Journey to 2025 and the Questions I Asked Along the Way

By Sue Stoney, VP of Communications, SF IABC

On Wednesday, March 1, 2017, Bay Area business communicators were treated to a presentation by Lou Hoffman, CEO of the The Hoffman Agency, and Shel Holtz, Principal and founder of Holtz Communications, at the Variety Club Screening Room in San Francisco, a venue that includes a lobby area for pre- and post-event networking and a theatre with seating for up to 60 attendees and excellent acoustics.

Lou started the evening’s discussion off by taking a look back at the previous eight years with a snapshot slide of 2009, asking the pointed question “Has Communications Dramatically Changed over the Past Eight Years?” He focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its increasing presence in the world of business and the numerous examples of technology being more accurate and efficient than humans with respect to handling data.

When the topic turned to projections for the singularity (the point at which machines will surpass humans), the statement “AI is better at prediction than judgment.” caused my thinking to take an odd turn. I wondered if machines will be (are) better at predicting when the singularity will occur…and if (and when) they achieve singularity, would they keep it from us and let us continue to think we’re still in charge a la “Space Odyssey”?

As to projections for eight years from now, here are some proposed by Lou and/or Shel:

  • Voice bots will be massively common in 2025
  • Mixed reality is the next big thing
  • Decentralized systems (a la Blockchain Revolution) that facilitate collaboration will be widespread…
  • …causing an explosion of free lancers…
  • …and a reduction in the number of websites (intra- and inter-net)

Citing the decline in people’s trust in experts, Shel said, “People don’t care about the data. They know how they feel.” It reminded me of a keynote by Geoff Colvin at last year’s IABC World Conference. In wondering out loud about the question “Will machines ever totally replace people?” Geoff’s answer pointed to the human’s “deep desire to understand” as the fuel for action and collaboration through language.

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And that brought my thought process back to business communicators and that statement that “AI is better at prediction than judgment.” Who’s better at judgment, at thinking strategically and communicating strategically-thought-out ideas in a way that lifts up the whole? Think about something as simple as Spell-Check on your computer. Your human brain “outsmarts” the computer in understanding a contextual spelling error because of your ability to make judgments and your desire to connect through communication.

At the risk of reducing this to a “talk amongst yourselves” question, I ask: How much more so does your humanity figure into supporting business that supports the bottom line while carrying forward the community? What do you think?

Sue Stoney

Sue Stoney is a writer, editor and writing coach. For more than 20 years, in the corporate world and as an independent communicator, Sue has helped many people develop content and write the stories that contribute to their business bottom line. Sue is TheMessageCrafter.com.

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