Insights into Action: the Future of Tech

Tech2021: Uploading Humanism from Valeria Maltoni

When I review my search logs, I find that certain posts tend to come up again and again and generate interest over time. One I have seen recurring lately is the loosely written storyline of my contribution to the conversation on the future of tech.

The slides I used are above, and here is the video of the talk.

Technology and humanism meet

This was the topic of my Ignite Austin presentation the same year I gave a solo talk on influence at SxSW.

My goal for the presentation was to redefine the question of a vision for the future of tech. The theme was Tech 2021 and to me, the opportunity remains for women and men to co-create as connected minds on issues like sustainability, literacy, health and diseases, and the economy. There is no shortage of them.

While during SxSW, in partnership with CNN, many women in tech were honored at the digitini event, I believe it's important to adopt the Hollywood model for recognition and collaboration.

If we are to make significant progress, we need to go from two lists of men or women individually — grouped by professions — to one with teams of women and men, grouped by expectation of what we want the world to look like.

The right question then becomes, how do I get technology to have visibility into that?

Consider the similarities and differences of how we develop, our complementary strengths, the role of mentors in our lives, and the variables in complex systems. I see all these characteristics and active agents that come to our aid.

If the problems are more interconnected, so are the solutions.

At birth, each baby has the same genetic potential of Leonardo da Vinci. The environment in which you place that baby will determine her identity (my niece Aurora the day she was born in the slide).

I discovered how important these elements are when: 

  • In middle school, my mother needed to learn accounting for a job. I realized that the best way for her to assimilate new information that didn't fit with her prior education and references was to create a framework that would allow her to build on what she already knew and bridge to new knowledge. Think of the framework as motivation.
  • My insight from that project extended to seeing how frameworks help people reorganize knowledge, including what they are not aware they know already. Deloitte's Center for The Edge calls this tacit knowledge. In the new reality of work, technology can help us keep track of the ever changing flow of information, and archive the parts we need to retrieve.
  • The experience led me to wonder about the human operating system and the optimal environment we need to create for learning and innovation. This is something we need to re-connect organizations and people.
  • Through years of working with children who have physical development and intellectual learning gaps, I saw that those processes they need to bridge back to normal can be accelerated. By providing specific stimulation with increased intensity, frequency, and duration to affect vital areas of development, new brain cells could be taught to take on the job of missing functional memory.
  • It turns out the brain grows by use, and that when you provide an environment rich with stimuli , you can rewrite it with new information and help it make new connections. This is not unlike what is happening in the stream, online. People find new opportunities when exposed to information.
  • I would liken filters to the specificity of input the brain needs to grow. Currently, those filters are mainly search, like-minded groups, and a dash of serendipity in tools like Twitter and events like SxSW. Pull technology may not replace push completely, as I wrote almost four years ago. However, as technology becomes more humanized (e.g., IBM's Watson), there is indeed a chance that Artificial Intelligence agents will be Conversation Agents.
  • This knowledge and research would have not been possible without the contribution of many — men and women. I used the Marie Curie's example to demonstrate how initiative and intuition can lead to further discovery, to see beyond the obvious. Curie understood the importance of publishing and sharing information for progress to occur.
  • The value of open source is not limited to research, like in Marie Curie's case, or technology, as in the Open Source movement. Collaboration and co-creation are the tools of humanism.The technologies we can use to implement new ideas to solve current problems.
  • Logic and emotion are ingredients in a useful framework of expression and experience that allow us to make sense of the world. However, it is in the brain composition itself that we see the results of human evolution with respects to the differences between men and women.
  • As a recent study from UCI and the University of New Mexico found, in general, men have approximately 6.5 times the amount of gray matter related to general intelligence than women, and women have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence than men. Gray matter represents information processing centers in the brain, and white matter represents the networking of – or connections between – these processing centers.
  • The problems we are solving need both characteristics and skills. The power resides in connected minds, not silos. This is also true in organizations, where networks and highly refined processing centers need to co-operate to succeed and advance.

What are the implications

  • Technology and humanism meet to help us realize our potential in organizations
  • Opportunity is embedded in the connections we can make in our environment — sharing knowledge matters more
  • The stream is the place where serendipity meets our social graph and new choices emerge

I see the role of strategy as the motivating element for what's next in execution and innovation.

I am also seeing something else, and that is the power of commitment to ignite the first step and every other step after that.

In September, I will be talking about becoming a Conversation Agent at Inbound. It will be the culmination of the themes and work of a lifetime the seeds of which I plated in Austin.


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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