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When Technology meets Philosophy in a Socratic Dialogue

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When Technology meets Philosophy in a Socratic Dialogue

About a week ago, I attended the IoT Shifts Transformation Retreat in Peralada, Spain. The Retreat, which merged the fields of philosophy with technology, was organized by our partner and digital transformation expert, Rudy De Waele (Shift2020) and Claro Partners. Discussions were led by the amazing Innovation Philosopher, Humberto Schwab.

The IoT Shifts Transformation Retreat is more than just a gathering of tech business people for a weekend at a beautiful 5-star luxury resort in Spain, it is an intense, very meaningful and sustainable experience. The Socratic Design method is very interesting and it reveals a new layer of conversation and understanding. As Humberto explains himself on his website:

 I finally come to a robust and coherent Socratic Design Method, a method to free people and organizations from the burden of unproductive or even destructive procedures, unclear language, old thoughts, silo thinking and wrong assumptions. If we want to create strong new values, we must be in a state of virginal thinking, not as a stand alone, but as a hyper creative collective.

So what happened at the IoT Shifts Socratic Transformation Retreat…?

The program we received beforehand already sounded promising. Also we were asked the following:

Please describe from your perfect day in your life in the year 2023. Describe what you do, see and hear from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to sleep again (if you still sleep of course).

Describe this by visualising yourself what you see and do; when you wake up. Do not think about it, just write down the sequences of events you observe and experience. Let your hand do the writing. You can incorporate all concrete things that will happen in your day. It will be the ideal day and everything you ever dreamed of will be reality then. All problems are solved. Also all the things that surrounds you will be like you want it to be. Be it high tech or just nature.

My personal narrative for a perfect day in 2023 included a “scentisizer” to augment our senses through technology (“augmented self”), “thought-to-action”, which enables navigation by solely thinking it, universal connectivity by choice, high consciousness and happiness of society, and of course time-travel (even though this might be a bit further in the future..). You can read it here, if interested. But before reading it, just close your eyes for a minute and see what comes up in your own fantasy vision and just start writing. It is a fun and recommendable exercise. 

Back to the program at the IoT Shifts Transformation retreat upon arrival. On the first day, we started with learning about the method of Socratic Design, continued by setting assumptions together. We also had a workshop outside on a golf course where we were asked to create a shared value system for our team. This exercise personally very much resonated with me, as I believe it is of immense importance today to know your own top 5 values – as an individual as well as a company.

After agreeing on a set of values we could all relate to, we went on clarifying our definitions for IoT (Internet of Things) and formulated individual questions we personally felt needed solving. In our case we were devoted to happiness and selected an according question. 

“How can IoT increase happiness?

From the moment of our shared value system on and the choice for the question “How can IoT increase happiness?”, everything started to become very deep and focussed. 

No place for smalltalk, superfluous chats or checking Facebook updates. We now had a goal, a mission to follow and an important matter to solve. But how could our solution for IoT actually add true value!? What does happiness mean to us and how can IoT augment the human being in a way to compliment our lives without controlling us?

We shared our stories about how we want to live in 8 years from now.

Brainstorming of certain and uncertainty in the future of IoT
Brainstorming of certain and uncertainty in the future of IoT

We talked about purpose, sublime moments, challenges and chances. We brainstormed on certainties and uncertainties in our vision of the future, we created fields of action in the virtual and real world and practiced ourselves in mindful listening during the Socratic dialogues. Finally, we presented several realistic service solutions and product ideas in the field of IoT, which of some of them, hopefully become reality some day…

This all might sound like a lot of work for a retreat. And I would be lying if I said it wasn’t, but in between all of it, we were rewarded with Yoga classes, delicious food and wine and a beautiful spa to relax in. And, of course, we were positively recharged with meaningful and deeply intellectual conversation. We all came back ambitiously fulfilled and smiling.

Personally, I learned a lot about how different perspectives, view points and definitions can be, how important it is to talk about assumptions openly and how hard it can be to consciously listen for hours and to clearly formulate questions.

Humberto Schwab, Innovation Philosopher
Humberto Schwab, Innovation Philosopher

Humberto, our innovative philosopher and teacher, is admirable, insightful, wise and very compassionate. He has a lovely personality. But he can be strict too, if you do not listen; which is good, because it is an important ingredient of Socratic Dialogue to practice the art of listening. Speak less and listen more!
Humberto’s partner Miguel Harbers is amazing too. I was impressed by his level of wisdom and growth in his early age of mid twenties. Rudy, the initiator of this great new format of merging tech with philosophy – who has just built a conference around it, called IoT Shifts (blog post here), is inspiring and just remarkable in any way. It is an honor to call him my friend and early supporter of THE DIGNIFIED SELF movement. Also, Rudy has a real good feeling for putting the exact right people together. You’ll see. 

The evironment in Peralada, Spain
Environment in Peralada

I’m grateful for this experience and highly recommend it. I feel like I have gained valuable knowledge, inspiration, and the wish to learn even more about philosophy. There is so much revelation of truth in it which we can apply to technology and to the age of digital transformation. It is mind-blowing. Also I have made new friends, people who I know will do good in the digital future we are facing. That gives me a really nice feeling of inner calmness. The more of these retreats, and the more people “socratically“ communicating – the less worried we need to be of what’s coming…:-) 


Rudy De Waele
Rudy De Waele

For more info on this format and dates for the next ones, please connect with Rudy De Waele (Shift 2020, Twitter).

What is SOCRATIC DIALOG? See description here: By embracing a set of intervening rules, a group of individuals can be transformed into one strong, fresh, collective mind. We learn the “art of listening” and the art of incorporating thoughts of others in our thinking. This extends our horizon of meaning. The Socratic dialogue is a form of conversation in which we generate, free from compulsory thoughts, new perspectives. We dare to go out of the comfort zone. The group as a biological entity is a strong context to generate real thinking.