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The New Human Renaissance (Futurist Gerd Leonhard)


What if the best human era were yet to come?  What if instead of even more ‘digital transformation’ –  invariably bringing the replacement of us humans with algorithms and bots –  we were to pursue a new HUMAN RENAISSANCE? 

Imagine a rebirth of humanness in the face of the deepest socio-economic disruption in human history fuelled by what I have started to call the 9 game-changers such as Big Data and the Cloud, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and Quantum Computing.

The last decade has witnessed a massive global technology explosion. At the same time, we have also seen the rise of fake news and algorithmic manipulation by so-called ‘social media’, with detrimental side-effects (externalities) on democracy and civic life, in general (not to mention the steep rise of inequality in many countries such as the USA).

Gerd's Neoluvian Man

In the current global zeitgeist ruled by fears of  job automation, climate-change and unprecedented geopolitical uncertainty, I think it’s time to review how exactly technology has come to dominate our lives – and to rethink what it means to be (and remain) human, and what we WANT to be rather than what we CAN be.

The Italian and European Renaissance of the 1500s was truly a rebirth of the arts and sciences, and it eventually led to the replacement of feudalism and medieval dogma with humanism. Now, six centuries after enshrining the human being in the centre of our universe (as pictured in Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man) we are hurtling headlong into an age of apps, bots, implants and AIs – an age where human agency is first simulated, then duplicated, and then replaced (watch this short keynote from 3 weeks ago, also linked below, for more on ‘upgrading ourselves' and cyborgism).

I have spent my life contemplating the relationship between human values and technological progress. I have been fortunate to travel the world speaking on topics such as the future of work, digital ethics and education, to name just a few. Now, I have collected my learnings and experiences to present my audience with Renaissance2 – a vision and a call very different from the technology-fuelled fantasies of Silicon Valley and China. 

I think it’s time to learn from the humanists again before the age-old contract between economics and civilization is jeopardized beyond repair. It’s time once more to put human flourishing back into the center of this quickly augmenting universe, to co-create a world where technology may be savvy, machines may speak, and robots may ‘think’ but we humans remain the masters. 

Technology is not the enemy but neither is it the godhead. Technology is not WHAT we seek but HOW we seek. Our means must not kidnap our end, regardless how magical they are (* more ‘what gerd says' statement like that are here, btw)

As the next waves of technology prepare to enter human reality, are we the last truly biological people?  If we must upgrade using technology so that we can keep up with AI, will we simply become technology too?

This bold new keynote explores the future beyond digital disruption, into the new world of super-computing, AI and human genome editing, where the very core of human existence is certain to be challenged.  In this presentation I don’t pull any punches in my argument for a more balanced and civilized society. The future is not a utopian heaven – but neither is it dystopian as Hollywood would typically have it. 

In between Utopia and Dystopia lies a new Renaissance where our human values take priority over purely monetary values, where the transhumanists are returned to their play pen, and where what I like to call ‘Sustainable Capitalism’ may actually become feasible – a new economic logic based on 4 bottom lines: People, Planet, Purpose and Prosperity (watch this Youtube playlist)

Explore with me how your organisation can thrive utilizing technology without compromising on human principles. Discover how technological disruption is merely the start of a new opportunity to reimagine humanity. Identify your tribe’s renaissance through the lens of an alternative future. Before digital feudalism becomes the new normal, script your own future!

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Related video: proposing a global digital ethics council





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