Has technology exceeded our humanity?

3 November 2016

There is no doubt that technology has changed our lives dramatically in the last twenty years – the internet is now the lifeblood of the economy and social media and the “selfie generation” are all pervasive. Modern technology companies such as Uber and Airbnb have upset traditional business models, and smart technology continues to threaten jobs. So where do we go from here? Will there be further opportunities and products derived from automation and Artificial Intelligence in the form of robots in the workplace and driverless cars as promoted by the techno optimists, or is there a lot of froth and hype which will lead to fallout as we have seen with the likes of Powa (valued at billions before going into administration earlier this year)?

The technology boom has led to more knowledge and information being made available –almost everyone and everything is wired or connected in the digital world. This trend is likely to continue as change is faster and bigger now, and in time, there is likely to be less of a gap between large and small companies.  As companies gain access to the same technology and information, big data and data analytics could be available to all. So how will businesses differentiate themselves? Will the competitive advantage be eroded – what will be the benefit of analysing customers’ buying preferences if ultimately there is going to be little impact on revenues? The techno pessimist will argue that it’s all hype as the tech behemoths such as Apple, Google and Microsoft  will continue to make improvements to their products in order to meet their earnings targets. Will we reach the point where the technology is controlling us rather than the other way round? Surely we should embrace technology, without allowing it to completely take over?

Which brings us back to robots – do we really want to be greeted on arrival at a hotel reception desk by a robot? The products will no doubt be efficient and effective, and there are clear advantages in allowing robots to do some of the work, but surely the real winners will be those that not only harness the technology, but also apply the ‘personal touch’.  Human traits which can’t be automated such as insight, creativity and intuition, will become increasingly valuable as the differentiators in the service economy. This could be good news for consultants and advisers.

On top of this, the other point to address is not whether technology is running out of steam – there are plenty of examples to the contrary – but whether the business climate or politicians will continue to embrace technology if it leads to a divided world of high productivity and wealth for some, yet stagnation and poverty for others.

It will be fascinating to see how things play out in the next five years. The change could be transformational.

At UHY we will be holding a short workshop on Tuesday 8 November from 5:30 to 7:30 pm where we will show you how to improve the performance of your organisation using the latest data analytics tools to combine financial and non-financial data for better decision making. Click here for registration details.