Don’t we find the people who break out of a certain framework and who are 'different' very intriguing? We can discover this uniqueness in each of us. The more artificial the intelligence around us becomes, the more the inherent potential of our own character increases. It is time to develop and use the potential that will determine our future. Utility items, described by Alibaba founder Jack Ma as “things created by humans”, should give us the opportunity to indulge in individual thinking. With the Zero Senses Retreat 'Cultivating Presence' in March 2020, I will offer time and space for such contemplation.

Compassionate Machines: Humans.

I realized that reducing sleep, optimizing my body through morning sports, having a healthy diet, and improving my memory through learning foreign languages do not make me a “better machine”. However, this banal realization raises the question: what does it mean to be a human? Recently had a fruitful discussion with a Swiss philosopher about the difference between humans and machines. He summarized his opinion in a wonderful image:

A loaf of bread:

When I send a machine to the bakery to buy a loaf of bread, I will get a loaf of bread. When I send a child to the bakery, who smells the freshly baked chocolate croissants, there is a good chance that I will not get any bread...

Situational, impulsive, and individual actions distinguish us from the accuracy and perfection, in which machines are multiple times better than we are. In a debate with Elon Musk about artificial intelligence, Jack Ma (the founder of Alibaba) said: "Chess is meant to be a game between humans and humans”. He doesn't care if a machine defeats him, nor does he try to run faster than a car. According to Ma, the time we gain from the creation of “utility items” shall be invested in self-development.

Individual Thinking

Serendipity is a surprising and positive discovery made by people when they originally wanted to buy a loaf of bread. One of the most famous examples is probably the accidental discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Such a phenomenon would never occur in a world optimized by machines, where individual thinking would not exist. But isn’t exactly our open mind is what differentiates humans, the ‘compassionate machines’, from machines? And if so: is it possible to cultivate this basic human strength after years of trying to become a better machine?

Leaders need time and space in which such accidental discoveries can happen. The Zero Senses Retreat for “Cultivating Presence” will take place in October 2021 for a limited number of leaders. In a 2 1⁄2 days program, I curated five key impulses with a focus on sensory experiences of the art and culinary scene. Focusing on the senses creates a different level of awareness. Impulses include profound conversations with international thought leaders, who will speak about economics, philosophy and research. The impact is intensified by the venue itself: located in the middle of the Swiss Alps, Hotel Paradies offers a unique atmosphere. The retreat guarantees time and space for reflection.

What Inspired Me Recently? The Formative Years.

I read the autobiography of Marina Abramovic, who is a very inspiring character for me, and is most likely one of the most successful performance artists of our time.

This woman, who used her body as canvas and took her personal experiences (family, partners, friends) as 'color' and inspiration to express herself across a variety of settings, concluded after nearly 500 pages that during all these years she was actually looking for attention and affection, especially from her partners. Why?

Abramovic grew up in a very well-situated family under the communist regime in Belgrade, in former Yugoslavia. She never experienced the love and attention she always longed for, especially not from her mother. The memory of emotional coldness endured at a young age drives her to perform even more passionately. This is why she has chosen the title “Walk Through Walls” for her autobiography.

I do not want to venture into the depth of psychology, but I find it interesting how profoundly our formative years influence our adult behavior (which is still the case for Abramovic, who is now 72). TrendsActive, a trend agency from Holland, observes formative years on a meta-level. Based on the environmental influences (such as crises, financial instability or economic development) between the ages of 4 and 14, the TrendsActive team identifies behavioral patterns, and provides companies with advice on how to approach different generations.

It is fascinating to observe the influence of the formative years in the biography of a well-known artist, as well as a business approach to better understand target groups.

Thank you for staying with me. I hope you received fruitful impulses. Please feel free to share the content with colleagues and friends.