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In this episode of The Speaker Show, Maria Franzoni interviews Christian Kromme.

Christian is a world-renowned futurist, entrepreneur, and author of the bestseller book Humanification – Go Digital, Stay Human. He gives inspiring keynotes about the impact of disruptive technological developments on people, organisations, and society.

He was an innovative tech-entrepreneur for 15 years until he discovered the DNA behind disruptive innovation and how to use this to predict the next big wave of technological disruption.

Episode #236

Go Digital, Stay Human

Maria Franzoni:

Hello. And welcome back to the Speaker Show with me, your host, Maria Franzoni. Today, we’re talking about the impact of disruptive technological developments on people, organizations, and society. The Speaker Show is brought to you by Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau for the world’s most successful organizations, providing keynote speakers for events, conferences, and summits. My guest this week is a world renowned futurist, entrepreneur, and author of the bestselling book. Humanification – Go Digital, Stay Human. He gives inspiring keynotes about the impact of disruptive technological developments on people, organizations, and society. He was an innovative tech entrepreneur for 15 years, until he discovered the DNA behind disruptive innovation, and how to use this to predict at the next big wave of technological disruption. His purpose in life is to inspire people by awakening. The possibility that humanity can create a hopeful and meaningful future. Please, welcome my guest, Christian Kromme. Christian, I’ve given a brief introduction before we started our questions, but tell me about you. Who is Christian? What are you passionate about?

Christian Kromme:

Well, Christian is a father of three young children, happily married, living in the Dutch Caribbean, and I’m an author, a speaker, and I speak about the subject of the future. So, digitalization or kind of disruptive technologies. And today in a corona crisis, I do this fully digital from my home studio. And yeah, my background is… I was an entrepreneur for 15 years. I helped large organizations to reinvent themselves, to come up with new kind of products that disrupt their markets, their competitors. A few years ago, I sold my business, start to write my book, and then the book became an instant bestseller on amazon.com. And then my speaking career was launched and here I’m now. And yeah, I’m doing great. I really like what I’m doing, and I hope to inspire a lot of people to think differently about future more positive.

Maria Franzoni:

Yeah. I love the fact actually. Reading up about you, you do come across as a very positive person. That might be because you’re living in the Dutch Caribbean. I’m sure that helps rather than rainy UK where I am now. And three young children must be keeping you busy, so that’s wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. So, tell me a little bit more about what got you interested in the topic of future and your area of expertise. Where did it all come about? And tell me a little bit more about that.

Christian Kromme:

Yeah, well, I’ve always been an entrepreneur, operating in the cutting edge of where technology is and how we could make technology more human, more intuitive, more natural. And then about 10 years ago, my daughter was born. She was very sick and there was no… The doctors could not find any treatment for her, so we had a very bad prognosis. And so we started to look for ourselves, look for a solution. And then I started to look at health a little bit different. I started to look at the human body a little, I started seeing it as a community of billions of cells working together. And these cells are just like humans and they solve all the problems that we still have to solve in our society. So, I start, wow, what can we learn from these cells, which are already here for one billion year?

And so I start to study biology and I start to study patterns in nature. And this sparked in me some kind of fire to learn all about the patterns, because these patterns repeat themselves every now and then. So, we can learn from those patterns. If we understand those patterns, we can extrapolate them and we can see what is going to happen in the future. And this basically what I’m speaking about. It’s about waves, disruptive waves, and how they behave and how they will impact society, organizations, our personal jobs, our skills, but also our personal lives, our human being. And that’s basically what I talk about. So, I talk about parallels between biology and technology, and parallels between organizations and organisms. And therefore, I help people to let them see the future from a different perspective, from a more natural perspective. We see ourselves separate from nature, but we are nature. We are part of nature. We are biology.

And I think if you start to look at ourselves in that way, and we start to realign with ourselves and with nature, we can build a wonderful future. And that’s basically what I talk about. So, I inspire people to think from a more natural way of doing things and adapt technology to solve our problems, just like cells adapted biology to solve their problems within organisms. And we do the same within organizations. So, that’s basically what I’m talking about. And yeah, I translate biology to all kind of new technological trends and help people to see those trends as something natural and inevitable also. So, we should better adapt to it and embrace it, because if we start to fight with it, we will lose the game. So, yeah, that’s what I do.

Maria Franzoni:

That’s really a fascinating angle. It’s really interesting and very personal to you as well, that journey that you’ve been on. Really, really interesting. I like that. It’s a very different approach. So, we call you a futurist, but really what is a futurist at the end of the day? What would you say a futurist is?

Christian Kromme:

Well, people start to call me to that way when they announce me on stage. So, I adapted that term as well. But yeah, a futurist, I think, is someone who is looking into the future, whose daily profession is watching the future, watching trends, see where technology is going, see where organizations and humanity is going and translate that in simple language and simple visual information towards people who are not focusing on future on a daily basis. Many CEOs management people are working, day to day, in their organizations and they don’t have the attention to look forward as long as they should. So, I help those people to inspire them to look into the future and to see the patterns and adapt to those patterns to anticipate what’s coming. And I always translate my story to a surfer.

So, a surfer is surfing the waves. And if you know exactly when the wave is coming and how and where, and you are exactly right positioned at the right time in the right place, you can leverage that wave. You can leverage the power of that wave and you can gain exponential speed. And I try to help people to do the same, to think like a surfer. So, know exactly when the wave is coming, the technology wave, the disruption wave, the digitization automation wave, and position themselves at the right spot at the right time so they can leverage that wave and make exponential speed, like many disrupt companies doing today. So, that’s basically what a futurist is doing, is helping other people to see the patterns, to adapt to the patterns, and to anticipate the pattern.

Maria Franzoni:

Fantastic. And how far into the future do you look? Or are you looking at the current trends that are in existence now and that are likely to disrupt?

Christian Kromme:

Basically, for organizations it’s relevant to look not too far in the future. So, my predictions are between now and 2030. And beyond that, it becomes more difficult to predict because things are going so fast at the moment, point of singularity, they also call it. So, I focus on the near term because that’s where the mindset is of today’s society. People think on the short term, tomorrow, next year, perhaps three to five years ahead, but not any further. So, I keep it close to home.

Maria Franzoni:

Yes, absolutely. I know I’m much more short-termist than I used to be, but that might be because I’m getting older, I think, more than anything else. So, can you share some of the trends that you are seeing with us?

Christian Kromme:

Yeah, sure, sure. What I identified is there are seven disruptive waves, and each wave brings forward new communication technology and the wave we are now entering is all about of self-learning computers, artificial intelligence, AI in the cloud, neural networks, machine learning, all terms for basically computers that can learn things by themselves, just like children learn new things by asking things, trying things, computers can do now the same. And previously, we have to adapt to technology because technology was quite stupid, so we had to adapt to it. But now technology becomes smarter and more powerful and it start to adapt to us. And that will make a big change in how we interact with technology, how we interact with each other. And this will help us to make a more seamless connection with technology, with all the information that’s available on the internet. Previously, we have to type all kind of things with our keyboard, but now we are entering a phase where we have AI and augmented reality or mixed reality.

We put on the glasses and goggles and they will help us to see things in 3D. So, we don’t to interpellate anything anymore, we see it as we are used to in the real world. And that will make a big difference. So, artificial intelligence and augmented reality, there’s holographic technology, those are the two big trends that we will see in the next 5 to 10 years, which will have a massive impact on almost everything that we do. How we organize, what kind of skills that we perform on our daily jobs, how we interact with our friends, family, people across the world, how we have meetings with our colleagues, how we do events and stuff. And of course the corona crisis in the last two years have created some kind of pressure cooker for these kind technologies to emerge even faster. So, what we are now seeing is the emergence of the metaverse, which is I think a three-dimensional world, which is an additional layer on our real world, which will help us to communicate with people on the other side of the world.

And it will feel like if they’re in the same room. You will see those people in real size, almost photo realistic as you see other people. And it’s not like having a conversation on Zoom or teams now. You have a conversation and you can almost feel that person next to you while it is in Australia or US or whatever. And I think these kind of things will make technology so human, so intuitive, that it will be adapted by even more people worldwide. So, younger people, elderly people, people without education, because everyone knows how to use his fingers, how to use his voice, and how to treat the world that we live in our entire lives. So, there’s no threshold anymore to enter that digital world. And I think that’s what’s going to happen in the next five years already. And after that, it’s even becoming even better, even more natural. So, I see a lot of change coming at us in the next few years already.

Maria Franzoni:

Fantastic. You said that there were seven… What was the word you used? Different-

Christian Kromme:

Waves. Waves.

Maria Franzoni:

Seven waves. Of course, surfing. I like the waves. There were seven waves. So, what are the seven waves?

Christian Kromme:

Well, the first wave was all about agricultural revolution. So, we started to develop language, we started to share ideas, we start to hail cattle, do agriculture. Then our communities start to grow bigger, and we started to have problems with our infrastructure, getting all the stuff to the right people at the right time. So, there was the industrial revolution and there we built the digestive system and the vascular system of our society with large industry, real worlds, oil pipelines, and the energy grids. And when we eventually developed electricity, we entered the third wave, which is all about information. Basically the nervous system of our society. We developed the eyes and the ears of our society, cameras, microphones to build television, radio, and finally the internet as we know it today. And the wave after that was about automation. So, organizations like IBM started to develop microchips, operating systems, and all kind of software to automate all kind of, yeah, regular processes to make them more easy.

After that, there was the social media revolution, the internet with the smartphone and all these things that we have experienced in the last 20 years. And the sixth wave is the AI wave which we have entered about one or two years ago, and it will last to 2026, ’27. And then we will go into the seventh wave, which is all about the imagination. It’s about the prefrontal cortex of our society. It will help us to develop a universal language, a visual language. It will help us to imagine things and simulate things that are not yet there. The same thing that we have in our prefrontal cortex. And that wave will start around 2026, ’27 and will end somewhere near 2032, ’33. So, those are the seven waves and they correspond with the seven waves that we have seen in biology, where the first wave was about multicellular organisms, which start to develop a language so they can speak to each other. They start to build communities like coral, which is the prototype of our bones.

But the second wave in nature was about infrastructure. So, the digestive systems, the vascular systems, and we see larger warm-like organisms start to emerge, which are the prototype of our vascular system and our digestive system of course. The third wave was all about yellow fish like organisms. So, organisms with nervous systems, eyes, ears, and all these things. Then we had the fourth wave, the dinosaurs, with the reptile brain. It’s about automation of the internal processes. The fifth wave was about social, the social brain, the mammals, the mammalian brain, which helped us to have dialogues with other organisms, start to live in hurdles, start to develop social behavior. The six wave was about a neural cortex brain, like the AI in the cloud, for our body. It’s the neural cortex that helped us to learn and adapt in real time. And the seventh wave for the prefrontal cortex that helped us to develop language, advanced things like empathy, social behavior that helped us to develop larger communities. So, what you see is that those seven waves correspond to each other. They have a high level of correlations, and we can learn from that. And that’s basically what I’m doing on a daily basis. I translate biological trends into technological trends and help people to understand it in that way.

Maria Franzoni:

That is absolutely fascinating. Thank you. And what’s really impressive… So, if people are watching on the video, they’ll know, but if they’re listening to the podcast, they won’t realize that you have recited all of these waves without notes. Absolutely amazing. Really incredible. Thank you for that. I’m very impressed with that.

Christian Kromme:

I do this for a couple of years now, so they’re [crosstalk 00:14:44] in my brain.

Maria Franzoni:

Yeah, so you know. You know. Yeah. And is this what you talk about in your book? So, your book is called, Humanification – Go Digital, Stay Human. Is that what you talk about in that book?

Christian Kromme:

Yeah, I write basically about the discovery of those waves, how I came to the process with my daughter, when was very ill. And by saving her life, I gained some insight that can also be translated to business people or decision makers or policy makers. So, I started to write a book and this is basically about the seven waves and how each wave is building up in a S curve. So, first, very gradually then exponential, and then it matures. And I explain what kind of trends we will see in every wave because every wave is maturing. So, we see robotics, artificial intelligence, the internet, things we see also integrating in the agricultural wave, and in our governments, and in our money systems. So, I describe how each wave will look like in 2030 so that people get the feeling of how the world might look like around that time.

And my keynotes are also around those waves. So, I explain the bigger picture. I help people to see the big picture, the parallels between biology and technology, and nature is very natural. It’s called that way with a specific idea. It’s everything is natural in nature because it goes very, how do you say that? It’s very, yeah, natural. I can’t come up with a better word. And if people see that technology around us also behaving very natural, then it’s for people more easy to understand and to translate to their own company or to their own business or job. So, yeah, those waves are mentioned in all my keynotes, are mentioned in my book, and everything I do, basically.

Maria Franzoni:

What I like about that when you’re saying that the technology changes are very natural, just like nature, it makes me feel a bit more comfortable because, at the moment it’s all a bit scary. I don’t understand the metaverse and I’m sure there’ll be people listening to this that don’t, and it’s sort of all these changes. And the fact that you’re talking about these changes coming in fairly short time, this exponential change. And so when you then say it’s natural, it puts me ease. And I think that’s part of your positivity, isn’t it? That, for you, these developments, these changes, these waves are actually… They bring a lot of positivity with them.

Christian Kromme:

Absolutely. Absolutely. If you look at nature halfway in every seven waves, there is a turning point where nature goes the other way. And halfway, the biological waves, it was about dinosaurs. They were hardwired to hunt and to grow. And now we see the same happening with our organizations. We have dinosaur organizations which are hardwired to make profits and to grow. They can do nothing else than that. And that’s a dead end for evolution, because if you are hardwired, you don’t have free will, you cannot make your own decisions, and now we go the other way. And I think the corona crisis, where we are in right now, is much more than a healthcare crisis. It’s a humanitarian crisis. We hit the bottom where we cannot go any further. Our systems are hardwired to do only one thing, that’s growing and making profit. Now we have to go to the other way. So, I think in a short term, we will have a lot of… We’ll have a bumpy road. Let’s say it that way. But on the longer term, five, six, seven years from now, we will start to use technology for the better of humanity to create a beautiful society. So, I think we have to go through this valley to get on the other side. And the other side I’m very positive about, is five or six years from now.

Maria Franzoni:

Okay, good. I should put a note in my diary to check in with you in five or six years time and tell you that you were right. I think that sounds really good.

Christian Kromme:

Yeah, yeah.

Maria Franzoni:

So, you’ve given me a lot of examples of trends that you’re seeing. Something that a lot of people are worried about is the future of work because of course, as you said, the corona crisis, the corona pandemic, has disrupted things. Have you got any trends that you can share with us with regards to what might be happening with the future of work, which I know is one of the topics you’re asked to talk about?

Christian Kromme:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I think that organizations will change dramatically. How organizations are structured. Today’s organizations are all hierarchical structures, which everyone in that structure is dependent on the layer above, so there’s no freedom, there’s no free will. And you study all your life to fit in that pyramid. And I think that’s the wrong way. We are now seeing different kind of organizations. And I’ve started here, which is working on swarm organizations. Within the swarm organization, the algorithm help you to find people that complement your weaknesses. So, you are in the middle of a circle of six other people… Sorry, you’re seven in total. And the other people take care or balance your weaknesses. So, in total, there’s a new kind of harmony. And in this kind of organization, we need a completely different kind of skills. So, today’s skills, 80% of our economy is based on hard skills. All kind of repetitive tasks that can be defined by rules.

Well, AI and robotics are very good in automating those things. So, sooner or later, they will become a commodity, a very cheap. And if that is your job or your skill, then you’re obsolete. So, I think, on the short term, it will be very harsh for people to acknowledge that a machine is better at their skills than they are. But on the longer term, we have to differentiate ourselves from the machines. And everything that can be automated and digitized will be cheap, but things that cannot be digitized or automated will increase in value. So, and those are the soft human skills. And that’s why I called my book Humanification. I really believe that all the things that are hard skills will be automated, and we humans have to refocus again on soft skills, the skills that we are born with, but we never cultured it on school because our economy is not valuing it.

But now our future economy is all about empathy, emotional intelligence. Within those swarms, you need to connect with other people on a very human level. Vision, flexibility, compassion, showing your emotion, being vulnerable in front of other people. All these things are becoming more important. So, I think that work of the future is much more human. It’s much more focused on our human skills, and all the other things are done by machines. So, I think jobs will be there in the future, but it will be completely different. To give you two examples, for example, a doctor or a lawyer. Those are people who are operating from the head, from logic. They’ve learned a lot of books or read a lot of books, learn a lot of things during their life, but machines are very good at that. So, if machines can do the diagnosis for a doctor, the doctor can focus more on the human relationship with his client, with his patient.

The same thing for a lawyer. Machines can read through hundreds of millions of documents, legal documents, within one second, and can give you exactly the right legal option that you should choose. So, I think lawyers should be more people who are creative, more human, and interact with their clients to solve their issues. So, I think we will see a shift. Today’s jobs are 80% hard skills, 20% soft skills. I believe in the future that will shift. So, we will have 80% soft skills, 20% hard skills. And the machines will automate all the things that have some kind of repetitive character. So, I think people should be ready for a massive change, and I think that’s very uncomfortable because change is always related to pain. You have to change yourself, you have to change your behavior. And I think the future is much more purpose driven. So, start to align who you really are, what things that you like, and machines can help you, technology can help you, to amplify that in the world, and to reach thousands, a million, or a hundred million people, for example. And that’s, I think, the future where we are going to in the next 5 or 10 years already.

Maria Franzoni:

I like that. I think it sounds really positive and you’ve made me feel very positive. I’ve enjoyed this a lot. And I can understand now, in your title of your book, when you say go digital, stay human, how that can work, how the digital and the human can work together. And I think that shift’s a very positive shift.

Christian Kromme:

Absolutely. I think technology is nothing more, nothing less than an amplifier, but the better and the more powerful the amplifier is, the more important it becomes what you put into the amplifier, the input signal. And that’s what’s your purpose? Why are you here? And technology like AI can write documents, can edit movies for you, but what is the movie about what is the document about? And that’s, I think, the human part that we have to bring in. So, I think our society will make a shift to a much more human-like society. And it will happen, I think, very soon. If you look at how AI is evolving right now and how robots are evolving, it’s going exponentially fast. And we have even algorithms now that can program AI algorithms better than humans can do.

So, we are already, on some levels, we are outperformed by machines. So, I think we are at a very big tipping point in time in a crossroad, and we have to make a choice. Do we start to run even faster than the machines? Try to become even more effective? Or do we go another way, the more human way? And I think that’s the right way to go. The only way to go. Because machines are growing exponentially in their performance and we cannot keep up. It’s a dead end. So, sooner or later, more and more people will switch to the other side, team human, and start to become more human.

Maria Franzoni:

I like that, team human. Are there any downsides? You are so positive. Is there anything we should be worried about?

Christian Kromme:

Oh, absolutely. Technology is basically neutral. It’s like a sword. You can keep peace with it or you can make war with it. And technology’s doing the same. What we see today is that we are moving towards a technocratic society. Everything is tracked with the corona pass QR codes, these kind of things. Facial recognition with AI. If you look at China, for example, I think that’s a very bad example of how technology is used. And we see that in Europe now as well, in [inaudible 00:24:30] and in Australia as well. And I think that is a very dark side of technology which is used to control people, to divide people. And I think technology, just like biology, is about uniting people, and empowering those people, just like the cells in your body. Your heart cells are united by the tissue, and they’re empowered to do the only thing that they’re here for, that is beating and pumping blood. And I think technology is here to do the same.

But what we see now is that the people in power use technology to suppress people, to control people. And I think that is the wrong way. And we have to stand up against that and make very conscious decisions about what kind of technology we want to use. Do you want to use Facebook, which has a lot of high level censorship, for example? Or YouTube? Or you do you choose for a different kind of technology? So, I’m afraid, on short term, that the super powers that are in those exponential technologies are used for the wrong purposes, and it’s time to realize that and to start oppose to that and to start to use technology for the right purpose, that is to create a thriving society which is about empowering people and uniting people instead of the opposite.

Maria Franzoni:

Okay. That makes sense to me. So, tell me. What are you working on now and what are you going to be working on in the future?

Christian Kromme:

Well, what I think is it all starts with inspiration. So, I believe that people are afraid of technology, are afraid of the future because they think in threats. They see everything as a threat for their job, for their being, for their whatever. But if you see how technology can be used to create a better society, then people start to create or prime their subconscious mind to think in opportunities. So, I recently started a newsletter created by artificial intelligence and it’s Disruptive Inspiration Daily, and people can subscribe for it for free, and you get to latest technology trends that creates a better humanity every day. So, the people start to prime their subconscious mind and start to create a toolbox where they can grab things from and start to create a better world. I’m also involved in a startup which is developing a swarm organization. So, we start to develop an AI platform that help people to pick people, to put every individual in the center of its own ecosystem.

So, like I said earlier, we do some tests with you, what is your purpose? What are your values? What are your skills? And then we try to find people that complement your skills and create a new kind of team, a new cell. And these cells do the same. So, it’s like a holographic system and it works exactly like fish do in schools and swarms. How birds are swarming. And all those swarms are in flow, they are in line with nature and it doesn’t cost any energy or stress. So, we want to build different kind of organizations and it’s called symbiosis, symbiotic systems, and it will help people to develop or discover their purpose, start to develop the emotional skills, emotional intelligence, to collaborate on a much more human level. And finally we deliver the skills for people so they can collaborate in large swarms, which are very agile. They can change within a split second, and traditional organizations can’t. They’re very slow. So, that is what I’m doing. And basically I give a lot of keynotes online. Next week, I’m speaking on the world expo in Dubai, for example, for the agricultural industry. So, I show people where technologies going in that industry, and I try to enjoy my family and the weather here in the Caribbean as much as possible. So, yeah.

Maria Franzoni:

I’m a little bit jealous. Thank you. It’s been an absolute pleasure to host you. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.

Christian Kromme:

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Maria Franzoni:

Fantastic. And thank you, everybody, for listening to the Speaker Show. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a rating on Apple podcast and you can keep up with future episodes on the Speakers Associates website, which is speakersassociates.com, or your favorite podcast app. Do grab a copy of Christian’s book, Humanification – Go Digital, Stay Human. And if you would like to invite Christian to come and speak to your next conference or event, get in touch with Speakers Associates in plenty of time to book him so that you won’t be disappointed. I will see you all next week. Bye-bye for now. Thank you.

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Maria Franzoni is an established and recognised speaking industry expert and one of the most experienced speaker bookers in Europe.

As well as working with speakers, Maria also hosts live shows and podcasts. She currently hosts The Speaker Show podcast for Speakers Associates.

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