‘Human being in the digital world: lessons from the past for future CIOs’: capitolo di apertura nel libro ‘CIOs and the Digital Transformation’, Springer, 2017

E’ uscito il 29 agosto 2017 presso Springer CIOs and the Digital Transformation. A New Leadership Role, a cura di Giorgio Bongiorno, Daniele Rizzo, Giovanni Vaia.
Il libro, frutto di una iniziativa di Finaki Italia, guarda al ruolo del Chief Information Officer, alle prese con la cosiddetta ‘Digital Transformation’. Un cambiamento di scenario che appare come minaccia se si guarda al tradizionale ruolo del CIO, ma che appare anche, per questa figura professionale, una grande opportunità. Si assiste all’avvento di nuove figure abbastanza fumose: Digital Strategist e simili. Eppure, come i casi narrati nel libro credo dimostrino, il CIO è, tra i manager ‘C level’, certo il più adatto per intendere cosa stia succedendo.
Il libro si apre con un mio capitolo –Human being in the digital world: lessons from the past for future CIOs–  dove mostro le radici e ricostruisco la storia di ciò che si nasconde dietro l’abusata espressione: digitale. Radici e storia osservate da un punto di vista umanistico.
Per cogliere il passaggio, dobbiamo risalire agli Anni Sessanta del secolo scorso. Sono anche gli anni in cui si affermava la figura che oggi definiamo CIO. La fase di cambiamento che stiamo vivendo porta gli esseri umani -cittadini, lavoratori, consumatori- ad abitare piattaforme digitali. Il CIO si trova a dover garantire che gli esseri umani non siano ridotti, nella nuova condizione, a meri utenti di un mondo totalmente progettato.

Di seguito potete leggere un breve estratto.

Nowadays, it seems every company is racing to become more and more digital. But what does it really mean to “be digital”?
For some, it is a matter of technology. For others, being digital is a new way to be in touch with customers. For still others, it is a completely new way of conducting business. None of these definitions is wrong per se, but each, by themselves, is only partially correct.
The “digital disruption” forces us to consider not only business matters, such as methods of production, organizational operations, and money flow. The digital disruption changes every aspect of daily life for every citizen on the planet.
This phenomenon might be challenging for some, such as the CIO, who were used to looking people as customers or company employees. Now, the CIO is called to equip everyone with certain tools and a habitable environment. To do so, the CIO’s role must go beyond that of service provider and impartial observer. The CIO must redefine his own professional role by drawing from his personal experiences: only by reflecting on how he himself has changed and become a more digital human being will he be able to assist others in this process.

1. Introduction
One must first look back in time to better understand what the Digital Transformation entails and, therefore, be able to describe the new obligations and duties of the Chief Information Officer. A journey from the past to the future will illuminate our understanding of the present and help us to tackle new challenges with mindfulness.
The journey towards a new Digital World concerns all people. In this chapter, we observe the Digital World, not from an abstract, technical or scientific viewpoint, but rather from the perspective of the average person. Aside from being a professional, a technician, and a manager, the CIO is, first and foremost, a person. It is important to affirm this notion, given that the Digital Transformation opens the door towards a new world in which humans will coexist with ‘autonomous machines,’ equipped with Artificial Intelligence. As a result, the CIO is susceptible to being replaced by an algorithm.
Retracing the history of what we call digital is to retrace the history of all Information Technology as well as the history of the CIO’s predecessor: the manager who provided the technological services necessary for business functions.
Digital is an adjective, but what is the noun? Let us consider the transition of the word digit, originally referring to a human finger or toe, to now being used to refer to an Arabic number symbol. We will look at the distinction between analogical machines and digital machines, and between analogical codes and digital codes.
Over the course of our journey, we will look at two elements -complementary, but different- of digital technologies: on one hand, we have infrastructures, or platforms. On the other hand, we have tools, devices, and applications that have now become crucial in the new digital world for allowing people to exercise their rights as free citizens, workers, and conscious consumers.
Throughout his existence, the figure we now call the CIO has always managed infrastructures and platforms. This trend is continuing in the new digital world. The difference is that now he must also manage the tools, devices and applications needed to guarantee everyone the ability to operate in their roles as citizens and workers. This new task requires a cultural change.
Looking too closely, or exclusively, at infrastructures and platforms, while ignoring one’s personal experience, can be risky: on this path, it is easy for one to end up imagining a situation in which Designers create a world that is inhabited by citizens and workers, who are, in turn, reduced to the role of platform users, deprived of personal liberties and the ability to test their own creativity, accountability, and entrepreneurship.
Thinking only about infrastructures and platforms is not sufficient. The CIO must provide digital tools to all citizens and workers; these tools must be malleable and adaptable to the worker’s needs. A good tool is co-constructed by the person who will use it.
It is important to consider the visions and personal narratives of the trailblazers who, in the 1940s and 1960s laid the foundations of the Digital Culture; these trailblazers include Vannevar Bush, JCR Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson. These visionary thinkers and technicians showed how technology can be a means for enlarging the consciousness of all people. CIOs can look to these thinkers and technicians as models: they taught us how to cultivate a vision, and of the importance of reconsidering business strategies in light of new opportunities offered by digital tools.
Only through experimenting can one become a digital citizen, only through first hand-hand experience with using tools can the CIO accompany citizens and workers in the transition to the Digital World.

2. A humanistic stance
Being Digital, an essay by Nicholas Negroponte, came out in 1995. This work marked a turning point: the term digital left the technical lexicon of the Computer Science field and entered daily language.
Digital: an adjective that distinguishes one type of machine from another.
During the 1930s and 1940s, two different types of computers existed: Digital Computer and Analog Computer. While the Analog Computer continuously measured the advancement of a process, the Digital Computer worked under a binary numeral system, in which data was converted into strings of 0 and 1. Analog Computing has not disappeared, but the machines that we know and use today are Digital Computers. These digital computers are based on the abstract idea of the Turing Machine, proposed by Alan Turing and the digital machine architecture proposed by von Neumann.
Since the 1990s, however, digital is not used only in relation with machines, but also with people. People are invited to be digital. Negroponte wrote: until now, man has lived in a physical world, surrounded by material things. Now, we must prepare ourselves to live in a digital world.
Bits—the smallest unit of information, expressed in binary code—are rapidly replacing things made of atoms. If we continue to pursue this lifestyle of bits, not atoms, Negroponte notes, the life of humans, who are becoming increasingly interconnected by computers, will never be the same.
Consequently, the role of Information & Communication Technology Director, more recently known as the Chief Information Officer, must evolve.
Traditionally, the CIO has worked with bits, data, and information. He considered humans as only being the users of machines and programs. The current digital scenario represents a new terrain on which people live and work. For this digital world to be more livable for people, adequate for their needs, and respectful of their rights, a new type of CIO is needed. It is no longer sufficient to have someone who concerns himself with only bits, data, and information; the CIO must be capable of hybridizing different fields of knowledge and action. Of course, he will need technical knowledge regarding the appropriate systems, infrastructure, hardware, and software. These hard skills, however, must be combined with soft skills in sociology, psychology, and ethnography.1 Generally speaking, the CIO is called to take a humanistic stance to his technical position; this new position should be based on wisdom and mindfulness. The CIO is, first and foremost, a human like all others.

11. Conclusions
Such is the role of the Digital Humanist CIO. Exploring the digital land. Experimenting with different ways of living this new environment.
Digital technologies offer people a new possibility: redesigning one’s entire life, from daily life to work life, from homes to businesses. Of all managers, the CIO is best equipped to understand this change. He will be the one to guide businesses and organizations through the Digital Transformation.
This task implies certain technological decisions. The easiest choice, the choice that is closest to the historical role of the CIO consists in establishing infrastructures and platforms, where each person, citizen or worker, is reduced to the role of user, whose actions are limited by certain rules. Infrastructures and platforms are necessary, but for another reason: offering all citizens and workers tools for constantly enlarging their work spaces: only in this way can we fully take advantage of the implicit richness of the Digital Revolution.
The other option, however, requires the CIO to tap into his own knowledge of ethics and the human condition. The CIO, as an expert in controlling machines, is called to reflect on his own experiences with digital innovations and be in constant
contact with the people with whom and for whom he works.
Millennials, digital natives, citizens, workers, Designers, and CIOs—we are all like Robinson Crusoe. We must learn to get by in a new world and use new tools. To do so, however, we need someone who has already started this journey and can
guide us. This is the role of the humanist CIO. The best trailblazer is the person who has ventured into the forest, risked being lost, and ultimately found his way.

Qui il capitolo in versione pdf.