If technology and humanity both bring gifts and flaws, how do we balance them — today, and in the future?

That question was the common theme laced across the three keynote Super Sessions at this year’s Citrix Synergy — although each speaker came from different realms:

  • David Henshall, as the CEO of Citrix, a $3 Billion company that is reshaping itself to make its technologies truly reflect how employees work and live;
  • Condoleezza Rice, as a former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser to two US Presidents, author, filmmaker, and current professor at Stanford in the heart of Silicon Valley; and
  • Michael Lewis, a former Wall Street trader and now bestselling author whose books examine the intersection of complex data genius and emotional human stories.

Henshall kicked off the conference — and the theme — noting that “People are dynamic. People are creative. And giving them the right tools can allow them to produce just incredible, amazing results… Instead of adding complexity, we want to put people and how they work… at the center of everything we do and the way we’re thinking about products.” He painted a picture that set the tone for the conference, where technology had reached a tipping point of complexity that had to be addressed by removing complexity and creating tools that balance choice, flexibility, security and user experience — and introduced some unprecedented breakthroughs from Citrix that do just that.

Although her frame of reference began in politics, Rice raised a similar point: that empowering others to succeed has served international policy well for 70 years, building allies, markets and democracies instead of enemies. She touched on topics ranging from Russia to World War II, from cybersecurity to how best to deal with dictators, before honing in on business and technology today. “Technology and innovation are changing patterns of behavior and the way that we live more rapidly than anything in human history. But technology is not good or bad; it’s neutral. The question is: How is it applied? … we have to remember that sometimes innovation and technology knowledge have not been matched by wisdom.”

Lewis told the stories of Wall Street financiers and sports teams who had long relied on somewhat biased and fallible human judgment — and then were seduced by the power of data to the point that they no longer knew which information to trust: the machine? Or the human being? And concluded again, that we must have both.

“The problem is, you don’t know what the algorithms and models don’t know,” he said, adding that the human decision maker is going to make mistakes, but the algorithm cannot always account for nuances and complexity. “You can’t control the decision-maker, but you can control the environment,” he said, noting that the most successful leaders and companies embrace humility, that they don’t know everything, and create systems where neither machines nor humans function without the other’s input and insight.

As Citrix CMO Tim Minahan summed up in his conversation with Lewis, “both technology left alone and humans left alone are somewhat flawed … there needs to be this combination of both to really make the right decision.“

We urge you to treat yourself to the opening keynote to join us in feeling just that much wiser as we set about building the future of work.