I often make a keynote presentation – about two or three times a week – and try to change my presentation as frequently as possible so that those who see me two or three times in a month – and it does happen – aren’t bored but, more importantly, to ensure that I’m not bored too. However, there is a downside to this which is that I can sometimes find a slide deck that I don’t recognise and then need to try and work out what to say. If that happens, I usually dump the PowerPoint and just talk (now you know the secret!). Equally, there is another strange quirk to making so many presentations and that is when the audience doesn’t ask any questions back. Was it me? Did I say something wrong? Was the presentation just awful? Maybe it’s because they’re desperate for coffee?
To be honest, nine times out of ten it seems that it’s none of the above, but it’s that I’ve frightened them. I’ve often heard feedback “all this discussion about the future and how technology is changing everything so quickly frightens me”. Sure it does, I think. But that’s just a mindset.
Technology in and of itself is not frightening at all and, as I’ve blogged about recently, it’s usually the over 35’s who fear technological change. I choose the year 35 purely as a pivotal point where we move from being young and invincible to older and cynical. Remember when you thought nothing could stop you? You had no ailments, no addictions, no inhibitors? Life was carpe diem, and everything was awesome?
That’s how many under 35’s think. They have nothing to stop them or tie them down. There’s no big mortgage, no long-term partner, no kids, no restrictions. Life is for living. Those mindsets want the future to move as fast as possible. Build robots, automate cars, make me superhuman with AI. There’s no fear there, just a rush to the future. That’s why younger folks are always twelve and three-quarters or twenty-one already. They want to be older faster.
And nothing gets in their way or brings them down.
Then they hit 35. They’ve settled down, got a relationship on the go and maybe some kids. There’s responsibilities. For the first time, they’re thinking life insurance and pensions. Why have you got life insurance? Because you’re going to die some day. And it might be some day soon. Aw shit.
No. Life is now serious. I’m going to calm down and yes, that litre of Vodka a day with Red Bull habit is no longer fun. It’s an addiction. I’m going to have to stop that. Now, I need to focus on earning to pay for a house and get serious about my career. Great.
It’s at this point that you start telling everyone you’re The New Forty when you’re actually 50. It is why the over 35’s always say they’re younger than their age whilst those in their teens they were always older. Teens are rushing towards the future; mature folks are running away from it. The future is so far away for a teen, that they’re invincible; the future is so near for an older person, that they want to avoid it.
Then, for the older you, things come along to rock this boat and you go, please don’t do that. I don’t want change. Keep my cheese in exactly the same place every day so I can find it.
I need stability, security, reliability and income. Predictable income so I can cover the costs of my house and my family. Yeas, let’s settle everything down and stop change.
So when new technologies and new ideas appear like robotics, unlike the younger me who would say Awesome, the new, settled me goes But what about people’s jobs? What will we all do?
Oh it’s oh so frightening. This big, bad world is creating new, dangerous things every day. Just look at bitcoin for paedophiles. The younger me would have said but bitcoin dude, it’s the future of money. Look, we can all transact and trade digitally now. But the older me goes, no, it’s all dangerous and is being used for human trafficking, hired killings and drugs. The older me doesn’t like new stuff. It’s unsettling and I’m settled.
The younger me would have gone but all technology breakthroughs start with crime, then it gets regulated. The older me goes yes, that’s how it used to be, but in the future …
It’s an interesting dialogue and it’s all just a mindset.
I remember presenting at a banking conference in the 1990s and a regular speaker at my conferences would be Professor David Llewelyn of Loughborough University. A Professor of Money. What a great job. He always began: “there’s been more change in banking in the last five years than in the last fifty, and it’s only going to get faster”. Today, I say: “there’s more change in banking in the last five days than in the last five years, and it’s only going to get faster”.
Of course it is. It’s always been that way. Just as Coca-Cola was invented as a medical elixir to calm the nerves of Victorians who feared the fast cycle technological change of the industrial era, Red Bull was invented as a stimulant to speed the nerves of Millennials who embrace the fast cycle change of the digital era.
Fear of the future is purely a mindset, and it never changes. We can fear the future or embrace it. It’s up to you. But if you choose to fear it, then you need to swallow the Blue Pill.