Acceptance Speech:  Accepting the Twenty-First Honorary Doctorate from the  Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland

January 15, 2020

Your honor, Chancellor of Caledonian University, members of the Board of Trustees, Deans, faculty, alumni, students, ladies, and gentlemen. It is with great pleasure and gratitude that I accept this award of Doctor honoris causa, especially from this university, and I would like to tell you why.

I have dedicated the last fifty years of my life to the study of change, how to manage it, and here is why. We are experiencing an accelerating rate of change that is unprecedented in the history of humankind. And what happens when there is change? It means something new is happening, and we need to decide what to do and implement our decision. But, to make a decision, in time of change, there is uncertainty. The change has not expressed itself fully yet. And, if we implement the decision we made in true conditions of uncertainty, there is risk, we might have  made a mistake. This is why we say, “we have a problem.”

As change is accelerating, so are our problems.

If our grandparents made a major change in their lifetime, maybe once every ten years, and our parents every five years, we are making major decisions probably every two or three years. When I look at the new generation, I say beware. You will probably be making major decisions every year, if not every quarter. That is called stress. We are living in a more stressful world than our grandparents of past generations lived in. Show me a developed country with a high level of technology and change, and I will show you a high rate of psychologists, life coaches, and social workers per capita. High rate of mental illness of clinical depression and anxiety. As we are becoming technologically integrated, we are falling apart, ourselves, disintegrated as humans. What should we do about it?

If change is disintegration, the solution is integration. How? Let’s look at it from a view 40,000 feet above. Let’s look at the development of civilization and try to understand what the future might look like.

We started as chimpanzees, jumping from one tree to the other, and the strongest chimpanzee was the leader. Then, we were a nomadic society, and the best hunter was the leader. Then, we were an agricultural society, and the person who had most of the land, the strongest, was the leader. The common denominator: The strongest was the leader; what counted was “muscles”, possessions. Physical assets.

With the emergence of the industrial revolution, muscles still played a role: whoever had the most resources, the most machines, and most land, was the leader,  but the brain started playing a role, too: planning, organizing, systematizing.

Today we mostly live in the brain age. Who is the leader? The one that has the most information. The largest hotel company in the world does not have a single hotel, Airbnb. What do they have? Information. The largest taxi company in the world, has no taxis. Uber. What do they have? Information. What is Google accumulating? Information. What is Amazon accumulating, giving it power? Information. We moved from the muscle to the brain age. But, even that is on its way out. With artificial intelligence, computers, algorithms, it will replace the brain. We’ll have to rely on them to make decisions, rather than on our brain. So, what is the future? The heart, ladies and gentlemen. The heart, which cannot be replaced.

If we do not move to the heart, is the future generation a civilization brainy, highly intelligent people without a heart, without conscience? Was Nazi Germany just a prelude to things to come? That would be the end of our civilization. The Nazis were very brainy, intelligent, and educated, but without heart. Is that the end of the world? No, not if we know how to develop the heart through values, consciousness, love. That is why I admire Caledonian University, who is a leader, breaking the mold, pointing to education, which is not only intelligent, but with heart. I applaud the chancellor’s leadership, the board of trustees, and I’m proud to be part of that effort. Thank you for this award.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes