SAP’s Dinner in the Dark Shines a Light on the Digital Revolution

At an event, Dinner in the Dark, this week in Rosebank, SAP South Africa accomplished two objectives. First, it challenged attendees to experience dinner without the benefit of their sight (or cellphone in proximity), an experience that few people would ever consider. Secondly, it introduced its Leonardo Digital Innovation System.

The event was intended to expand minds and horizons, along with fostering a profound appreciation for one’s faculties. It also provided a light of inspiration into what lies ahead, as the digital transformation takes hold.

Looking back to look ahead

Simon Carpenter, the chief technology adviser at SAP Africa, pointed out that for the past 200 years, modern day society has enjoyed the fruits of the previous industrial revolution.

“If you look over the history of mankind, the Industrial Revolution shows us the most astonishing, exponential progress is socio economic development, unlike anything we saw in the preceding years,” he began.

However, he noted, the Industrial Revolution didn’t happen by chance. Rather, its roots can be traced back to the Renaissance and the subsequent Enlightenment period, which saw men like Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, and René Descartes exhibit amazing inventiveness and curiosity.

A giant of his time

However, he continued that there was one person in that age who stands above all others, who was a true polymath. He was an artist and a scientist, a mathematician and a sculptor, a writer and inventor. He had an astonishing capability to synthesise ideas and insights from different domains into something new and valuable for humankind. That man, of course, was Leonardo Da Vinci, arguably the most multifaceted and multi-talented human in history.

“Therefore it is fitting that we have named our innovation system SAP Leonardo. Like him it is multifaceted and coherent. Incorporates blockchain, analytics, Internet of Things, 3D, virtual reality, machine learning, natural language processing, and coherently performs all of these on one safe and secure cloud platform.”

“At SAP, we believe that the combination of SAP Leonardo, together with the imaginations and aspirations of our 365 000 customers around the world, is really going to help change the world for the better,” he added.

The next revolution

So why bring up the Industrial Revolution now? For good reason, according to Carpenter.

“We are extraordinarily privileged, because we are standing at the beginning of the next revolution – the Digital Revolution. It is not going to be the Industrial Revolution, just slightly faster. We are looking at a major discontinuity in how humanity lives on the planet. It is an astonishing opportunity if we choose to use it to really change some of the things we neglected in the past. It is an opportunity to build more inclusive societies and economies, to live more lightly on the planet by using its resources more wisely and nothing is going to be left untouched by this revolution,” he explained.

What’s more, these aren’t wishful fantasies for someday. Indeed, already many of these major shifts are taking place in an array of industries, from transportation, which is moving away from the internal combustion engine to electric cars, to healthcare, where astonishing advances are being made. “The most exciting one for us is the accelerated pace of renewable energy, where we will use sunlight and hydropower to power our lives.”

“We think the digital revolution is going to be an incredibly exciting time. Stepping into the digital light, need to think about the history. Just as it took Leonardo and his peers to bring us out of the dark into the light, with the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, so too do we need to start the journey into the digital revolution. That journey starts in part not just by understanding the light that shines in all of us, but also understanding the dark,” he teased.

It was for this reason that attendees were invited to experience the world in a new way, surrendering sight and relying on other senses.

Although it gave just a brief glimpse into how blind people may experience something as simple as eating dinner, it was the host of the evening, Hein Wagner who truly challenged those in attendance to question what human beings are capable of achieving. Despite being blind since birth, that has not stopped Wagner from running the Antarctica Marathon, Two Oceans and New York marathons. He has completing the Ironman Triathlon and the Cape to Rio yacht race and holds the World Blind Land Speed record, along with other accomplishments.

All this really dashes any excuses we may have as to why we can’t fulfill the possibilities we imagine for ourselves.