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A Reassuring Connection


A Reassuring Connection

Now is the best time to invest in your employees and give them the communication skills they need to navigate through the challenges ahead.

Most people would agree that we are experiencing a pivotal moment in human history. The ‘pivot' refers to a turning point where the current direction and way of doing business gives way to a new direction that requires new procedures. The most obvious way to use the verb 'pivot' to describe a change in direction and action is in sailing. The wind pushes the ship forward until a turning point is reached, the rudder changes direction and the sail pivots around the axis of the mast. Such pivots are typical of the action of sailing, as the ship's destination is rarely exactly in the direction of the wind.

Pivotal moments are the natural companion of motion. As long as a ship is moored safely in a port, no course corrections are necessary, but there is no fortune to be made here, either. Ships and their crews get rusty when they are not in use. The seafarers may get restless and look for new employment opportunities elsewhere. Running a ship is part of an enterprise, and as such it needs wind in its sails, constant movement and turning points. The ship's crew has learnt to harness the winds and turn them to its advantage. Crucial moments come and go, but the crew's prospects depend on the quality of leadership and cooperation.

The ability to work side by side and communicate with one-another is perhaps the greatest human achievement. Sailors talk to each other on deck and below about their tasks, their hopes and their plans, making the hours go by faster and their work seem more effortless. Being part of a team, having a role, making a contribution - all these are signs of an individual's value to society. Whether on land or at sea, humans are first and foremost social beings who depend on their community for survival. Even the most basic events, such as being born, learning to walk and talk, receiving an education, and obtaining food, require the contribution of fellow human beings. And yet we have somehow created an environment in which we celebrate individuals who have managed to break free of social obligation.

It can be argued that concepts such as globalisation, climate change and, more recently, artificial intelligence (AI), represent pivotal moments in our history. In all three cases, the sail is turning around the axis of the mast to steer the ship towards a new horizon. Take globalisation, for example. After many decades of powerful nation-states, tight border controls, and high import and export tariffs, improvements in technology made it possible to organise processes on a much larger scale. This culminated in the idea of a 'global village' with happy and productive global citizens. According to this vision, any seafarer could sign on to ships sailing under any flag and benefit personally from this new freedom. 

Those who doubted this vision and opposed globalisation often pointed to the fact that our international instruments of justice, taxation, and so on, were not yet mature enough to ensure that the vast global gains would also benefit the national citizens who had contributed to the success. The fear was that each market would compete with all others, and that local workers and communities would be excluded from the global gains. Tax evasion, misreporting, wage dumping, and the destruction of unprotected natural habitats are the most obvious side effects of this scenario. In our ship analogy, the owners of the ships would be sitting around banquet tables on private yachts in some faraway countries, and would not be so concerned about the welfare and ultimate fate of the crews on board their ships. And, in some cases, this fear was not at all unjustified.

The next pivotal point is a consequence of climate change. In this grim scenario, greenhouse gas emissions from cars and industry are causing global warming on a scale never before experienced by mankind, with dire consequences for food, health, and the wider economy. In other words, there are great dangers ahead, and the ship that is our economy will have to turn fast to not run aground or reach a point of no return. The sails are turning around the axis of the mast for our ship to turn us towards a greener 'non-carbon based' economy. The hope is that a change in attitude and behaviour can reverse the worrying temperature trend that has been with us since the Industrial Revolution. Many people fear massive job losses due to the influx of new technology. 

The deep fear of losing one's job can best be understood in the context of the social status and preferred self-image that a job entails. According to our current convention, having a job means being a valuable member of society, having some money in your pocket, and earning the respect of your peers. Since social position is often determined by the position we hold in a company, this has often led to a need to see others at work and to be seen at work. In a world where being busy is a sign of value, people often reported being "busy" or "stressed" when asked how they were doing. Until the Covid-19 pandemic, the idea of working from home seemed less attractive because remote working made it more difficult for employees and their bosses to indicate value by appearing busy.

When the sail finally swung around and the corporate ships set sail to establish remote working as an acceptable way of conducting business, it caught most of us off guard. Office workers around the world scrambled to free up spaces in their homes and learn how to use the web tools required for the new way of working. The fear of being disconnected from other people and not getting the recognition we deserve led to massive growth rates in the amount of information stored online. In fact, before Covid-19, it was estimated that around 30% of human intelligence was stored on the Internet. By the end of 2023, this figure is expected to reach 70%. In this respect, the Covid-19 pandemic led to the fastest growth of the Internet since its inception.

With the vast amount of human knowledge available online and at everyone's fingertips, the idea of harvesting this data electronically via bots and using it to generate and sell its creative output was just a few clicks away. Large language models can learn from human input and generate or translate text in any language. Other bots can scour the web for photographic material to create new photos. In this new pivotal moment, the Internet, which we all knew as a resource of information accessible through search engines such as Google and streaming platforms such as YouTube or TikTok, has advanced seemingly overnight to the level of a content creator. Artificial intelligence is still based on relatively simple lines of code that feed off the vastness of the Internet and the enormous computer power available today to create text, image or film output based on a multitude of unnamed sources.

Given that this new type of software is equipped with self-learning code, such as that used in autonomous vehicles, it is only a matter of time before artificial intelligence (AI) surpasses human cognitive ability, knowledge and experience. Some experts say that this time has already come in many disciplines. The simple fact that computers could one day form a single neural network and not need to sleep or go on holiday means that when one machine learns something new, all the other machines will be able to use that information too. This is a benefit that is not yet available to human beings. At this crucial juncture, what happens next is still very much up to us. Will we tackle AI together, or will we fall apart as a society and allow a handful of randomly lucky (right moment, right time) individuals to determine the future of humanity?

At crossXculture, our answer to this question is clear. Since we started our school in 2005, we have invested two thirds of our income in attracting the best language trainers in the business to teach your class. We believe that each of us has a responsibility to invest in the market we want to see grow. Because of this belief, crossXculture has tied its fate to that of its trainers. In the future, our mission will be to build even stronger bonds with our students and trainers alike by understanding each other even better. The owner of this ship has pledged to sail with his crew, as has been our custom for the past eighteen years.

And if you too are interested in competent trainers and personal support to help your team navigate these times of change, why not join us for a turn? We look forward to seeing you.
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