This is what you’ve missed: Seminar on Robotics and Flexibilisation of Labour (+ video)

How to create a corporate culture that makes strict terms of employment superfluous. Can you make agreements with your employees via WhatsApp, and is that binding? How wearables enrich our lives but cast a shadow on privacy. And how technology runs our life, without us noticing it. After months of preparation, all of the above subjects were discussed during our seminar 'The Advent of Robotics and Flexibilisation of Labour' at Het Nieuwe Instituut.

Organisations are structured as if we still live in the 1970s

Our employment law attorneys see the employers sitting at their desks, with the traditional organisation of work: from 9 to 5, a detailed employment contract and a decent salary scale. At the time work was organised, that made sense. In this day and age, the context has changed: we can be contacted anywhere at any time, as we are constantly online, young talent values flexibility more than a steady job and we make high demands on the security of data traffic. Employers at their desks feel: it is 5 minutes to midnight.

We are definitely the ones to ask what you can expect, as we get all the problems presented, and all the difficult questions. That is why we tried to combine practice and theory interactively at a seminar, that was held on the 26th of May, 2016.

What you've missed if you haven’t attended

Good weather, a perfect site and a host of enthusiasts that came to Het Nieuwe Instituut; but above all, interesting speakers:

Gert van ’t Hof: 'My diary is anything but flexible’

The kickoff was by Gert van ’t Hof, anchor man of the NOS sports news and according to himself someone whose work is very inflexible, in terms of organisation: The traditional work organisation is no more. The foundations of the obsolete labour models are shaken by the constant pressure of robotics, digitization and changing terms of employment. ‘What is ahead of us?’

Bynder CEO Chris Hall: 'Culture is a prerequisite for a flexible organisation'

Brand management software business Bynder, active in 55 countries with offices in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Boston, Rotterdam and London, is one of Europe’s fastest growing tech businesses (500% growth per year). Founder and CEO Chris Hall talked about more autonomy within organisations. 'Anticipating is difficult if growth is so exponential. My management style? Focus on culture, culture, culture. The only way to grow fast’, according to Chris Hall.

Employment law attorney Arnold Birkhoff: 'Employment contract concluded via Whatsapp?'

Arnold Birkhoff, employment law attorney, talked about social trends, employment market trends and contemporary employment law. Based on the five basic human needs, Arnold took the guests on a guided tour starting from world connectivity, increasing individualisation and independence via job crafting to labour in the future. What will the future bring? Does every individual gets an employment contract fitting on one page (A4 format)? Or will we be concluding employment contracts via WhatsApp? Birkhoff: 'I foresee a future for an employer-employee-app for optimum job crafting combined with big-data predicted behaviour'. A spectre? Or the ultimate possibility for self-development?

IT/IP attorney Robert Span: 'Privacy is the biggest legal challenge of IoT'

After the break, Robert Span, IT/IP attorney, held a lecture on the legal challenges associated with the advent of the Internet of Things, which has changed the way in which businesses offer products and interact with buyers. Additional services also provide new revenue models and every industry becomes smart: ranging from smart health care to smart transport and logistics. Span foresaw the biggest progress in the development of wearables, such as smartwatches. In the near future, that device will be so smart that it will constantly monitor the vitals of the wearer, and will be connected to health insurance companies and hospitals. That way, you may be told thirty minutes before a heart attack 'go straight away to the E&A department'. Is that pie in the sky? Not really. In 2013, according to research company Gartner, just over 3000 billion devices were connected with the Internet, whereas in 2020, that will have risen to 25000 billion. The biggest legal challenge remains privacy.

Philosopher Koert van Mensvoort: 'Technology will become (or is?) our next nature’

Philosopher and creative director of Next Nature Network, Koert van Mensvoort, answered the key question: Should we worry about the fact that 'things move in such a pace we've never seen before?' No. Technology has always been in our lives, according to Van Mensvoort. Like fish don’t know that water is wet, we swim in our technology. Naturally, from birth, we have been technological. The only question is: all those new technologies that we talk about these days, are we going to integrate them in our daily lives, and if so, how?

Central idea in Van Mensvoorts philosophy is that we live in a day and age in which technology is so omnipresent, complex, autonomous and intimate, that we are experiencing it as a new nature. But how do we actually determine what technologies we want in our lives? And do we really understand what technology is? 'We live in an era in which things made and things born are no longer two separate categories’, Van Mensvoort says. 'Just imagine: we see 'made' as culture, and 'born', as nature, whereas we, as human beings, are born in a completely designed environment.' So, this means we consider a complex technological environment as natural. But does this mean that the financial system is also an eco system? And what can bankers learn from farmers? After all, farmers have gained experience in working with semi-autonomous ecologies. To clarify all this, Van Mensvoort deviced a pyramid to represent technology that comes into our lives:


Every new technology first has to be envisioned, that is followed by a prototype, which is operational but is not yet applied and does not form part of our daily lives (accepted), but as soon as it is adopted, it becomes vital – ( sewerage, the Internet), if technologies become really successful, they tend to become invisible (alphabet, an age-old form of IT). The ultimate is naturalised – clothing, agriculture. Once upon a time, agriculture was a new technology too; a radical intervention in the natural environment. And that is how we, in the year 2016, again look at new technologies with Argus’ eyes.

Watch the video report of the seminar

We look back at a very successful edition of this seminar and thank all those involved for their input and the guests for their enthusiasm. Would you like to know what it was like? Watch the short video report, showing the day’s highlights (in Dutch):