What is your background briefly?
I have an MSc in Physics Engineering. I was a science and technology reporter for about 20 yrs, mostly at the major Nordic technology magazine Ny Teknik but also as a freelance and for some time as a guest reporter at Cnet News in San Francisco, while attending as a fellow of the Innovation Journalism Program at Stanford University.
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
Yes, definitely. With my degree in engineering I have a solid understanding for technology, not to mention my passion for understanding technology and how it changes the world.
And as a technology reporter I have been trained to ask well crafted questions, to collect and analyse key information, and to produce stories that make advanced technology understandable and attractive to a large but demanding audience, while also putting the use of new technologies and its consequences into a broader context.
1 min pitch for what you are doing now?
I work as a speaker with seminars and workshops, and as a research analyst for academic and private projects, focusing on cutting edge technology and how it changes the conditions for businesses, for our society and for our lives, pushing adaption much in the way Darwin describes how biologic life adapts to new conditions. And I’m proud over feedback from people telling my that I provide real and credible understanding of the mechanisms of digitalisation and of why technology is such a powerful driver for change.
- digitalisation has barely started and will be a much larger transformation than most people imagine.
- over the next decade it means that every company in every industry will need to change its business model, develop new products and services and new collaborations on the market, based on the opportunities digitalisation, algorithms and AI offer.
Can you give a few tips on how people should prepare for this?
The first thing you have to prepare for is a world where everything is changing at an increasing pace. So you have to be ready to adapt and to be flexible, always open to learning new things.
Then it’s important to understand that machines will do everything that is possible to automate—mostly routine tasks, bot physical and mental, that most people find boring and time consuming. This is a great opportunity to let technology free up your time, asking yourself what you would happily let machines do for you, letting you focus on four things that machines still have a hard time doing—creativity, the ability to convince and motivate other people, empathy, and fine dexterity. On the other hand, machines are already better than humans at many things, and sometimes they even discover things that humans don’t see. Therefore you should be open to interact with machines, collaborate with them and also learn from them. Finally—I think it’s important for everyone to remember what humans really need and to help shaping technology in a way that’s good for people, being aware of pitfalls and bad uses of technology.
Most people will have to ask themselves what they really would like to do when machines gradually will take care of repetitive tasks, over time more and more advanced.
An End to #Traffic Jams? It Might Not Be a Dream. Stanford researchers suggest that congestion pricing, on-demand #carpooling, and #SelfDrivingCars will revolutionize our transportation system. https://t.co/xWCjDqgtEe pic.twitter.com/LHqEfOkqZj
— Mats Lewan (@matslew) May 7, 2018
What suggestions would you give for us to future proof our working lives?
Focus on developing human skills as those I mentioned above, in any context and in any combination, and to learn more about what machines are good at and what they can do for you.
Also, policy makers need to address the challenges posed by digitalisation – the risk for a divided society; how should the gains from automation/AI be distributed to citizens, how will we incentive education etc
So, along the lines of learning how to learn perhaps rather than learning facts and figures? Will we be able to work less in the future?
Yes, we will need to learn how to learn, and we will need life long learning where schools and universities need an increased and continuous interaction with industry, and also with the students who sometimes have more knowledge or more new ideas than teachers. Yet, a broad basic education is fundamentally important to be able to put new knowledge into context, and also to be able to assess new information and evaluate its credibility in a world where anyone soon can produce any false documentation, even video.
And maybe we can choose to work less, although it’s also true that the world risks being more and more competitive. Therefore it depends on how we will organise our society and if we manage to make political choices that let us use technology to improve most peoples lives, and provide resources evenly distributed to everyone.
Will we want to?
We will have to. But I also think that you will be able to choose a life isolated from the mainstream technological society, if you wish. Some people will always choose to do so.
Initially there will be great value in collaboration between machines and humans. In the longer perspective no-one knows…
Yes – so what about the enhanced intelligence idea, that AI and machines will take away the dull and drudge work, and enable us to be more creative? Is this too utopian?
Hopefully not utopian. I think there’s a great opportunity for people to develop our most human aspects, but that also requires us to be aware of what we want life to be, giving priority to our human strengths. This also touches upon another large topic—how we will be able to organise society from a global perspective in a world where communication makes people from different cultures and with different values getting increasingly closer to each other, while the challenges for our established national and political structures are growing. At the moment I’m looking specifically into this topic in a research project investigating the future of the welfare state and the national state in a digital world. And it’s really fascinating—lots of questions and few certain answers.
How can people find out more about your work?
My website http://matslewan.se
Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?
Maybe the topic of my book An Impossible Invention: In parallel to my other work I’m following an intriguing story about an energy source (of heat) that could potentially change the world—Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (formerly known as Cold Fusion, mistakenly discredited in 1989 although the term cold fusion might be misleading)—basically a still poorly understood form of nuclear reaction without radiation, without radioactive fuel and without producing hazardous waste, yet with the high energy density of nuclear reactions compared to chemical, meaning that one gram of fuel corresponds to about a ton of oil.
A part from potentially replacing all other form of harmful energy sources—fossils and nuclear—and promising things such as clean water to everyone on Planet Earth, it could also make energy a cheap and readily available distributed resource, in the way that Internet changed information from being controlled to be commonly available and distributed. Together with digitalisation, this would accelerate the change for the world.
How can people contact you & learn more about you?