious or stressed when not in constant contact with their online social life. hey worry that they might be missing something important or will be left out as the online culture goes on without them. Even terminating a particular relationship online can produce anxiety, as a user cannot know what communications are taking place that they are now blind to. As the two worlds intersect, stress can result from the fear that escalating online hostility will spill over into real life.

While there are several reasons for using social networking, it appears that its main function is for increased contact with friends and family along with increased engagement in social activities. However, research has shown that young adults with a strong Facebook presence were more likely to exhibit narcissistic antisocial behavior; while excessive use of social media was found to be strongly linked to underachievement at school.

So, if you take roughly 1.2 billion Facebook users and 450 million people suffering from mental disorders, what do you get? A global pandemic that’s showing no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

A matter of contention prevalent within the media, several studies have shown that social networking – Facebook in particular – can have detrimental effects on our well-being. Researchers from the University of Michigan assessed Facebook usage over a fortnight and found that the more people that used it, the more negativity they experienced concerning their day-to-day activities; as well as over time, incurring higher levels of dissatisfaction with their life overall.

We understand who we are partly in terms of our role in relationships and in terms of social comparison. As we spend more and more time in cyber-society, we should be wary of becoming dependent upon it for our sense of identity. For some people, engagement in social media has extended their sense of self to the identity they have in cyberspace. Their smart device can become an extension of their self. If a person has become so attached to their smart device that they are stressed when separated even briefly, he or she might need to re-evaluate the social priorities in their life. We are so much more than the number of likes we score on social media. Being with the ones we love brings satisfaction and fulfilment to our lives. Virtual reality should enrich and extend our relationships, not replace them.

I great quote by B. R. Ambedkar, he once said:

“Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.”

“Let’s have some tea and continue to talk about happy things!”

It’s hard to imagine that the humble biscuit could be of been an intrinsic part of our nation’s imperialist past but, in fact, the 19th-century expansion of the British Empire owes much to Huntley & Palmers’ Ginger Nuts and Bath Olivers. Many famous expeditions were fuelled by such delicacies: Henry Stanley set off in search of Dr. Livingstone with supplies of them, and Captain Scott’s hut at Cape Evans on Ross Island still contains tins of Huntley & Palmers biscuits, specially developed for the expedition, that were left there in 1911.

‘Fancy’ biscuits, as opposed to those eaten for health purposes, were first produced commercially in Britain in the early 19th century. Peek Frean, McVitie’s and Jacob’s all became household names but, certainly in terms of collecting, it is Huntley & Palmers that stands out today.

I was an incredible proud grandson, my Grandfather started his working life in industry with Huntley and Palmers. He came to be liked by Lord Palmer and his family, in running the UK operations, before being sent to Paris to set-up and manage the firm’s first French biscuit factory, located near Paris. Grandfather always amused me as a child informing me around the challenges of managing and running a biscuit operation in France that was to educate the French in English biscuits. He always amused me with his stories and wisdom, and this was always shared over tea and of course with a Huntley and Palmer biscuit, Grandfather said ‘there was always a new biscuit for every occasion’, we always shared biscuits which sparked new conversations, incredibly precious moments.

Huntley and Palmer’s had quite a success story in their day, the company was opened by a Quaker, Joseph Huntley, in London Street, Reading, in 1822. As the business expanded, he was joined by his cousin, George Palmer, in 1841. The firm acquired a site on King’s Road in Reading five years later and by 1860 had expanded into the biggest biscuit and cake manufacturer in the world, turning out 3,200 tons of biscuits a year. By 1900, there were so many Macaroons, Pic Nics and Osbornes (named after Queen Victoria’s favourite palace) being made, that there were over 5,000 employees and Reading was known as ‘Biscuit Town’. Thanks to some superb marketing, the export trade was enormous too, with biscuits distributed across the globe. Ten per cent of total production went to India alone, presumably so that the Governor of Bengal and his chums could enjoy a good Thin Abernethy (‘made from the Choicest Materials’) with their tea.

The story of Huntley and Palmers

Huntley & Palmers was very much in Palmer control for the foreseeable future. By their combination of managerial and entrepreneurial talent the company flourished.

The eating habits of the middle classes were changing, and by the late 1860s it was fashionable to take afternoon tea. This provided the perfect market for biscuits, by which time Huntley & Palmers were producing about one hundred varieties, of which the Ginger Nut, Gem and Nic Nac were especially popular.

So, what happened to tea and biscuits, our afternoon tea, and our meaningful conversations with family and friends?

Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner.

The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter (some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread) and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.

This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock.
Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including of course thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches), scones served with clotted cream and preserves. Cakes and pastries are also served. Tea grown in India or Ceylon is poured from silver tea pots into delicate bone china cups.

Nowadays however, in the average suburban home, afternoon tea is rare; likely to be just a biscuit or small cake and a mug of tea, usually produced using a teabag.

Has tea, family and friend’s discussions, meaningful conversations with others, just disappeared in the face of a busy life, technology overload and ‘do we just not have time?’

Once upon a time the biggest technological nuisance for the family was the phone ringing during dinner time. It is now common to see our loved ones hunched over their phones or tablets as they take one distracted bite of their food after another.

Once the plates are cleared the family might move to the living room for some television, but while the family may have once watched the program together, the new normal is to envelop yourself in a technological cocoon for the night.

Each person may catch the occasional glimpse of the show, but their attention is now being split between chatting with friends on the phone, watching YouTube clips and answering work emails.

Our fixation with technology has created new routines that are very different from traditional notions of family time.
The increasing ways we are using technology in isolation from one another is reflected by the latest figures from Britain’s communications regulator, Ofcom. A recent study found that for the first-time children aged between 12 and 15 are spending as much time online as they are watching television, about 17 hours a week for each.

Many of these children are now not even bothering to sit in the lounge room with the family when they are online, with 20 per cent of five-year-olds now more likely to be alone in their bedroom when online.

Even special family occasions are now infiltrated by mobile technologies.

The home is where children learn their values, specifically what is important in family life. Building a warm and cohesive connections are crucial not only for our own family, but for society as a whole.

The internet has irrevocably blurred the boundaries between work and home, meaning many parents are still working in one form or another when they are at home with their family. What message does a child receive when he or she is telling a story about something important that happened at school and mum stops listening to reply to an urgent message from the office?

Technology is now an integral part of our lives, the impact of culture in technology on children relationships is more noticeable than in families. This divide has grown due to the increased use of technology among children in several ways. First, children’s absorption in technology, from texting to playing video games, does by their very nature limit their availability to communicate with their parents.

Times have changed. New technology offers children independence from their parents’ involvement in their social lives, with the use of mobile phones, instant messaging, and social networking sites. Of course, children see this technological divide between themselves and their parents as freedom from over-involvement and intrusion on the part of their parents in their lives. Parents, in turn, see it as a loss of connection to their children and an inability to maintain reasonable oversight, for the sake of safety and over-all health, of their children’s lives. At the same time, perhaps a bit cynically, children’s time-consuming immersion in technology may also mean that parents don’t have to bother with entertaining their children, leaving them more time to themselves.

There is little doubt that technology is affecting family relationships on a day-to-day level. Children are instant messaging constantly, checking their social media, listening to music, surfing their favorite web sites, and watching television or movies. Because of the emergence of mobile technology, these practices are no longer limited to the home, but rather can occur in cars, at restaurants, in fact, anywhere there’s a mobile phone signal.

The fact is that family life has changed in the last generation quite apart from the rise of technology. Add technology to the mix and it only gets worse. It’s gotten to the point where it seems like parents and children are emailing and texting each other more than they’re talking even when they’re at home together!

The ramifications of this distancing are profound. Less connection — the real kind — means that families aren’t able to build relationships as strong as they could be nor are they able to maintain them as well. As a result, children will feel less familiarity, comfort, trust, security, and, most importantly, love from their parents.

So, what is the answer? Change and transformation is always challenging in any environment and sometimes faced with strong reluctance, some of the best moments of my life have been spent with my grandparents in cheer and of course with tea and Huntley and Palmer biscuits.

Pope Francis recently addressed some participants, reminding them of the pre-eminence of love. “The life of a family is filled with beautiful moments: rest, meals together, walks in the park or the countryside, visits to grandparents or to a sick person… But if love is missing, joy is missing, nothing is fun. Jesus always gives us that love: he is its endless source.” He also exhorted people to learn from the wisdom of grandparents: “[A person or] people that does not listen to grandparents is one that dies! Listen to your grandparents.”

While your children and parenting will have many influences on their moral development, you always play the biggest role. You are their first teacher and role model. They look to you to learn how to act in the world.

While your words are important, it will be your actions that will teach them the most. How are your actions guiding your children in living up to your highest values?

There is a big difference between knowing about values and actually trying to adopt the traits. Often standing up for your values takes courage and strength, grandparents can be a huge help and influence on your children’s life in this chaotic, overcrowded, technological world that we all live in.

As my grandparents would always say to me and as this quote states from Chaim Potok:

“Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.”

Can you really fall in love with a Robot?

Our company has just started to work with a new client who has developed a humanised robot, which they describe as a ‘social robot’. It is clear by my work to date with this company that advances in robotics and AI are starting to gain some real momentum. In the coming decades, scientists predict robots will take over more and more jobs including white collar ones, and gain ubiquity in the home, school, and work spheres.

Due to this, roboticists and AI experts, social scientists, psychologists, and others are speculating what impact it will have on us and our world. Google and Oxford have teamed up to make a kill switch should AI initiate a robot apocalypse.

One way to overcome this is to imbue AI with emotions and empathy, to make them as human-like as possible, so much so that it may become difficult to tell robots and real people apart. In this vein, scientists have wondered if it might be possible for a human to fall in love with a robot, considering we are moving toward fashioning them after our own image. Spike Jonze’s Her and the movie Ex Machina touch on this.

Can you fall in love with a robot?
http://edition.cnn.com/videos/cnnmoney/2017/04/10/can-you-all-in-love-with-a-robot.cnn

Interesting enough both the film ‘Ex Machina’, in which a computer programmer falls in love with a droid, may not be as far-fetched as you think.

A new study has found that humans have the potential to emphasise with robots, even while knowing they do not have feelings.
It follows previous warnings from experts that humans could develop unhealthy relationships with robots, and even fall in love with them.

The discovery was made after researchers asked people to view images of human and humanoid robotic hands in painful situations, such as being cut by a knife. After studying their electrical brain signals, they found humans responded with similar immediate levels of empathy to both humans and robots.

After studying their electrical brain signals, they found humans responded with similar immediate levels of empathy to both humans and robots.

But the beginning phase of the so-called ‘top-down’ process of empathy was weaker toward robots.

The study was carried out by researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology and Kyoto University in Japan, and provides the first neurophysiological evidence of humans’ ability to empathise with robots.

These results suggest that we empathise with humanoid robots in a similar way to how we empathise with other humans.
Last month, a robot ethicist warned that AI sex dolls could ‘contribute to detrimental relationships between men and women, adults and children, men and men and women and women’

Scientists suggest that we’re unable to fully take the perspective of robots because their body and mind – if it exists – are very different from ours.

‘I think a future society including humans and robots should be good if humans and robots are prosocial,’ study co-author Michiteru Kitazaki told Inverse.

‘Empathy with robots as well as other humans may facilitate prosocial behaviors. Robots that help us or interact with us should be empathised by humans.’

Experts are already worried about the implication of humans developing feelings for robots.

The question we all need to ask is ‘do we fear a future of love with a real human to be a happy to substitute to a robot’ the idea that a real, living, breathing human could be replaced by something that is almost, but not exactly, the same thing, well, actually a robot.

By now you’ve probably heard the story of Tay, Microsoft’s social AI experiment that went from “friendly millennial girl” to genocidal misogynist in less than a day. At first, Tay’s story seems like a fun one for anyone who’s interested in cautionary sci-fi. What does it mean for the future of artificial intelligence if a bot can embody the worst aspects of digital culture after just 16 hours online?

If any AI is given the vastness of human creation to study at lightning speed, will it inevitably turn evil?

Will the future be a content creation battle for their souls?

Society is now driven by the social connections you hold, the likes and your preferences of relevancy, the movie Her is described with a complex nature, a man who is inconsolable since he and his wife separated. Theodore is a lonely man in the final stages of his divorce. When he’s not working as a letter writer, his down time is spent playing video games and occasionally hanging out with friends. He decides to purchase the new OS1, which is advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, “It’s not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness,” the ad states. Theodore quickly finds himself drawn in with Samantha, the voice behind his OS1. As they start spending time together they grow closer and closer and eventually find themselves in love. Having fallen in love with his OS, Theodore finds himself dealing with feelings of both great joy and doubt. As an OS, Samantha has powerful intelligence that she uses to help Theodore in ways others hadn’t, but how does she help him deal with his inner conflict of being in love with an OS?

Though technically unfeasible by today’s AI standards, the broad premise of the movie is more realistic than most people may think. Indeed, in the past 10 years our lives have been transformed by technology and love is no exception. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, there’s no better time to examine some of the recent developments in this area.

Taobao, China’s version of Amazon, offers virtual girlfriends and boyfriends for around $2 (£1.20) per day. These are real humans, but they only relate with their paying customers via the phone – calls or text – in order to perform fairly unromantic tasks such as wake up calls, good night calls, and (perhaps the most useful service) “sympathetically listen to clients’ complaints”. If this is all you expect from a relationship, it at least comes at a cheap price.

Similar services already exist in India, where biwihotohaisi.com helps bachelors “practice” for married life with a virtual wife, and Japan, where “romance simulation games” are popular with men and women, even when they feature animated avatars rather than human partners.

In many of today’s most fascinating visions of future love, the body itself seems like a relic of the past. In Her, for example, we encounter a social landscape where love between humans and machines doesn’t require a physical body at all. Instead we watch as Theo shares his most personal moments with an AI who he never actually touches, but who conveys intimacy through talking, sharing messages, drawings, ideas and sexual fantasies. In our current social climate, where dating often means scrolling through photos and written bios rather than interacting with people in person, the idea that you could fall in love with your computer doesn’t seem so far-fetched. After all, we are already used to more disembodied forms of communication, and, as many older generations continue to lament, many young people today are more likely to text or sext than actually establish in-person kinds of intimacy.

AI is the perfect sounding board for these modern anxieties about human connection, and 20th- and 21st-century films are filled with dystopian landscapes that showcase the loneliness of a world where intimacy is something you can buy. In many of these films, from classics such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to more modern movies like Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, the creators and consumers of AI are male, while the AI themselves are female. The patriarchal underpinning of this is vividly explored in sci-fi such as The Stepford Wives and Cherry 2000, where we are ushered into worlds where compliant and submissive female robots are idealized by their male creators as the epitome of perfection, and always exist completely under their thumb. The female robots we meet in these films cook, clean, are unfailingly supportive and are always sexually available, in addition to being exceptionally beautiful. These sex-bots have also become both a mainstay of humor, from the sexy goofiness of 80s films such as Weird Science and Galaxina, to the cheeky and slightly more socially aware comedies in the 90s, with the frilly, busty fembots of Austen Powers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s charmingly dippy “Buffy-bot”

Serge Tisseron, a French Psychiatrist who studies the relationships between youth, the media and images and the effect of information and communication technology on young people, reminds that, despite signs of attachments from the robot, the relation can and will always be one way.

Serge insists on the importance of a reflection around the ethical issues to avoid the destruction of human relations. Because of their interactions with efficient, high-performing and helpful robots, humans could end up being disappointed with other humans altogether, especially on a professional level. Or, we could eventually abandon our responsibilities completely and rely solely on robots to take care of our loved ones. In the end, this could result in a serious withdrawal from the human world and could affect our ability to live in society.

A final thought is that no one knows what the future holds, if robots will manage to develop their conscience and emotions but in any case, there needs to be enough preparations for their development and integration to society.

A great quote by Colin Angle:

“In the smart home of the future, there should be a robot designed to talk to you. With enough display technology, connectivity, and voice recognition, this human-interface robot or head-of-household robot will serve as a portal to the digital domain. It becomes your interface to your robot-enabled home.”

Is the world really out of control?

After the worst shooting atrocity in American history, the question, macabre but inevitable, arises once again: “How do we respond to a world that seems out of control?”

The world and its people are changing and losing knowledge. Females and males are losing virginity as early as 10 years old. The crime rate is increasing daily. Every tenth of a second a crime takes place somewhere in this world. Children are disobeying their parents, teachers have no control over the behaviour of children, mental health is at an all-time high in every society in the world.

Entire countries are poor and their population is literally starving to death while diseases eat away at them. Bad weather is increasing. Meteors hitting earth are increasing, hurricanes and tornadoes are increasing, the summers are hotter than usual and the winters are colder. Earthquakes are being felt in places where they should not be felt, earthquakes are happening in places where there are not even fault lines. Wild fires across the globe are destroying many many acres of land and destroying civilization.

The ozone hole is getting bigger, oil prices are rising and oil reserves are getting lower each day. The prices of goods and services are rising and the value of the world currency is lowering. Many new hurtful laws are going in effect and more and more people are experiencing some type of illness.

What are people to do about these major challenges?

Have these things been happening all throughout history and no one realised it or is things getting worse and making people pay attention to it?

The world seems that way because it is out of control the sun rises whether we want it to or not, the toaster breaks, someone cuts you off on your way to work. We’ve never had control. We have the illusion of control when things go the way we think they should. And when they do not, we say we have lost control, and we long for some sort of enlightened state beyond all this, where we imagine we’ll have control again. But what we really want is peace. We think that by having control or becoming “enlightened” (and no one knows what that means) we’ll find peace.

All around us things are changing. People are talking about disruption: personal lives being disrupted, businesses being disrupted, society being disrupted. This disruption, this change, is coming from lots of directions: technology, things that are happening in the world, the connected globalisation, urbanisation, the changing and ageing demographics, the refugee problems, politics, terrorism, the mobility of people, climate change.

One of the notable issues is that fear tends to dominate. Some people are finding themselves and their organisations in the scared quadrant as they don’t see the opportunities or they focus on the things that go wrong and are risky. How people react in uncertain moments is a good indicator of how they will react in the future.

Digital transformation is one of the largest of our time, translated in business model disruption, new services, cybercrime and new devices in an app- or bot- centric world, and disruption in our ability to cultivate new multi-generational talent and respond to a rapidly changing marketplace. We create more data than people can consume. We used to talk about innovation trends as if they were in silos. The trends are still important and have impact by themselves, but their combined impact will be much greater. We need to change how we think about business to remain successful and productive as individuals and as organisations.

We can see it happening all around us with accessible, affordable, adaptable technologies that are changing the way we live and work, becoming so fundamental to our lives that they are even shifting our understanding of what it means to be human. The adoption of new technologies is accelerating and technological breakthroughs are speeding up. It took radio thirty-eight years to reach 50 million users, TV thirteen years, iPod four years, internet three years, Facebook one year and Twitter just three quarters of a year.
While the digital economy holds great opportunity, it also brings new risks and challenges. So, what’s at stake?

To understand the future, we need to look at the past. Half a century ago, the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 was around seventy-five years. Now it’s less than fifteen years and declining even further. If we look at the Fortune 500 companies in 1955, 88% of them have disappeared since the year 2000. That means that only sixty are left. They went broke, they were taken over, they merged or they were split into pieces. In five to ten years from now a large portion of today’s companies will probably have an offering that doesn’t exist yet. Companies are going to change massively, and the rate of change is just accelerating.

Maybe, Charles Dickens, had a point when he quoted in ‘A Tale of Two Cities (1859), set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution’, when he said:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, …”