Back to the Future

21 Mar 2019 |

Tech is enabling a fundamental change of culture – encouraging and empowering people to think beyond their own needs and promoting humanisation.

It’s a simple realisation frankly. My kids are better human beings than me. In their 20’s, they are more thoughtful, socially conscious, minimalist and environmentally responsible than me. While they seek deeper purpose in their lives, my 20 year-old-self in comparison, only had three goals: the house, the car and the 2.4 children (I ended up with 3). The whole concept of ‘success’ is morphing into something beyond my meagre cognitive abilities.

Tech is enabling this fundamental change of culture – encouraging and empowering people to think beyond their own needs. By dehumanising basic, repetitive job functions tech is, on the flipside, promoting humanisation. Indeed, the profoundness of these changes made me take a good, hard look at my own work life and after almost thirty years, I decided leave the securities brokerage industry last year. I could see that tech disruption (on-line trading, crowd funding, fintech, block chain) was going to have a seismic impact on our business model.

Greater (tech driven) transparency and disintermediation means that middle-men (or women) are no longer going to be paid as handsomely for merely pushing paper or information from one place to another. You either bring real added value (social or commercial) and creativity or you won’t get paid the big bucks. I realised it was time to explore new opportunities and learn new skills. It’s all about coding I’m told!

Indeed, I’ve seen the future unfold before my eyes through my son’s work. He started in banking three years ago in pretty much the same job function that kick started my career back in 1990. However, while my job entailed hours upon hours of inputting and fixing data, my son spends most of his time extracting information and preparing management reports. While he spends time in board meetings contributing to strategy discussions, I spent most of my time banging away feverishly at my keyboard in a back room somewhere buried in reams of computer printouts. All those rainforest we could’ve saved if only we’d had today's processing and coding tools.

For each young person, like my son, who’s managing to muddle his/her way through a rapidly evolving work environment, there are thousands who are struggling to find their path. In advanced economies almost 400 million people are unemployed or underemployed (McKinsey estimates). Between 2005-2014, income for two thirds of households in the US and Europe fell or flat-lined. The work force is being polarised between highly skilled and unskilled. Technological advancement, immigration, globalisation etc. as usual bear the brunt of the resultant public dissatisfaction.

The imperative task is to provide 21st century workers with the tools to overcome new age challenges. We need to set tangible, achievable targets. We need to inculcate basic business skills in addition to (transferable) tech skills. We need also to develop empathy and communication skills through traditional teaching, disciplines like art education and edtech. Success and leadership is as much about EQ as it is about IQ.

In the new world, people will have portfolios of jobs working more like consultants. It’s already happening. We call it the “Gig Economy”. Increasingly, people want purpose in their work and they want to work for mission driven organisations. Moreover, as more big data on individuals becomes available to employers, more often than not the job will choose the worker rather than the other way around. The entire job search, candidate selection process will be re-engineered.

Healthtech is going to help us to live longer and in better shape (precision medication, genomics etc). Hence, working lives will be extended. Tech is also, hopefully, going to enable greater social mobility and fairer distribution of wealth. Individuals will make less money but they will probably have better quality lives, communities will live in greater harmony and the planet will be cleaner. Of course, for those of you who find this vision of the future less than attractive, we could just back up the DeLorean, fire up the Flux Capacitor and take you back to 1985.


Author: Arup Ganguly is a Board Member of the Global Gene Corporation. Previously, Arup spent 27 years in the banking sector and currently sits on the boards of several companies in the tech and finance sectors. Arup is a Times of India blogger and has been a guest columnist for various finance journals including the Economic Times. Arup was raised and educated in both the UK and India. He lives in London with his wife and three sons.