The Rise of the Digital Centaur
How Technology Integration Will Augment Humanity
By Scott Klososky
The acceleration of the digital transformation due to the pandemic brought both encouraging and worrying trends. On one hand, teleconference platforms allowed us to stay connected during mandatory social distancing requirements. On the other hand, many developed “Zoom fatigue” due to the overuse of these platforms for work and social obligations.
Because of work collaboration platforms, companies were able to rapidly pivot to a work-from-home model. However, working from home led to a rise in cybersecurity incidents such as ransomware. eCommerce retail and delivery services allowed people to restock on essential items. However, this increased the usage and market share of a few already-powerful companies while devastating numerous small- and mid-sized businesses.
Meanwhile, social technologies allow us to share our passions and pivotal life moments while staying linked despite distance. But these platforms also have shown, in some cases, to increase feelings of loneliness and raise mental health concerns. A key principle for our future is that digital transformation comes with both the positive and negative aspects.
Make no mistake, however. Transformation is coming, and at a much deeper level than we could have imagined just a few years ago. Individuals who can elevate the positives of this transformation while navigating its potential harms will thrive in the future. We call these people digital centaurs.
Digital centaurs are individuals who use digital tools to increase their value by augmenting themselves with technology to be more effective in their work and in their lives. They optimize digital tools to empower themselves. They use technology to increase their worth in the workforce and within society.
Digital centaurs are constant learners who are always on the hunt for new and innovative technology. They do not shy away from tools that others may consider too complex or daunting to understand. They are continually looking for personal and organizational improvement, not allowing themselves to get stuck in a mentality of “this is how we’ve always done it.”
Digital centaurs are also able to find a healthy balance with technology. While they use digital tools effectively, they find the ability to not become overwhelmed by these tools. They can appropriately function in non-digital environments as well as in physical personal interactions with others.
While all of us, to a certain extent, will be digital centaurs because we are required to use digital tools to function in our daily lives, it is those who are able to use these technologies to thrive who will flourish.
In the future, even the near future, leaders are going to need to be on the hunt for digital centaurs who can strengthen their organizations.
These tools will come in many different forms. Like all digital tools, they can be used for flourishing, but can also become overwhelming if deployed incorrectly.
The following paragraphs highlight a few of the more common technologies digital centaurs will employ, including implantables, wearables, and artificial intelligence.
Implantables may seem futuristic, but they are already being used to augment people today. Think of a pacemaker to regulate heart function or a cochlear implant to help those with hearing loss regain the ability to hear.
An implant under the skin of our hand or connected to our brain has the potential to restore, replace or upgrade a natural human capability, delivering cognitive or physical improvements in the form of memory boosting and vision enhancement, for example. These advances can help empower us as individuals in ways that improve our quality of life and enhance our productivity and creativity. This use of self-augmentation embodies the ideals of what it means to be a digital centaur.
As implantables become more widely available, we may need to wrestle with increasing divisions and inequality between those who have the means or choose to augment themselves with implants and those who do not.
You may be sporting a wearable in the form of a smartwatch. But eventually we will see wearable technology employed in our clothes, glasses, earpieces and rings. Through sensors, these devices track our movements and biometrics, allowing us to gather a steady stream of data on how our body and mind are functioning.
The goal is to pursue the “quantified self,” or the practice of self-tracking, to provide insights we need to make more well-informed life decisions. Greater data collection can translate into better health outcomes through the expansion of preventative medicine. Doctors will use self-tracking data to spot trends and make diagnoses before a condition manifests physically or mentally.
This could have important societal implications as well, such as in the case of a global pandemic like COVID-19. Aggregated health data collected from thousands of self-trackers could allow health officials to quickly spot and contain potential outbreaks of disease before they can spread.
Wearables also can make life more fun, through headsets or glasses equipped with virtual reality gaming and apps that let you travel the world from the comfort of your home. Wearables, however, come with risks as well including the potential of enhanced surveillance and the loss of privacy because of the increase of the digitization of personal information.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Beyond implanted and wearable technology, we can augment our human capabilities by harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) for our benefit. Instead of fearing AI, we must look for ways to combine the relative strengths of humans and intelligent machines to improve how we live and work. Indeed, researchers at Accenture found in their review of 1,500 companies that “firms achieve the most significant performance improvements when humans and machines work together.”
Centaurs can maximize this synergy between humans and technology to become more dynamic, make better decisions, and live a more fulfilled existence. Instead of replacing and displacing us, AI will equip people with tools to become more productive, creative and effective in what they do.
For people unaccustomed to the heavy integration of technology and humanity, the digital transformation will continue to be disorienting. Even the young generations today who are born into the Internet world may struggle with the next few transformation stages. As leaders and as humans, we should learn to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives within our organizations and ourselves. Therefore, it is paramount to develop the qualities of a digital centaur. This will help you achieve greater things than you could have ever imagined.