A world where physical, digital and biological realms converge might feel like science fiction to many of us, but according to the founder of The Mind Lab, Frances Valintine, we’re already on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution. “Change is already taking place,” says Valintine.
Just think back to the last time you stepped inside a bank, switched on free-to-air television or used a compact disc. “When you talk to everyday New Zealanders, most of them are saying ‘Yes, I have Netflix; I have Spotify and I have a subscription to Microsoft – I don’t pay for a physical compact disc anymore’,” she says.
But because we don’t often connect the dots until, say, our local banking branch or post office closes, we fail to realise how the digitisation of the industries that we interact with on a day-to-day basis is impacting on us.
“When you take a shift in isolation, it feels like it’s just a little thing,” says Valintine. “But I think we all have a personal responsibility to stop and think, ‘All of this stuff has changed my behaviour – so how is it affecting the behaviour of other people?’ We need to ask ourself questions: ‘Do I need to think about my community differently? Do I need to think about my customers?’”
Whilst we might cling onto some of our analogue ways of life, Valintine says the bottom line is that there’s no turning back. “We can’t say, well some parts of the world or some people from certain communities will stay analogue – because actually, the more analogue you become, the more disconnected you become,” Valintine explains.
A return to analogue, or an unwillingness to let analogue go could, in fact, hinder our relationships and prevent us from accessing the services we need on a day-to-day basis.
With tech giants including Google announcing their own banking services; Facebook launching its own cryptocurrency, Libra; and CRISPR, the gene-editing tool, being used in human trials, should we fear the unknown? Should we feel nervous about the immense changes on the horizon?
“I think the difficulty is, most people when they don’t understand the technology, they see it as a negative,” says Valintine. “We have to ask, ‘Why is that negative feeling coming with something we don’t know?’”
We have the choice to face change with an open, inquisitive mind. “Above the line thinking is something I believe in strongly, in terms of our mindset towards new things,” says Valintine. “We have to ask, ‘What am I going to take from today?’ If I take in a negative view today because it’s a little bit scary then I’m not learning and I’m going to stay as I am.”
Valintine admits it’s easy to become entrenched in this way of thinking, however. Human beings are tribal – we tend to associate with others who share the same views. “It’s very easy to become consumed with thinking, ‘Everybody in my group is right and everybody who’s not in my group is wrong’,” says Valintine.
She says another challenge we face in New Zealand is the fact that we’re known for our politeness – which can hinder change within communities and businesses. “But the difference between confrontation and having bold conversations is enormous,” says Valintine. “If … we want to talk about things that are happening and we want to understand the world and contribute and not feel overwhelmed by it, then we need to have conversations and ask questions and not feel like you’re going to be judged if you don’t know the answer or have a different point of view.”
In order to embrace change and learn from others to prepare for the future, we need to be open to new experiences.
“Humans are evolving all the time. It’s just that we’re evolving much faster than we ever have before.”