Technology innovation is about lifting constraints and eliminating boundaries. For example, smartphones have amazing computing power, yet are small enough to fit in a pocket. The Internet renders distance irrelevant. Analytical tools process unimaginable amounts of information in no time. The cloud solves issues of storage. And so forth. With so much technology innovation in such a short period of time, the questions that business and technology professionals wrestle with move from “How do we do things?” (within the boundaries of technology) to “What do we do with all that power?”
Once you realize this, it seems there are more questions in modern business than answers. Are there any ethical limits in integrating and analyzing all the information we have? Who owns the data that our customers share with us? How do we judge if all the business technology we have at our disposal does what is right? How do modern technologies affect our lives? Will technology make our lives and businesses better? How should we define what “better” really means? How do we govern the use of technology in business?
These are confusing times, as the cliché goes.
In confusing times, there is only one safe place to turn to for answers. To yourself. Take a deep look inside yourself to understand what you really stand for, what you believe in and what you think is the right way forward. This journey to yourself is an exercise in philosophy. Scary or even esoteric as this may sound, it is not. Philosophy certainly not restricted to university campuses and PhDs. This book is the living proof. It is a series of practical, provocative, playful and easy-to-read essays that meander through different branches of philosophy throughout history. These essays share a common theme: What would the old philosophers have said about modern themes in business and IT? Or in slightly hipper terms: “Socrates Reloaded.”
It’s an ideal theme indeed. It allows me to speculate wildly on a number of topics, and put words in the mouths of people who have been dead for hundreds of years (at least most of them). What are they going to do? Slap me on the fingers? Unlikely.
Although the essays are light, I am serious about what I write and what I intend to achieve. The essays parallel my journey to determine where I stand. That journey has now led to five books with hopefully many more to come. What I hope these essays can do for you, dear reader, is make you stop and think. Question the best practices you’ve been using and the principles you’ve been following. Look at things from a different perspective, choose a different angle. Put yourself in the shoes of someone you don’t agree with, and see things from that side.
All essays in this book try to provide a new angle, a different perspective. Perhaps you agree, and you gain an additional perspective. Perhaps you don’t agree and feel even stronger about the beliefs you already had. In fact, I hope you disagree. I'd like you to argue with me because then we both learn. Approaching interesting questions and topics from different points of view has a long tradition. Socrates was most famous for that. He would walk through Athens, in search of wisdom, asking questions of people in important positions – “what-if analysis” we would call it today.