SUMMARY KEYWORDS: people, idea, talking, work, book, jobs, feel, find, government, bit, regulation, years, ai, china, minter, chinese, write, interesting, society, new technologies
SPEAKERS: Minter Dial, Ashley Recanati
Minter Dial 00:05
Hello and welcome to Minter dialogue episode number 537. My name is Minter Dial and I’m your host for this podcast, most proud member of the Evergreen Podcast Network. For more information or to check out other shows on this network, please go visit their site, Evergreenpodcast.com. Before announcing my next guest, I’d like to give a quick shout out and thanks for putting up a five-star review on Apple podcasts by topanalyst. So, this week’s interview is with Ashley Recanati. Ashley is a fellow French American, and now a fellow author. Living in Shanghai and working as the MD of the APAC region for a German industrial company actually recently released his book “AI battle while how to protect your job from disruption in the fourth industrial revolution,” published by Springer. In this conversation with Ashley, we discussed the challenges faced by people working in business, to have the right attitude and skills to adapt to this fast-changing world. How to future proof yourself and stay up to date with the new technologies? And how can we help our kids get ready. We look at some of the cultural differences, especially with his perspective being based in China. And we explore some of his key concepts and recommendations in his book. The one I liked the most was Wang see, you’ll find all the show notes on Minter dial.com. And please if you have a moment, go over and drop in a rating and review. And don’t forget to subscribe to catch all the future episodes now for the show. So, yeah, I don’t know whether I should be friends saying with you English-ing or certainly Chinese-ing. Ashley Recanati. I mean, that’s as an Italian name as they get. Who are you?
Ashley Recanati 01:47
Hi Minter. Good morning to you. Yeah, it’s so it’s it is a bit complicated. I tend to tell people now that I’m French, American Chinese, so that they stop asking me if I’m more French or more American, though I’m not. I don’t have any genetic Chinese roots. But I’ve been living in this country for longer than the France or the US. So, I felt entitled as a recent to just present myself that way. But it is a bit a citizen of the world, you could say, which I think is something you can relate to.
Minter Dial 02:18
Absolutely. So, tell us about your background. Because I would like to lead that into the writing of this book.
Ashley Recanati 02:27
Right. So, I have a background on our work. And because I in background in finance, control, and manufacturing and in the retail sector. So, always with a keen eye on efficiency, especially when we were doing M&A is acquiring firms that were not that doing that well. And we had to turn them around. So, I’ve always had an eye on this. And then in the past years, I’ve been more and more interested in future technology. This is probably also related to the birth of my first daughter, I was more into history before and then it kind of turned into a future technology. And something that came up in a lot of the readings that I had was that there was going to be a lot of havoc coming forward in the workforce. Because these new technologies coming up making certain skills irrelevant, devaluing certain expertise, and not necessarily causing massive unemployment. There are some people that talk about that. But that’s really probably really far down the line. But before that, there’ll be other problems happening, and shifts and where value resides for people in their work. So, this is something that I really found interesting. And what really shocked me was that I couldn’t find any sort of guidebook that explains to workers what they could do, most of the books that you will find out there, they just they spend most of the time demonstrating the problem that is going to arrive with statistics and a lot of arguments that are really well built, but they spend very little time on the solutions. When they look at solutions. It’s more going to be for educational reform or tax reform or things that the government’s can do, or things that business leaders can do. There’s also a lot of books that talk about, you know how to harness Big Data and avoid getting disrupted by Apple and Tesla and all these companies. But there isn’t much addressed to what the employees can do. And this is what I wanted to really focus on then. Because I saw this big girth. And I was really, I was really shocked to see this. So, I started writing an article here and article there. And then progressively I got to this project of writing a book. And yeah, here we are in 2023. Now,
Minter Dial 04:38
indeed, you talk about two gaps that need to be filled. One was the efficiency tools and the way we actually work and the second was lack of advice in how to manage effectively and certainly, I thought that your thesis at the end of the day is that everyone needs to find their own path.
Ashley Recanati 05:04
That’s right. Yeah, the reason the book is titled “The AI Battle Royale” is the idea that right now we currently have a middle class, which depends on the countries, obviously. But it’s let’s say it’s around half of the population, it used to be more than half of the population back some 50 years ago, it was around like 60% of the US. Now it’s down to about half of the population, and it’s still in decline. So, where do these people go? Well, they’re either going further down towards low paid jobs, or they’re going to higher, higher paid jobs. So, this is the phenomena that’s been happening. And that should be exacerbated further with artificial intelligence and other technologies. So, then the question is, Which direction are you going to go, obviously, everyone wants to go up words, but that involves rivalry between, you know, with your peers and your colleagues. So, only a certain number of people are going to be able to get those lovely jobs. So, that is where I tried to come in and help people to understand, okay, you’re not, it’s not a rivalry. You’re not fighting against computers, you’re fighting against other people to leverage computers and other tools in order to get into those better paying jobs and survive.
Minter Dial 06:21
And it reminds me of the story of, hey, there’s a bear coming. And you both have people in the in the sleeping bags, and one guy is not moving. He said, Hey, aren’t you scared? Why not? Yeah, sure I am. But I know I can outrun you. It’s yeah, that’s exactly the case. So, the name Battle Royale, of course, is intriguing name. It made me feel half American, half French, in the way that it’s spelt. What was the actual inspiration for using that term?
Ashley Recanati 06:57
It’s the idea that, again, it’s not everyone, but I’m not giving advice to everyone. When you give advice, saying, Okay, this is what the government should do. This is advice that concerns everyone, it’s to help for a better society. My point, and this is a very good thing I don’t I’m not disparaging that. I’m just saying that. It’s kind of just wishful thinking. And it’s not something that the majority of readers can do anything about you. So, I’m wished to tell the people like don’t just lay back and wait for government to act or go to vote and things like this. Of course, you should. But that’s not enough. You need to see what you personally can do in the workplace. And again, and the under the hypothesis that we’re there where you have 10 people working today, maybe tomorrow, there will only be six people, maybe there will be three people, how can you become one of those last standing people? This is where the term Battle Royale comes from?
Minter Dial 07:53
Well, I was I certainly subscribe to that thesis. Since when I wrote my book Future Proof. The first three chapters are dealing with really more about attitude mindset that actually worrying about the technologies themselves. But you’re I mean, the book is a feels very textbook like in terms of the thoroughness of it the schemes, do you are you trying to approach schools and universities with it as well? Or is it strictly going to be like a B2C as we say, in our old marketing lingo for folks to come across?
Ashley Recanati 08:24
I think it’s more B2C. And it is potentially an issue that I kind of thought of after, was that I didn’t want it to be too down to earth. So, for some people, there might be some areas that are a bit difficult. And this is something that should be improved. Because I want it to be a mass market. But some of the parts you do have to provide proof of what you’re talking about. And you know, Springer is a serious editor and the publisher I have so, it’s really math books and textbooks and things like this. So, yes, it does need to be well documented. And so there was a lot of research that was put into this. It’s not just because you know, GPT came out a year ago and I’m okay yeah, let’s write a book about this. And it’s been a project that I’ve been on for about five years now. So, yeah, it’s but that but that is a good point. It might have this effect of turning some people off.
Minter Dial 09:24
No, but I’m looking at it the other way and saying that it’s got the potential quality, to be a book that universities, business schools might wish to take on because as you say, in the end of the day, I mean, if you’re going to business school, for example, hopefully that it’s helping you to educate you on how to deal with the context and learning how to be part geek part executive part creative or whatever will be your cocktail should be part of the training cursus so You talk about the subtitle is how to protect your job from disruption in the fourth industrial revolution. So, that’s another piece that you educated me on. Because I really hadn’t thought specifically around the these, these revolutions, the I’m kind of stuck with my first industrial revolution from the 1800s, from my, my school, a school room in England. But of course, these been these new technologies. And I was just wondering, because I love the way you express, you know, hey, listen, we’re only going to know if it actually is a fourth, IR posthumously. But tell us how you came across a, you know, when you I know, I’m sure you had the conversation with Springer about this subtitle?
Ashley Recanati 10:43
Well, that’s the, the idea of the subtitle is to be able to explain a bit more the context of what the book is about. So, it’s talking about these new technologies, and particular artificial intelligence, but not only artificial intelligence, and what these technologies could, how they can impact the workforce, and how the employees who have a job can, you know, play their cards in this context, which is evolving very rapidly. So, the idea is, it’s not just addressing us, it’s not just the stereotype where you see a lot of research only addressing workers and manufacturing, manufacturing is not the sole sector that is concerned here, we’re talking a lot about office jobs. And we’re talking about white collar jobs, too. So, it’s really addressing all of these people. I mean, it’s a lot easier to use an algorithm to automate tasks or simplify work than it is to automate manual labor. So, manufacturing jobs again, this is not it’s less than a third of the workforce and it’s never been more than a third of the workforce even at its height. So, it’s not the main jobs that are being targeted. But the idea yes is how do you know, it’s how do you know, keep the job as long as possible you know, I make this kind of allegory with Titanic you know, it’s how you stand the boat as long as possible before getting in the water
Minter Dial 12:05
now it does have this I mean the by the image you have on the front the battle protect there’s a whole sort of battle stations component to it.
Ashley Recanati 12:16
Right, right. Yeah, that’s true there on the front we cover we have we have an artificial intelligence eye, above that is sort of looming above this battle taking place which is an old ….
Minter Dial 12:32
For anyone who is watching us on video, you can see the cover in the in the image.
Ashley Recanati 12:37
Right, it’s Akiyoshi by Kuniyoshi, and it’s a battle that happens, which I thought was really interesting, this battle, because if you look well, on the different fighters, they’re actually pieces of chess of Japanese chess, which is called shogi. And it kind of gives the idea that there’s a bit of strategy and how you, you know how you play again, how you play your cards, right? In order to get through and navigate through these treacherous waters.
Minter Dial 13:02
I love it, the most interesting. One of them. So, we’re talking about what’s it going to take and I, you’ve told us how you went from sort of that’s like me, by the way, actually, interested in history. My first book was a history book of the Second World War. And then my second book was Futureproof, talking about the future. So, it feels like a very parallel existence, not to mention the fact that I have Franco-American also is my title. But what how does one stay up to date with everything is going on? At a global level, because you have tentacles in America, in France, China? And you know, let’s say America and China, just those two alone, they’re doing quite a lot of things. So, how do you, Ashley, stay up to date?
Ashley Recanati 13:52
It’s become very difficult, especially in the past year, there’s just so much coming out. So, I have different sources of information, including like group chats with AI enthusiasts, and people who you know, creatives who use things like mid journeys, table diffusion, things like this, and then talk on plugs and plugins and things and there’s just so much going on. Now. It’s, you can’t really always be up to date and be testing all of the latest things. So, yeah, it’s a bit challenging, but it’s also a very interesting time that we’re going through. So, I prefer having this than not having any change, you know, and I find it really thrilling. When I was a kid, you know, that I was interested in history. I thought that one of the most interesting periods of recent history where you actually had someone who was like really putting it going all in to develop new technologies was a very bad example. It was the Nazis, the Nazis they just put a lot of effort into developing new technologies, and over a decade, they came up with a decade and a half, they came up with some crazy things. but it’s not really something that you want to have as a role model. But there was nothing else at the time really, in the 80s. And the 90s, you know, and now we see people like, you know, we see all these big tech companies who are putting in billions to develop the metaverse augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. And I think so. So, it’s a really a thrilling time, though, and they’re doing this for not for nefarious purposes. It can be capitalistic purposes, but it’s not, you know, they’re not trying to destroy half the planet. So, it’s a very thrilling time that we’re in. But it is very challenging, as a recent, especially when you have a full-time job to stay up to date.
Minter Dial 15:37
Well, indeed, hence my question, and I think it’s a very relevant question, at a personal level, because at the end of the day, if the book is designed to help workers deal and protect and, and get ahead, it’s how do you fit it in? And then how do you avoid? You know, I’m really curious. So, rabbit hole, hell can be the next thing because then I need to learn a little bit more about what did you mentioned augmented reality? What does that mean? You’ll figure it out. Next thing, you know, you’re, you’re reading vast tomes all about augmented reality. And meanwhile, on the sideline, virtual reality is taking off for, you know, some new chat GPT version five is up and running. And so, it is, I think, one of our true challenges as to how to orchestrate our learning in the VUCA world that we’re living in.
Ashley Recanati 16:27
Right, it’s important for people to also relate, be able to relate what these what’s going on. With their work, it’s there’s no point to like, go really, and I kind of make a point about this in the book, there’s no point going really far out to learn coding and things like this, if it’s not related to your work. So, if your work, you have to use a lot of Excel, for instance, then it totally makes sense to us to learn how to master the shortcuts with a keyboard, rather than to learn Python or something. And then it probably makes more sense to learn how to use formulas, how to use pivot chart tables, and eventually how to use Visual Basic VBA coding, because this is really related to excel, rather than trying to learn something really out there that is not related to your job, maybe it makes more sense to learn Power BI, if that’s what your company has, if you have a business analytics tool, this makes more sense than learning other things. Yeah, and you really have to keep your feet to the ground.
Minter Dial 17:22
And, yeah, and you very correctly point out how you should be linking this journey to things like what you’re passionate about what you’re good at, and where there’s a market, I mean, that the iki guy type of approach, and, and that really speaks to getting to know who you are as an individual, and trying to figure out who you want to be as you write in the future. And that, then you can sort of orient your learning. If, and this is a big old F, you have first a knowledge of who you want to be, and to the discipline.
Ashley Recanati 17:57
It’s funny that you mentioned this, because actually, I felt they I probably didn’t put enough emphasis on this. And this is really where you come from, because I know you’re big on this about, you know, what is your own hands on that? What is your own purpose and everything. So, I do take a lot of notes that I take out from the textbooks of how a business is supposed to be run, because I believe in individuals should do the same way. And a lot of the book is about transposing what businesses do, like, you know, branding yourself, creating a compelling story, automating tasks that can be automated, going for more cognitive work, and all of these things which businesses do and including doing a SWOT analysis and these very basic things, we need to do this ourselves. But we also need just like a business, we need to know, what are our values? What is our mission statement? What is our vision for the world, these are really important things that we’re not taught about that. Society just left us out. And it’s very difficult to do this as a human being it’s even more difficult thing for a company because a company is usually founded with a purpose. Whereas you know, you’re brought to this world, your parents don’t give birth, you think, Okay, this this person in 20 years, this is what he’s going to do or something. And that’s what I’m going to grown up for, you know, no, it’s that’s not the way it works. So, I don’t feel like I put enough emphasis on this. I’m actually working on the French translation now and adding a few like, you know, enhancements to this. So, that’ll probably be in the next edition.
Minter Dial 19:20
Well, I let me say I feel for you because I have translated two of my books into French as well. So, I know exactly the journey that you’re on trying to make it more relevant for a francophone market and such and then, you know, things have happened since you wrote this first one, because that takes a whole lot of work and new things that come up and update for this and update for that! Bonne chance mon cher! One of the stories that so going a little bit quicker learn, as we say in French from this to that, and one of the stories that I really enjoyed was the salt story of there was a you know, crisis of food, and people tried to get enough meat and then the soldier goes and has a super astuce, idea. Tell us about that because I loved your Fleur de Sel follow up.
Ashley Recanati 20:10
I was talking about the importance of social networking. So, it was kind of a sub story within that, but it was the idea of also at the same time, the importance of, of what is finding what is scarce, what has value. So, it’s a bit mixed between so but yeah, this was a story that took place during the Civil War, where there was some, I believe it was some looting happening around Atlantic City or something like this.
Minter Dial 20:37
The US Civil War to be precise.
Ashley Recanati 20:40
Yes, indeed. And during the American Civil War, yet, there was some looting and the people, you know, they were living off the terrain. And so they picked up a lot of the soldiers they found, stockpiles of food and they picked up the stuff as much meat as they could one of the soldiers instead of taking meat, he took salts, and the others didn’t understand why he filled his bag with salt. But by doing this, he was able, throughout the following days and weeks, to trade his salt against the meat that the other side because you need the salt in order to preserve the meat. And in order to have to make it taste better to So, by doing this, he was able to have more meat than any of the others had and then he could have ever carried. So, that was his clever way of getting through because he was the only one who had only stockpiled salt. And that was in terms of rarity, we there’s a lot of cases like this, if you look well, like if you look today, a taxi driver to get from here to the airport. And Shanghai is maybe 30 euros, exactly a year, in a few months ago, during the lockdown, it was very difficult to get out of your home, let alone find a taxi, let alone get to the airport. So, the very few drivers who had this license to be able to go out and take people around, they were charging at the time 10 times the price because suddenly driving became a scarce thing.
Minter Dial 22:00
A scarce activity. And then you have your example of the Fleur de Sel, which you bring as I would call it the French touch.
Ashley Recanati 22:08
Right? That was the example when I go and you can actually refer when you go to a barbecue, or something, people will usually bring a bottle of wine but actually being from France, I wouldn’t be able to reach this area called Laborde where we have some of the best salt in the world. And the top of the best salt is called Florida sell as you say, and a bag of this when you go there is probably like 30 euros. So, it’s the price of, you know, an average good bottle of wine. And I would rather bring a bag of this than a bottle of wine because it’s something that is more unique, more original. And it comes from a special place and it brings it lasts for a very, very long time. And it really makes the meat feel a lot better. So, it’s something that has a lot more value than just a bottle of wine amongst many that you will just end up drowning on the same evening and forget about.
Minter Dial 22:57
Well I so I had to talk to my friends at La Baule, Anne and Jean-Jacques. So, hopefully they’ll enjoy that particular idea. One of the things that really intrigued me, actually about you in your book, is the fact that you’re based in Shanghai, for the West, China, Shanghai, it’s quite opaque, obscure, difficult to understand. And I was just wondering to what extent your viewpoint in your mind has been fed by the long period of life that you’ve had in China, notwithstanding your full knowledge and Franco Americanness.
Ashley Recanati 23:37
What we see in China is acceleration is very visible here, you there’s less of A Link to the Past and people are okay with change, they they’ve witnessed an incredible change over the decades. So, they’re always going they’re always switching to something new. And they have very, you know, this, for instance, in the luxury field, they have limited brand loyalty, they’re always like switching and testing new things. And so, they’re always that they’re always into this tech acceleration. And so, you see the future kind of coming up here. It’s like it’s we’re really, it’s a country that is turned totally towards the future. Whereas in Europe, people are turned a bit more towards the past. And it’s very exciting to see this, although it’s a bit change, not as you know, the economic situation in the past year isn’t that great. But until for the past 20 years that I’ve been here, it’s it was really the place of, you know, open to the future. So, it also like, was very had a predominant impact on writing the book because you see this this big race to automate very present here, partly for reasons of demographics, because as you know, there’s a big threat of aging population here, which is like a big social time bomb, and it’s a time bomb for companies.
Minter Dial 25:00
How do you think that inverse pyramid of ages or the snow changing pyramid is impacting influencing the way that the Chinese are approaching technologies? Do you see them? Getting into octogenarian AI health care? What? How does it inform and shape the way the Chinese are approaching this battle?
Ashley Recanati 25:27
What I see the most is that they want to, again, there’s a race to automate work here for which you cannot find labor anymore. So, I’ve the example recently, with Schindler, the elevator company from Switzerland, in China there’s a bit of a weird law where you have to maintain elevators every two weeks. So, every single elevator and every single building needs to have a maintenance guy come and check the elevator every two weeks. And this is a huge burden for elevator companies. So, they’re trying to upgrade the elevators with IoT devices and things like that, to really facilitate maintenance and do preventive maintenance. And they’re working together with the government to do this, because the government is very aware of this acute labor shortage in this type of job, so that they can transition and change the law so that they no longer have to have this very strict regulation anymore. So, it’s just an example. But we have like a huge issue coming up. As you see in the book, Today, China has 900 million workers, by 2050, there will be only 700 million workers for a constant. So, that’s a 200 million workers less, which is just a huge amount of more than the entire workforce of the United States. So, how do you compensate for this? Automation is one of the main directions that the country is marshaling forth in order to solve this issue.
Minter Dial 26:52
Yeah, so what I’m hearing is there in this particular case, for Schindler, there’s the, you know, lifts in general, is this collusion, or at least work with the government? Because at the end of the day, what that speaks, in my opinion, more to the Chinese situation. And yet, we do need to think about this idea of regulation, which seems to be a pretty spiny topic. How does one appraise regulation? And how is it different in your mind, when you look at Europe, France, United States and China?
Ashley Recanati 27:30
Each of the countries has a very different approach. But in terms of regulation, there is a lot that needs to be done, it’s just looking at the issues posed in general, by AI. Augmented reality, when this comes out to really master society, there’s just so many ethical issues that are being raised. And so many areas where we need regulation, to intervene or to provide a framework for companies to be able to work and putting in terms of protocols and harmonization of these protocols. So, that there’s just so many areas that that are needed, and for related to work, it could be more flexible methods of work, it could be more I mean, regulation sometimes is very damaging to work when you have things like even if it’s with good intentions, if you write if you raise the minimum wage, it makes it more appealing for companies to seek other ways to get the work done using silicone, using, you know, artificial intelligence instead of using labor. So, it’s, there can be some negative effects, even when there’s good intentions.
Minter Dial 28:40
I know your book isn’t intended for the government. But if you had a government, person, relative related to regulation, were listening. What advice would you be giving them in terms of like a framework for their work?
Ashley Recanati 28:57
In terms of the future of work?
Minter Dial 28:59
Well, in terms of regulating AI, and the tech that’s out there? I mean, because the end of the day, you know, you and I beginning we talked about how difficult it is to stay up to date, and we yet are at the coalface with a lot of this stuff. Someone in government was brought up at a very swank school, perhaps, but that doesn’t make them equipped to understand how to deal, regulate and, and inform people.
Ashley Recanati 29:27
There’s a lot, I mean, this isn’t a topic that I really am focused, or I’ve researched, or consider myself an expert on because there’s a lot of that there’s really a lot of areas where there’s a lot of ethical concerns being posed by AI. And then for it’s really, it’s really unfortunate that a large part of the debate is turning around the prospects of artificial super intelligence, which is really something that we should keep it for later because it’s we’re nowhere near to getting there. So, that’s not something we need to worry about today. But unfortunately, a lot of that is Discussion is centered on that. But I believe the government should, at least, that there should be really some sort of organization created government, like a panel of governments and with scientists, with data scientists, with businesses, and with, you know, a bit of all the stakeholders, even employees, you know, for that matter, and some citizens, like some sort of organization created a little bit like you have with the ISO or something like this, but even if it’s just at a state level, that could be a good start, because you can, you know, you can dream too big at the beginning, but just at the state level, if you start to have this kind of corpus that can then think about the problem, tackle the issues work on them one by one. And that’s not just a temporary thing, it’s really just a long-standing thing to remain informed. These people can then inform, you know, other decision makers within the governments, they can help to define the regulations and the policies that are necessary and provide recommendations that are listened to. And I think we, I think there’s organizational bodies like this for environment and for different areas that there needs to be one for new technologies also.
Minter Dial 31:07
Yeah, to have these sort of poly sectorial, poly valent, or at least very different types of skill sets and attitudes and stakeholders, you just say, I mean, I had the experience in July of focusing on one topic, not for regulation, but the same kind of vein, look at the big idea, which is, how does one really look at valuate measure empathy, and then think about it in, in a machine. And I, we had 24 people, we had a sociologist, anthropologist, psychotherapist and all this melange of people. And yet, it’s very hard to galvanize all these opinions and come up with one regulation in the day, you can’t meet everybody’s needs.
Ashley Recanati 31:53
No, and there’s no easy solution, because we’re talking about, we’re talking about a revamping of the existing capitalist model. A lot of the jobs that are unnecessary today are not jobs that are well paying, according to the capitalist model. It’s jobs for healthcare, for instance, jobs for tendering for the elderly, these jobs are really not well paid at all. And there’s a big gap of labor here, but it’s not jobs that people want to do. And there’s no help from others, insufficient help from the government on these jobs. So, right now, the way that things it’s a bit too much free markets. And I’m not saying we need to go towards a communistic society, but there needs to be something more equitable for people. And that’s where we need more of a debate. And that’s what a lot of the futurist writers are advocating for, but so far, it seems like it that it falls on deaf ears.
Minter Dial 32:46
Well, I was wondering if you had you read fiction?
Ashley Recanati 32:53
Minter Dial 32:54
Yeah. Yeah, sure. Do you have any books that you feel are a good science fiction or dystopian models that might help spark people’s also interest and intrigue in this area?
Ashley Recanati 33:09
Well, there’s yeah, there’s, there’s plenty. I mean, The brave new world, obviously 1984. I mean, they’re not classics for you know, there any reasons they remain very much alive. Today, in terms of some of the things happening in there. It’s actually quite scary. Then there’s some more recent things. So, the one that Lee Kai foo wrote with Chen Quifan, “2042: 10 visions of the future,” something like this is very interesting. Also, because it mixes a short, a fictional short story, with an analysis coming after it’s, it’s kind of like watching a Black Mirror only in a book. So, it’s quite interesting. Also, they focus on several different topics.
Minter Dial 33:55
Like that! Well, we’re gonna put those in the show notes, the one I would add to the plate, and I think it’s relevant as it only is 99 years old. Next year, it’ll be 100 years old is Zamyatin’s We, which is a powerful indicator of this idea of global happiness, we’ll see how that all plays out. So, in your book, you do lay out, you bring it all to fruit, in a conclusion, talking about how each individual needs to find their way through it. And one of the things that I really enjoyed in that moment, especially considering it’s a foreign concept of word, is this idea of and I’m going to pronounce it incorrectly Guanxi, or something like that. GUANXI. So, tell us about that because I think that’s a genuinely useful insight for us.
Ashley Recanati 34:55
It’s guanxi as the Chinese word which loosely translates as their relations, the networks that you forge around you that the people that you know, and I think of something where we are very, we’re still it’s still very rudimentary, the way that we do this. If you look on, for instance, if you look on any, we think you think you’re really well connected and everything, but if you look on any social media app, and this, for instance, is WeChat. This is well, whether it’s WeChat, or whether it’s WhatsApp or whatever I find it’s really I’m very started that this is still just uni-dimensional. It’s aligning your listing of my contacts, there’s nothing better. There’s no two-dimensional no three dimensional view where I can see who knows who and, and how well, do we know each other and who did favours to who and how there’s, there’s, I can apply filters to see things, it’s just really extremely limited. So, we don’t have any good tool for this yet. Which is really, for me to it’s surprising that none of the big tech companies come up with this, because it’s not that complicated to do. But yes, the yet one of the ideas that networks are very important for your career, for your work, and for your future later. You never know if when you reach 40, or 50 or 60, you decide like okay, suddenly, I want to open my own business or something. And then you’re going to think, Oh, well, I need to know a banker, I need to know I need contacts in this area, this array that array, and then suddenly you realize, wow, so I didn’t know people like this, but I would never really was nice to them, I never really called them out or anything I haven’t kept in touch with them. So, now, that’s a bit of a pity, but by then it’s too late. So, you need to really look early on and build context. And if you read any books about, you know how to get rich, or how rich people live or something, these are already principles that they live by. And it’s there’s a lot of really good books written on this, like, Never Eat Alone, by superconductor, Keith Ferrazzi, that are really brilliant. And that explain this. And it’s true that this is also an advantage that we have, over artificial intelligence are what it’s, it’s the social networks that we can create, and that we can build and that we can feed and helping people around us. It’s also you know, at a certain point, you mentor others and it’s, it’s really a gift that you can give as a human being. Well,
Minter Dial 37:05
I’m gonna get back to guanxi in a moment. But it I mean, when we look at these social networks in the My, I would say judgment is that they seem to do only the things which are useful for their business model, as opposed to what actually would be useful for us. You know, LinkedIn keeps on spamming people saying, connect with mentors, I get these ridiculous connection requests people have never met in my life. What kind of a relationship is that? Well, I don’t know them. They don’t know me, really. And it’s just flat and superficial.
Ashley Recanati 37:36
Right, I was referring to social networks in the physical world, not the digital social networks, digital social networks is a different beast altogether. And I share your criticism. Personally, I, I used to like, you know, write this wave at the beginning when it came up, because I thought it was really nice, especially for because I lived in a lot of different places, it was really cool for me to reconnect with people that I hadn’t seen in 20 years, or 30 years are our family members I didn’t know about and everything. But in the end, it really doesn’t. I kind of lost interest in this. And I found myself wasting too much time on this. And I so I sort of cut this off. And I don’t really have much. I’m not that present on these networks anymore. So, yeah, you have to be very careful with these. It’s not the worst thing that you have in terms of digital entertainment these days. But short, you have to be very careful with that about how you spend your time and you’re really responsible for your time and we only have it’s almost precious luxury. So, you have to be careful with that.
Minter Dial 38:38
We agree. What let, can you just explain a little bit more? From an etymological standpoint, at least the Chinese element of Guanxi? Because it is that which I thought, which is beautiful, the what does it mean in there your term.
Ashley Recanati 38:56
So, my Chinese got a bit rusty, but it’s basically relates to the routes that connect people. And so it’s, it sort of goes back to Confucianism, where the links between yourself and society matter a lot, because it’s kind of the idea that you only exist as much as you’re being observed, and that you’re in society with a lot of with other people, if you’re just a hermit living alone in a forest, who’s never seen anyone, it’s the same as if you didn’t exist, really, you know. So, it’s all about the bonds that people create with each other and how these, this works out. And I mentioned in there, that’s probably what you’re referring to, to also the Hindu philosophy where there’s basically four different paths that we’re going to have in one’s life. And these are not exclusive to one to the other, but one of the paths is going to be Kama, which is quite famous with Kama Sutra, but it’s basically the pursuit of pleasures of the five senses so it can be eating too or, or drinking. Then you have Artha, which is more the pursuits of riches, you know, material wealth. And then you have this the Dharma, which is finding your place within society, and this obviously relates in part to the caste system, but it’s the idea that, okay, this is what you’re best at, you know, this is where you can fulfill yourself by doing this. And this is something of course, in our modern society, we believe you have to find this for yourself. It’s not just because your parents were making shoes that you need to make shoes and so forth. But that’s basically the idea of dharma is where you find your best place in society in the cosmos is the way that you can sort of attain Self Realization. And then the fourth path is the Moksha, which is the deliverance of going into nirvana and all this, which is normally the final step.
Minter Dial 40:56
I was intrigued, and maybe it’s a little off topic, but I think it’s still relevant is this notion of community. No man is an island, I like to say you’re as strong as your network. And, and you also talk about religion in the West, or maybe I don’t know how we want to characterize it. But in a lot of societies, religion is on the down, it feels that community is being restrained. It’s like my own little micro community, my ecosystem, my bubble, if we will, in other terms. And I was wondering to what extent you are seeing the same type of phenomenon or not in China?
Ashley Recanati 41:35
Oh, yes. And in terms of the well, in terms of the fact that you have digital smartphones and things like this, that tend to isolate us, yeah, this is a phenomenon that is much as alive in China’s elsewhere. And unfortunately, I think Chinese are more advanced on this, they do, they spend more time on their phones, they do more shopping, they do more mobile payments, and everywhere, where they are on the street walking, they they’re always doing watching a movie on the phone or something. So, it’s really, it’s really a problem here. And it’s ostracizing people that more than it is connecting them, I believe, at least in the physical sense of the term. But yes, at the end of the day, you are the average of the five people that you hang out the most with. And if you don’t hang out with five people, but you spend your time on Facebook or on Tik Tok, then you’re going to become, you know how the algorithms work, you’re going to feed you more of what you like to see. So, you ended up really drinking your own bathwater, and you’re not going to get a really good objective view of the world with many different perspectives in order to be able to forge your own judgments. And this is something that is really that is really worrying me.
Minter Dial 42:40
There’s a survey of believers out of the US, that talks about the average number of friends that peep true friends that people have. And that number few decades ago was five, then maybe 20 years ago, it was four and the most recent version of it, we’re down to three. And it does seem to, you know, we’re just reducing ourselves, we’re no longer exploring and, and especially in a world where, like, you and I are dealing with so many different technologies, we can’t possibly stay up to date with everything. And so the only the only alternative is to have a network that can help you like you mentioned your Whatsapp group. So, let’s just for the last piece talking about the future, so individuals who are listening who will also have children, what do we need to cultivate and and the general area, you got the skills with regard to, let’s say, tech, but the other one is my humanity. And and my observation is to start with that our humanity is already suffering, in that we’re no longer looking to craft deep bonds with more people. Living in a community, there’s a lot more narcissism out there. So, let’s use that as a background before we start saying about enhancing our humanity or the things that make us unique versus some machine. So, talk us through what you think we need to be focusing on.
Ashley Recanati 44:07
When it comes to bringing up our kids?
Minter Dial 44:11
Well, starting with myself and my humanity, because this is what the books aimed at. And I want to get the kids right off to that.
Ashley Recanati 44:17
But I think it’s important. So, yeah, one end is you master the tools that are relevant to your job. The other end is you remain efficient, or you’re good at everything there when the tools cannot be of help. So, it’s not just because you have really sophisticated tools that you don’t need to read anymore and get information anymore. So, you need to still know how to read and things like this. In order to preserve your Shuman humanity. You need to remain curious and open as to what’s going on in the world. You need to get out and you know have get out of your comfort zone. It’s just these tools make it very comfy for us to remain in our comfort zone. It makes it really easy. You don’t I mean? You can remain entertained on your bed without having to go anywhere anymore. It’s just whereas before you would have to go out, you’d have to go out if you wanted to get food, if you want to know, now everything can come to you very easily. So, it’s important to keep on to keep roots with things that ancestors before us were doing that our grandparents were doing the way that there’s simple ways of life. That includes having to do some manual labor, it includes having to go out that includes remaining informed and doing things that you didn’t really necessarily think you would like. But when you start, you try it out. And then you realize, wow, there’s actually some interesting things that come out from this. And by doing this, you kind of broaden your mind,
Minter Dial 45:42
in your comments make me think of a book that really had a big impact on me, it was called Lost connections, which was written by an English journalist called Johann Hari. And, and what was interesting about what he was proposing, first of all, he was tackling this topic of, of mental health. I, which I think is relevant in this whole story somehow, and, and how, what he proposed were the seven different ways of reconnecting, connecting with ourselves or friends with earth animals, like you say, the crafts in your hands and manualness. And it feels like we are part of the solution, not just to mental health, but also having fulfillment, épanouissement, as we say in French, in work is reconnecting in general.
Ashley Recanati 46:35
Yeah, the best if you can find our work that you like, it doesn’t feel like work anymore, no matter how late you’re out there. That’s, that’s obviously the ideal. It is a bit of a luxury though. So, not everyone can always have that luxury at all times. But yes, reconnecting is important. And there’s different ways, there’s no one path to do. Like, for me, personally, yeah. I spend maybe a disproportionate amount of times or looking inwards at my dreams. So, I was since I’m age 13, I would write my dreams every morning, I have like entire notebooks full of my dreams. And I’ll be you know, and I obviously read a lot of books, young and fruit and content, about dreams. But and I use this also to interpret all the different possible meanings. And it’s, it’s really interesting to do this. But that’s, that’s just a personal way for someone else that might be they might find relaxation through painting, or Kintsugi, or some other craft or some other exploration, you know, that’s, it’s, maybe some people find it through video games, too. But I think, you know, each person will find their way out there.
Minter Dial 47:43
I will have a Danish friend of mine, Ulrik Nerløe, who wrote a few books, and he talks about the importance of maintaining your dreams, I’ll put a show note into his book as well. Because I think that’s a valuable idea. One of the things that we talk about, I mean, really, and this is obviously something you and I can get into the weeds on, which is these elements that are not automatable, not machinable, let’s say. And typically we’ll talk about a certain set of things like creativity and ideation, let’s say random, I think random is an interesting idea. Chaos, maybe imagination. Another one that I think is really useful is neuroticism. Want to consider it like one of the big five traits that we have? And it’s hard to program being neurotic as it feels deeply human? If, if that’s the case, what do you think with your two children? Who are under 10 years old? If I can recall? What kind of educational system should we be, would be promoting? Should we be changing education? Or if course that seems like a rather large task? Maybe at home? Of what do we need to be doing? Should we just be banning all computers? Or focusing on how to do both? Where what kind of advice do you and thoughts do you have about that?
Ashley Recanati 49:06
There’s a big debate on the idea of banning all screens at home, whether this is good for the is better for the kids, whether it handicaps them, whether it helps them to prepare for growing up in society or not. So, and then this depends on the age too. So, that’s a huge area of debate that I haven’t yet really settled on. But for now, I’m trying to at least let my daughter be aware of this. So, I was tired of pointing out to her when we go out just the two of us. Sometimes when we go out for a walk or we sit down at a coffee shop or something I point out or look at everyone on their phones, you know, and I try and really pay attention to never be on my phone when she’s in. You know if she’s coming I put my phone away even if I’m working or what I try not to be on the phone when she’s there. And now she’s the one telling me like, well, look at that. Look. There’s like every single of the eight people around us they’re all staring have their phones. And that people over there, the couple over there, they’re on their phone and their kid is getting really bored because he doesn’t have a phone. And the other is over there. They put a phone for their kid. And, and I tell like, yeah, so and I’m trying to let her slowly understand, I’m telling you, you know, every time when we go outside, and you’re so happy to point at me and yell, look, there’s the moon up in the sky during the daytime, none of these people see the moon, none of these people ever noticed the moon anymore when they go out during the daytime. And, and I tell her like, you know, if I gave you a phone, would you be able to control yourself? Would you still be able to see the moon? Or would you lose that innocence? It’s a it’s a tough topic. But yes, so for the education, we obviously all have a responsibility, and each person is in the end responsible for their own education. So, the schools, obviously there’s some change that needs to come from their schools, I’ve been mostly in the past century, since for over a century now was in school has been mandatory. The idea was to teach people a basic set of skills and knowledge, but also to teach them to do repetitive things, to follow a standard operating procedure, basically. And now we sort of need to move away from that, because this is what computers are good at, and what algorithms are good at to follow this, if this than that. And loops and things like this. So, we need to focus more on how you think and how you reason and how you ask questions and how you remain open curiosity and things like this. So, it’s a very different kind of education that is necessary in order to keep this kind of openness and to see things like this not just trying to memorize dates and, and things like this. But it’s important to be able to show these changes and to think about it and to get people involved, including children involved in this and some of the things even the schools they don’t do the job when I when I was a kid, I criticized my history professor so well, history is useless subject you don’t need Why do you need history doesn’t help you for work. History is not relevant to work. And the history teacher said yes, I know. But and so he acknowledged this. And if I was now thinking back about this, I was like, No, it’s not true. History helps you to develop a general culture. When you’re a manager, when you’re a leader and you’re having a after party drink with work or something. If you have like two workers that are both very diligent in their job working hard and trying to get to the next level, one of them is unable to hold a decent conversation with the bosses and other stakeholders and the other one that has this great general knowledge is able to ping pong ideas and you know, sometimes you have a golden nugget and this is the person that you will think okay, well, this could be like a future leader. This is someone that I look more fit for promoting. So, if you take two workers that are just as good on all the skills and everything, the one who has the better general culture is someone that you think, Okay, this one has a cultural breath that elevates this person to go further. And there’s someone that you can have talking around with bosses and everything at the coffee or at the bar in the evening. So, it doesn’t make a difference. If you’re just being the shy person and you know, the bosses are there and you’re afraid that you know, you can’t talk with them about anything because all you know is about I don’t know soccer or Playstation or something, then, you know, that’s a that’s a pity.
Minter Dial 53:24
lightweights. Well, I deplore a lot of what’s happening in schools with regard to history, where we no longer study history in its context, we apply modern day more as and views on history that’s things that have happened in the past as opposed to understanding where he comes from. Giving us a general culture actually just culture in general. This idea of history is an enormous part of our culture and so his language and all the language there is a podcast recently and said that the idea of formal language will disappear in emails the ones which said Dear Ashley, or Dear Mr. Recognize it and with your sincerely out without an in with high emoticon? Yikes, we have lots of work, actually. It’s been great fun chatting with you, thank you for doing what you’re doing. And let’s say how can people go grab AI battle well, which is in the image for the people in video? Portal, the show notes and how can people follow you track you down? See your readings and writings and everything.
Ashley Recanati 54:33
The book is available on Amazon and various websites. I mean, it’s just Google AI Battle Royale. And even in China. And China, it’s a bit difficult to get I mean, you can get it in Taobao. But it’s, it’s a bit difficult to find in China. That’s part of the whole conundrum about publishing a book in English and then being in China. So, word and discussion for Chinese translation. So, that might have been one day and that will help. But right now, yet, it’s not the easiest place to get your hands on it. which makes it a bit difficult for me to go and do book signings and things like that, apparently. And yeah, you can I mean, I’m, I’m on LinkedIn. So, that’s also a place where I can be found. And of course on WeChat.
Minter Dial 55:16
Naturally, alright, well, I’ll put those in the show notes. Actually, many thanks for coming on good luck with everything or including that tension, which I continue to have with the children about whether it’s focusing on their humanity or their tech skills for the future job.
Ashley Recanati 55:33
Thank you, Minter. It was a pleasure talking with you.
Minter Dial 55:38
Thanks for having listened to this episode of The Minter dialogue podcast. If you’d like to show would like to support me, please consider a donation on patreon.com/Minterdial. You can also subscribe on your favorite podcast service and his ever, rating and reviews are the real currency for podcasts. You’ll find the show notes with over 2000 or more blog posts on lynda.com Check out my documentary film and four books including my last one you leave or being yourself makes you a better leader. And to finish here’s a song I wrote Stephanie Singer, A Convinced Man.