Author Anastasiia Marushevska
Russian version of the interview
Adam Dorfman is a weathered speaker, tutor, author of book “Conceptual Revolutions in Science: A Collection of Scientific Explorations & Interviews”, founder of ifwhenthen and a philosopher of the future. He’s dedicated his career to pursuing the concept of the platform business model, data science, blockchain, AI and how all of these will change the nature of work and education.
ifwhenthen is a platform, which will aggregate all the educational possibilities around Eastern Europe, connecting everyone who wants to master new digital skills to online and offline learning communities and industry leaders.
The goal is to decentralize higher education by using a trusted search engines to make the educational process smoother, faster and more up-to-date.
We sat down with Adam about the future in various fields and agreed that scenes from sci-fi movies are still not here. But it can be soon, if we start exploring and a deeper understanding of ourselves.
About the philosophy of the future
Can I think about myself as a philosopher? I think that my philosophy is to inform my beliefs in what people are gonna need in the future. So I consider philosophy a sort of ability to look a little bit forward, while logic works well for daily tasks.
My philosophy is that our understanding of reality will always be incomplete so, there’s always gonna be something going, there’s always some way to make it better. The other thing is that everybody wants progress. So progress by enabling better interactions provides the best learning opportunities.
We are most motivated to learn when we have autonomy, the perception of choice and feel a sense of connection to the future. The current education system is too centralized and rigid in its approach to preparing students for the future of jobs.
Regarding the future of education
When I look at the university with a 4-year degree, where they tell you what you’ve got to learn, who you’re gonna learn it from – I don’t think it’s motivating. Especially, when it takes so much time. When I look at things that are changing I don’t see how any country is gonna survive with an old type of system because it’s gonna lead to massive demotivation, and that demotivation leads to propaganda, it leads to people being very angry.
The purpose of my platform is to decentralize higher education into new learning communities. Defining learning communities is also important, so any type of course you take can be completed in less than three months and help you to improve your skills towards mastering.
So for the future of jobs, the decentralization of the higher education is the most important thing, as nobody will have time to go four years to relearn something.
We’ll need it much quicker and less centralized. So the platform is really about a search engine and social network that links these learning communities, enables workshops and conferences to build reputations and then connects them to people to these thought leaders. So these creators can also establish a reputation that can carry them to some other spheres and to take impressions.
Most of the new type of curators and teachers will come from a private sector having a better ear to the ground on things that are changing. What’s going to happen is that the students are going to decide who is the best in these emerging fields and who is the best in adapting and changing.
Right now, you don’t get to choose your professor at the university and you don’t get to choose the material, you don’t get to question the material. Innovation in itself is whether you can question what you’re studying.
The future of jobs
The world economic forum estimates that 65% of children who are in elementary school will be doing jobs that don’t exist yet. So the most important thing is to be aware of the changes and to understand sort of limitations and opportunities.
About for the last three months I’ve been doing “The future of jobs” presentations about how the platform business models, blockchain, the artificial intelligence are changing the nature of work.
I’ve given the presentation 25 times to innovation labs, coworking spaces, private corporations, and it is just an exploring what are the misconceptions of blockchain and platform business models, and how they can unlock more productive behaviours.
One of the biggest differences in Eastern Europe is that people are open to misconceptions. They’re open to the idea that there may be a better way of doing something. The problem in the developed countries is that they’re called developed which assumes that everything’s been done.
Eastern Europe has the potential to skip outdated ways of doing things and become a leader in these new business models.
The future of entrepreneurship
Jack Ma says that over the next 30 years 90% of all business will be done through the eCommerce. The digitization of our interaction is enabling this new business models to emerge, so it's important to understand how they work.
One of the major differences between platform business model and a linear business model which is defended like castle (the traditional business controls everything to prevent competition) – there’s a big gate so you can’t access. It uses gatekeepers to control what comes in and out, so it’s very hard for the business to scale, the infrastructure is very intensive and this leads to major market inefficiencies.
The more frequent someone has a positive interaction, the less will people leave - that’s your defensible strategy. It’s that you’re actually measuring these interactions, measuring the fact that the persons are enjoying themselves using a product or a service and interacting with others and you work to make these connections positive. Of course, if you are having great interactions, the customer will subconsciously keep coming back.
In a restaurant business, they normally say that you have to market to 3 positive interactions. So one is not enough, you need 3 in a row and then the person realizes “I love this place, I want to come back”. The same thing with the platform.
I think that Uber is probably among the best ones. It definitely addresses the need and the reputation system that appeals within the platforms, and makes it pretty convenient to gather around. When you travel to a new city, you now frequently have great interactions with transportation and it's easy to get around. When you use the service, the driver has a reputation to uphold, and so do you.
And one thing that is consistent with every platform it that every platform allows somebody to do unleash a new supply of something. So it aggregates all the supply and then unlocks it in a new way. For example, when YouTube was created, it provided people with tools to upload videos, and also anyone can become a celebrity.
Instagram – they created tools and rules and also anyone can become an Instagram celebrity or become a photographer. In Facebook you could connect with anybody, in Airbnb you could rent your apartment. So it engages people in completely new way. Things they couldn’t do before. Like you could become a taxi driver quickly. That was impossible before.
The best platform unlocks some kind of new behavior that people want and feel like it helps them to progress in life and so then it communicates to them. It's about creating an ecosystem, establishing partnerships in the industry, integrating and facilitating the interactions between networked marketplaces.
A lot of people, who build platforms, forget about that process. Like it’s not good enough to build up technology. It’s got to be something that unlocks new a supply and there’s a large demand for that.
About the future itself
People think that it’s like this sci-fi future or like an utopian one. In my opinion, it’s not of those two. The future is about exploration and it’s about nature.
Now you remove all the gatekeepers and intermediates, all you left with is human intelligence making decisions, writing the protocols for blockchain or writing the code for an AI. We use today’s logic to program computers, but that will logic will always need to be updated as we learn more about the world and ourselves.
At the end of the day we can’t use an AI in any broad decisions until we know more about ourselves. AI decision is best used in very narrow applications and routine. things that consider speech recognition, image recognition and that doesn’t require much context. So, the future is really about exploring, exploring ourselves, using these new technologies for these new interactions and experiences, to create interactions inform us about the environment based on our current knowledge.
Now that’s where ifwhenthen comes up to - the decentralization of education needs people who be less restricted in what they can learn, how they can learn, what they can do. We need to learn how to ask the right question so that we can determine the best way forward for ourselves. Moving capital through ICOs is a big change now, it’s a sort of decentralization. It’s a global marketplace, where coins can be sold by anyone to anyone in the world.
You’re really going to see the best ideas, the best platforms are built around interactions. It’s not enough to build the technology. We’ll see more focus on entrepreneurship and scientific exploration.
Industries like space exploration and industries that we have being unable to do because we are too busy doing these routine jobs, they’re going to become super in demand. That applies to the idea of the people who can do something completely different, completely new, to engages people in a different way and people be engaged to do this new behavior setting that’s a more exploration and doing more interpretation of data.
Understanding the biases in data to help us make better decisions. To explore outside our comfort zone. So that’s why the future’s not here.
The biggest problem right now is how many people understand these technologies and that’s what limiting to this development.
Also, it’s a danger because there’s a sense that technology can solve everything with an algorithm. We want to do gene editing, but we are not exploring the environment changes that could solve these problems naturally without altering the gene sequence. there’s a science called epigenetics that does just that. That’s how the caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
That’s why the most important thing right now is decentralizing higher education so that more people can become educated and engaged, and creating a new community of mentor researchers who emerge in these new fields of study with these new views required. Helping people to start asking the right questions to solve problems. Then you really see the future emerged in a sort of sci-fi movies.