May 08, 2024

Ufuk Tarhan on the T-Human model, being an autodidact, oxymoronic technologies, and teaming with humans and AI (AC Ep43)

“I cannot imagine any other way to be successful or to find satisfaction in knowing that you are doing something useful for humanity or any society. Therefore, I believe it is mandatory to take responsibility for our choices.”

– Ufuk Tarhan

Robert Scoble
About Ufuk Tarhan

Ufuk Tarhan is a prominent futurist, economist, keynote speaker, author, and CEO of digital agency M-GEN. She has worked as a senior executive and board member in a number of prominent technology companies. She is author of two successful books on the future and has received numerous awards including Most Successful Innovative Business Book Award, Most Successful Businesswoman In IT, and various lists of top social media influencers, and was the first female president of the Turkish Futurists Association.


LinkedIn: Ufuk Tarhan


What you will learn

  • Introducing the ‘T-human’ concept: a new framework for personal and professional development
  • The importance of adaptability in the workplace and beyond
  • Autodidactic learning as a necessity for future success
  • Balancing current roles with future aspirations through hybrid learning
  • The role of technology in enhancing team dynamics and individual capabilities
  • Exploring the intersections of human skills and artificial intelligence
  • Strategies for building a sustainable career in an evolving technological landscape

Episode Resources


Ross Dawson: Ufuk, it’s a delight to have you on the show.

Ufuk Tarhan: Thank you. It’s my pleasure to see you again and to hear you again.

Ross: I think the concept of amplifying cognition is central to your work. You’ve described to me this concept of T-human, and love to hear this concept and how you’ve shaped that and applied that in your work.

Ufuk: Yeah, thank you. And you were one of the very first ones who picked it up. I’m so happy to explain it. T indeed, I was aware of T-shaped skills. At one of IBM’s conferences, I heard that for the first time, many years ago, more than maybe 20 years ago. Afterward, in years, I transform it into a model, a personal transformational model, to adapt ourselves to the needs of the future. And the first application is, of course, made on me. Because I’ve worked in the IT industry for more than 20 years, as a top manager or CEO. After 20 years, more than 20 years, I decided to change myself, and I decided to reshape my career, my life, and everything. While doing that, at the core, there were future, futuristic studies and thinking about the future more and more, and the technology. I decided to give consultancy services to people and corporations, to teach them or to let them be aware and apply future planning effectively. But at that time, I was a single mother, I was working in a very high-level company, and I needed to earn the money I needed. I couldn’t leave the job immediately. So I needed resources. Then I tried to find a way to develop my knowledge about future studies so that I could form my own consultancy company and give consultancy services. 

I remember during University times, I was waking up at 3 am to study for exams. I said that I could do it again, maybe and I could do it. I started to wake up at 3 am three years ago. And then I worked on my today’s knowledge or future studies to increase my knowledge in that area. I was going to work, my daily work and I was a CEO at that time. I was working very seriously Of course, and I was coming back and at 3 pm I was working as a futurist, etc. So I realized that it was a hybrid mood indeed. I had to run to life altogether, the future life, I was preparing my future version. At the same time, I was working on my actual work. I just decided that there should be hybrid moods for everybody. Because we cannot quit our ongoing responsibilities and jobs, we need to earn money or we have other responsibilities. So we have to find a way to run them together. And while I was doing that, I realized that I have to learn so many new things, so many so many new things. I discovered this autodidact learning technique. And, I saw that I’m learning everything almost by myself. I’m digging into every source to get more information, knowledge, etc. So, I said that this is an autodidact, learning it is mandatory for everyone in the world right now because we all of us have to transform ourselves. And we have to create a new version of ourselves. So that’s autodidact, that’s another mandatory thing to learn and to apply. 

And then while I was doing that, I realized it again. I deducted many things from my life. I put many things out of my life, people, habits, time, everything, and, I sold them and became a perfect trader, I was the creator of my own life. So I put all this together. I said that to be able to have a successful, successful, sustainable job because I’m mostly concentrating on the sustainable job, topic, and area. And because every one of us needs to work and have a job not only for earning money, but it’s life. So I said that whoever wants to have a sustainable courier life, and job life should apply this T shape including this hack, hybrid autodidact, and the creator moods. And I put all of them together and that T-shape model came out. Just

Ross: Just reflecting a little bit on what you’ve just done. I’ve always thought of myself as an autodidact. I have a reasonable amount of formal studies and some postgraduate studies. But essentially, I’ve taught myself almost everything over my guitar, I taught myself guitar by having guitar and just working it all out and taught myself other instruments to teach myself, and the vast majority of what I’ve learned, I’ve taught myself, and I think that’s important. And as you think about this wonderful framework around the hybrid, in the sense of, yes, you do need to be continuing the work, which you are doing now, but at the same time to be renewing yourself. And that’s, of course, a frame for organizational leaders, as well, in the sense of saying, we need to look at our sustainable current business model, we also need to be building new business models. 

I think the same applies very much to individuals. And this, you know, the idea of curating as you were saying, selecting, I think is a very important framework. But one thing that sort of, I suppose the question that arises out of that is, all of these take intention, it takes people to take control. Of course, I suppose in a way, what you’re suggesting is that people need to be making their own decisions to choose what to learn to teach themselves to be able to make those selections to be able to continue to renew themselves. 

Ufuk: For sure, for sure. I cannot imagine any other way to be successful or to satisfy yourself that you’re doing something useful for humanity or any society or anyone. So I think it’s mandatory to have the responsibility of choosing.

Ross: So you’re saying that, so going back to the T-shaped bottle with this, these elements of the hybrid learning they ordered Act and the curation. So what are some of the other frames that you’d put around this T model for us to renew ourselves in a time of change?

Ufuk: Thank you. I’m very happy to talk to you because I don’t understand why people are still not so aware of that model, intentionally. So it’s very practical. The first inspiration for why I worked in that T-shape model after transforming myself, of course, I was not saying at the beginning of my transformation period, oh, now I’m hype, I’m in a hybrid mode or no, I’m learning as an autodidact or so on. So I trained later, ah, that was this and that was it and the model came out. 

The inspiration of this, of creating that model was that everyone is saying the world is changing. The future will be such that and the future is not a secret anymore. The future is knowledge, like history. If you have to know about our past, the future is history. To create a better future. We also have to know about the future and that is knowledge so everybody first should accept that or become aware of that. So that was my first point. So, with the help of social media and this internet connection, more connectivity everyone is veering off about the future even the little kids know what will happen in the future in every area almost. So, people feel that people feel that they have to change themselves. they have to adapt themselves. Yes, that is no I accept the future will be like that, and I have to change myself, but how somebody should tell me, what I do to transform myself, in your book as you mentioned, we are overloaded with everything, especially with the information. So, among all this information, the fast-moving phase and everything is fast. Everything is too much and I have to change myself. I have many responsibilities, and how am I going to do this? Someone should tell me. And I started that, at that point. And I said that I would tell people how I transformed myself and they should apply this model template to themselves as well. That’s the starting point of T-human and T refers to of course, the golden ratio of the people who human who have sustainable job, sustainable career.  T means on the vertical axis, we have to go deep and deep in one area for instance, its future for me, future studies, especially for business life for work-life, for career. 

On the horizontal axis, we have to use this knowledge this expertise in every area, we have to merge this knowledge to industries to areas, and everywhere in any condition. For instance, I can work with organizations in the automotive industry, fashion, education, whatever, whatever it is, so the future of everything, future of anything.

In the vertical axis, we have to go deep and deep, it’s endless work, endless learning and experience and on the horizontal, we have to connect this in all areas to all areas. This is the shape and the understanding, but to be a strong T we need other components, other layers and it could it has three Ts inside. That means to be a strong T-shaped human, we need to be tech-savvy, we need to use technology very very strongly and deeply. We have to be very good team players. But in this team, of course, I don’t mean only humans. I also mean the digital facilitator, robots, artificial intelligence whatever it is. Team for me forming is not consist of only humans and also we have to be a transformative or design-thinker, Tinker person. We have to have these three Ts inside this main T and once we have this we have to advance our competencies by using this hack model – hybrid, autodidact and curation, we have to make this stronger and stronger by using this hybrid auto deduct and other Ts curation. 

So, this is a complete framework, which brings us to a point where we have a very successful sustainable job because we are transforming ourselves in a very disciplined way and very concentrated way so that we become a people having 5Cs that means we have capability of doing something; we are becoming competent on this area by using 3T and hack. They are certified by society by, by people, by corporates saying that, ‘Oh, you know this, you are certified.’ Once you have been certified and authorized in one area, that brings you high responsibility for creating more and more new things that make you creative. Once you make this you are becoming a changer, a game-changer, which means you are creating new things, which is the most required condition according to Darwin’s survival. 

It says that survival depends not on strength or intelligence, but on adaptability to change. So this shapes this frame, and this, whatever you call this template is served to people, if you become a successful, sustainable job player, then apply this to yourself. That’s it. I am suggesting and modeling a concrete model. People who are asking ‘what shall I do?’ You do this to yourself, you reshape your future yourself.

Ross: I think it’s a very, very strong and very useful model for a lot of people. So I’d like to dig into a few things there. And one of the ones which perhaps not surprisingly, stands out to me is that of the team player in the sense of, as you say, team player, not only with other humans and machines. Now, machine capabilities are advancing very fast. So, the nature of how we are a good team player changes. So how can we think about being a good or better team player with technologies while AI, for example, continues to progress?

Ufuk: Thank you. It is a very sophisticated question indeed. I was thinking what will he ask me to reply or will he want to discuss? Of course I expected such a question and I thought and I found this today and I’m using it for the first time here. I saw that we live in an LS fondue land because we are realizing that ‘yes we are humans we are the strongest species on earth we think so.’ But now we’re much more stronger than ever because we are creating artificial intelligence, robotics, everything — even if we are weak, we use those strong team plays let’s say so. We are in Wonderland. We can do everything deep fakes and other things — whatever we want we can create and I thought that we are in human-IT Technoland.  Technoland is the rabbit hole with AI, so it makes everything so it is a very oxymoron time. I think we can use this metaphor of Alice in Wonderland and humanity technoland. 

I like to play with letters and words as Alice’s Human-IT. Yeah and Technoland is Wonderland and the artificial intelligence is the rabbit itself. So when we think about this, if we call the story itself, we are in the same situation. But if we don’t know what to do, we will not be able to respond to this question. Because we know that it has many sides – bad and good. We are living in an oxymoron world — everything is all together and we are in an eclectic world. We are putting on top of it another thing: we mobile, we stand here, and so on. So it’s such a complicated and complex stage right now. 

Indeed, I don’t agree. Yes, we are saying that ‘we are in a very fast-forward mood and everything is so fast.’ No, it’s not fast enough. Not even fast, because we are in standby mode. We know what we can do. But to be able to activate all these things and use them everywhere; first, we need to solve this green energy problem, then we have to have the internet faster and achievable every time.Then we have to create this blockchain web three environment, infrastructure to be able to operate on that. Tthen we have to change the finance system from scratch by putting those crypto assets or whatever it is. Then unless we change or we have these sources, these infrastructural elements, it is impossible to get faster. So we are just in Wonderland, and we are rushing around. We are just assuming that they are not reality and AI is at its very primitive level. These are not AIs yet. Oh, we are scared, of course, we have to be scared of the ethics and the other things that can happen. If we don’t structure them correctly. We can imagine everything, but we are not acting yet. Because we don’t have enough sources. At the top of it, it is energy. We don’t have energy. We don’t have an internet connection yet. We don’t have blockchain web three and crypto assets. And there is a third war in the world. But that is not a war among Russia, the United States, Ukraine, or the other parts of the world. It is the war of the old system, the war between the old system and the new system — who are the old, we know, who are the news, the tech giants, the youngsters who are protesting the way of work, let’s call it capitalism or an ongoing system, and they are trying to create a new way. And I call it sustainable capitalism. 

So, you asked me to integrate this human and technology? Yes, we are trying to integrate ourselves. So they and that’s for sure we can do it. And we started to work on that. But we are not even at the starting point yet. Let’s solve these listed resources and infrastructure requirements.

Ross: Fabulous. So, just the first thing that strikes me about the Alice in Wonderland metaphor is that Alice went down the rabbit hole because she was curious. So it was a story of curiosity. And in going into this marvelous land where we are discovering and learning the unknown. So perhaps that’s part of what we require as well today.

Ufuk: Yeah, yeah, for sure. We are wondering, really what will happen and we are, of course, at the change phase. The thing is that it is fast, but it is not . We are just in a loop and we are just waiting by working and rushing and scaring till we solve this problem. This is at the top of this energy problem indeed. That’s the major major problem of humanity. 

What I was thinking about this integration…I read a book years ago, most probably you’ve also read the books of him, the name was Juan Enriquez, I think and he was mentioning the future chasing you or something like that the book name and he was describing he was analyzing did power always enhance of societies who create the alphabet because the alphabet is transforming the abstract to the real world. The first alphabet was in caves. And then this specialized alphabet was created by the Chinese. And at those times the power was in Chinese society or in that region, and then the Latin alphabet came with ABC. We have seen who had the power with that because the power of distributing you’re collecting the information. And then, the ongoing alphabet is 101010, a digital one binary, who has this binary alphabet will have the power to transform or to govern the world. And the last, but not least, I guess, the last alphabet is synthetic biology — alphabet genetics, the A, P, C, G, whoever designs this in the A, P, C, G, alphabet, that means get gene editing. And China is declaring that we will be the gene editor, state of the world, the leader of the world. So the last alphabet is not binary, the binary is getting transformed to qubits, which is again another alphabet. This synthetic alphabet will be qubit and will be formed by qubits. And the biological alphabet ATCG will be formed by ATCG. 

So, we are just entering the era of not just simply merging humans and machines or robots for artificial intelligence which is much more serious than that. We are indeed just at the gate of creating a new kind of species, that kind of thing, maybe. We just discovering this stuff? And that’s the one I think we should concentrate on while thinking about any AI G and general, artificial intelligence, attics, and so on. So we are squeezing our attention into very closed areas. But we have to open our eyes and open our minds a little bit larger, wider than this. So when I think about this integration, merging, convergence, synthetic information, and logic, I see some other big, big things in front of us.

Ross: Yes, indeed. And so if we think about cognition as making sense of the world, taking in information makes sense of that. So humans and some animals have done that. Well, now AI and as you point to it, it is, what do you call transhuman or certainly beyond, current existing species, which will be doing that in quite different ways.

Ufuk: Yeah, yeah. That’s so exciting. Indeed. Although we are exaggerating our excitement without thinking about all these important topics. Anyhow, we are going forward and we’re I like this oxymoron very much. For instance, when we say virtual reality, it is itself an oxymoron. And when we say artificial intelligence, it is again, a very big oxymoron. So I repeat this again and again because we need some meeting points. We are under stress to catch up on something, and we’re in really scary mood most of the time. FOMO is our, I think the major illness for all of us. So we have to think that, yeah, we’re oxymorons, we have to live in a physical environment and we accept it. And somehow, maybe at some point, we have to accept and we have to be in a more steady mood. And the reason that latin phrase about this, Festina Lente, hurry up slowly. We have to be in that mood, hurry up slowly will help us to go a little bit imbalanced mood, otherwise, it’s so difficult to maintain healthy.

Ross: I think that’s a wonderful note on which to. So how can people find out more about your work?

Ufuk: My name is Ufuk Tarhan, they will see that in the description part. When they put ‘.com’ at the end, it is the place where I share everything, but in Turkish mostly because English literacy is very, very poor in my country. That’s another starting point, I said that there is information about the future, and almost all sources are in English, and my people are not able to read them or reach them. 

I started to create or produce the content in Turkish. But now the translation of the AIs helps people to read everything, in every language. So I can start to create the content in English. But in any case, even if they are Turkish, they are translated and vice versa. So that’s my address..

Ross: Fantastic! Thank you so much for your time and your insights. Folk. It’s been a wonderful pleasure speaking to you.

Ufuk: Thank you very much. It was a big pleasure for me. 

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