Sogeti Finland’s Test Expo 2019 was organized for the fourth time in Helsinki’s Clarion hotel. This year the theme of the testing conference was imagination. Like last year, there were two different tracks to choose from, QA and cybersecurity. In this blog post, I will share the ideas that caught my imagination during the conference day.
The opening speaker was Sogeti’s CTO Michiel Boreel who talked about digital happiness, this time from the perspective of the new, younger generation. Boreel called them the synthetic generation which is the first generation born while the Internet is ubiquitous. They don’t make a distinction between digital goods and traditional, physical goods but mix and combine them effortlessly.
The synthetic generation is post-hierarchical, post-materialistic and post-realistic. They don’t trust the authorities but the power of the network. The number of likes in an Instagram post defines its worth more than the judgement of a professional photographer. In the same way, ideas and identity are seen as more important than materialistic needs. Even reality isn’t enough. Boreel mentioned an example of Snapchat users who liked their face filter so much that they got plastic surgery to look like that in real life. That made me think, what it would feel like to live in fully digital reality. It would only take a variable change to modify someone’s appearance, no surgery required.
The head of Nordea’s cybersecurity strategy Benjamin Särkkä wanted to highlight the importance of seeing the big picture in cybersecurity during his speech. Everything is more important than everything is else. Organizations spend too much effort in the small details of their cybersecurity efforts. The fact is that over 90 percent of organizational cybersecurity attacks start with opening a malicious email attachment. Looking at the statistics, a traditional organizational audit is more effective at uncovering cybersecurity attacks than using an external tool. I found myself thinking, why wouldn’t we just stop sharing files through email? Would it be too utopistic?
The last speaker was brain researcher Katri Saarikivi from the University of Helsinki. Her talk was about moving towards a more humane digital future in a world full of intelligent machines. Can we teach the full spectrum of human skills to an AI? Machines have long ago surpassed us in memory, attention span, and arithmetical calculations but where are we still beating them? Emotional intelligence, creative thinking, learning ability, ethical thinking and the importance of context are in that category.
If we want robots to act ethically, we have to teach them moral code. As an individual’s ethical rules are absorbed from the surrounding society, we have to teach robots to live with us. It’s a good question, whether the use of intelligent devices lowers people’s ability to feel empathy towards each other. Sometimes reading Internet message boards it feels like it does. Saarikivi said that everything that dehumanizes people, lowers empathy. Adversely, empathy is increased with humanizing interaction, giving attention and care and adjusting yourself to the same mental space as the other. It might be that in the future, we are teaching these things to our machines. We want them to treat us as we would like to be treated, with empathy.
The conference ended with John Lennon’s song Imagine playing from the loudspeaker while lights faded out and over a hundred test professionals vanished into the hallway. Some would say that we are dreamers. But we are not alone.