We live at a time, and I’m really only talking about the last couple of years, when technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Automation are challenging us to consider what it is to be human.
More and more of the things that we use to define ourselves as human, for example,our intelligence, the jobs we do, the connections we have with each other, can be done by machines , either already or in the near future.
When people like Steven Hawking and Elon Musk start telling you this is going to be a problem, I listen. In a world of alternative facts and fake news, it’s hard to know who to trust but these two experts have developed a compelling argument that’s worth noting. For me, and for many people, it’s pretty terrifying where this may lead and the impact on society for the next generation. At a minimum it is challenging our core notion of what it means to be us, to be human.
And you can see this new “meta-context”, this new paranoia about “who are we” reflected in the popular culture. It’s always been there, going back to movies like Bladerunner, or The Matrix, but it’s become an increasingly popular theme over the last couple of years. Two of the biggest TV shows last year, Westworld and Humans were both concerned with technology that could be more human than the humans themselves.
So what does this have to do with business travel?
I guess many of us watched the film, “up in the air”. We work in the industry, so it’s with a “professional eye” that we watch a film where the George Clooney character initially embraces and promotes the privilege and “freedom” of his business travelling lifestyle. As the film progresses and he connects, intimately with another similar road warrior, he realises that the instead of freedom, his life is, in fact, isolating and de-humanising.
We need to think about what business travel does to us. When is it adding to our sense of humanity? When is it bringing experiences that make us feel, dehumanised?
Different companies are trying to consider this point and build products around this “essential” part of mobility. For example, Airbnb, with their new “experiences” product, are attempting to package the type of serendipitous encounters that people associate with their most treasured travel memories.
The Expedia group, of which Traveldoo is part, puts value on helping people enhance their experience through travel and even propounds the power of travel to help make the world a better place.
At Traveldoo, we have thought about features which help to bridge the gap between corporate and human needs. A good example is Trip Sharing, where employees are made aware, during the search and booking process, of others in their company who are making a similar trip. This allows both cost savings in the form of shared taxis or hire cars as well as promoting opportunities for colleagues to socialise either during the travel or at the destination.
So what’s next?
The question is not really about the technology itself but about how we use technology to help create the type of future we want for the next generation.
Let’s counter the tendency for technology to de-value humans. Let’s change how we think about our industry. Let’s humanize business travel. Let’s manage budgets, but also think about how hard the budgets worked to enrich the lives and experiences of the employees. Travel programs should be part of how you motivate people to join and stay in your organisation.
Let’s decide that the future of business travel will include, by design, the experiences that define us as humans. If we build our programs, our policies, and our technology around this idea … we will build a future we can look forward to, rather than one we have to fear.