Monday, April 11, 2016

Key Takeaway from COFES 2016

While listening to Mark Anderson's keynote, I found myself in a Twitter conversation with a colleague from Australia.  This conversation lasted all day, right up until about an hour before the Second Congress began.  The topic of conversation revolved around global warming.  This wasn't an argument debating whether or not humans were responsible for global warming, but rather how responsible were we, and subsequently how much responsibility must we take as the dominant sentient species on the planet to fix the problem.

For example, we can capture all CO2 and convert it into a useful material.  Does that mean I should wear a facemask to capture all the CO2 I breath out?  What plant life is going to suffer with the decreasing level of CO2 in the atmosphere?  While global warming is definitely affecting many habitats and many species are becoming endangered, what new species are going to thrive in a hot, CO2 enriched environment?  Is this the beginning of a new age?  Are we supposed to stop it?  What if we had the capability in the past, should we have prevented the Ice Age?  What species thrived because of the extinction of the dinosaurs and woolly mammoths?  We can use all the technology at our disposal to create models forecasting scenarios of our future, but history will be the judge on whether or not we were right.

So maybe the problem is not a technological one; maybe it is a cultural one.

I was in Chris De Neef's Analyst and User Briefing about Technology Moves Faster than Culture.  Besides some delicious Belgian chocolates (if you weren't in that session, you were in the wrong one), Chris graphed the relative paths of technology advancement compared to social and human advancement.  Imagine a exponential growth curve representing technology and a wavy, but relatively horizontal curve representing humanity.  The gap between technology and humanity continues to grow larger.  Some would argue that technology has ruined our social skills and the humanity curve should actually be declining.

In the session with Chad Jackson about MBE, MBD, and MBSE, humans can't even come to a consensus to define those technologies, much less get them to play nice together.

Think now instead to the causes that prohibit adoption of new technologies?  How many failed PLM implementations have you experienced because you couldn't change the culture of the company to adopt the new technology?
It was too hard;
it was too complex;
we couldn't understand it;
we couldn't explain it.

From the micro level represented by individual or corporate adoption of technology to the macro level of society's use (or often mis-use) of technology, the biggest problem is culture.  And you can't fix culture with technology.

Maybe, the answer is not more STEM.
Maybe, the answer is more artists and philosophers.
Maybe, we need the great thinkers of the world to contemplate the societal and cultural effects of technology.
Maybe, we need artists to describe technology, in a tech-free way, so people without tech degrees can understand it: through paintings, sculptures, literature, and poetry.
Maybe, rather than focusing on the Second Industrial Revolution (brought on by additive manufacturing)...
Maybe, what we really need, is the next Renaissance.
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