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Event recap: The Future of the CTO in the Age of AI

Event date: 6 September 2023


On September 6th, a group of over 30 Chief Technology Officers (CTO’s) gathered for a high-tech rendezvous on the REM-eiland. The event was titled “The Future of the CTO in the Age of AI.” Sebastiaan Bekker, CTO at HomeQgo, guided this interactive panel discussion, which featured prominent tech players like Andre Buren, former CTO of TakeAway, Arno van den Berg, current CTO of Vandebron, and Roy Smeets, CPTO of CoreMedia. 

The heart of the discussion? The growing impact of AI technologies on the CTO role, spanning both professional and societal horizons. The challenges and opportunities AI may pose were discussed from multiple perspectives. Firstly, the implications of AI technologies on the CTO craft and way of working were discussed. Secondly, the implications of AI technologies were discussed on a macro-level.

  1. The impact of AI technologies on the role of the CTO.

AI as Game-changer.

At the event, one big question became a pressing matter: Is AI poised to render IT specialists obsolete? Our audience seemed to agree with our panelists, acknowledging AI’s undeniable future influence on the CTO profession. AI has already flexed its digital muscles, writing rudimentary code, identifying code flaws, processing vast datasets, and even helping us solve mind-boggling problems. And guess what? It’s just warming up. 

Andre Buren expects this ability to exponentially increase in the near future, leading to a disruptive impact on the CTO and IT professions. He remarked: “As the AI abilities increase, the output of AI-assisted people will increase tenfold. There won’t be enough work for all of us.” With AI taking care of the heavy lifting, IT professionals may shift their focus toward creativity, metathinking, and a business perspective. Buren predicted a competitive environment where only the most adaptable would thrive.

AI as Copilot.

Roy Smeets does not agree with Andre’s perspective that within 5 years many developers will be out of a job. Developers will be focused on other activities where the majority of the code will be written by the AI Co-pilot. New ideas can be developed rapidly but it does not mean that all the new implementations make sense.

AI as Accelerator.

Arno van den Berg agreed with this perspective: AI is not new and has been used for years. AI can certainly help you accelerate your strategy and gives the opportunity to handle much more complexity. It is however no silver bullet: AI cannot creatively create new models. While AI creates more possibilities for complex issues or tailor made solutions, Arno does see a disruptive trend in the pace of innovation due to AI. We are able to build new software much faster. Instead of long digitization and transformation projects we are now able to rebuild business models from the ground up at a fast pace.

  1. The impact of AI technology on society.

AI as Societal Disrupter.

The discussion also touched on broader questions that surround AI technologies from a macro perspective, instigated by sharp questions of audience members. Andre Buren sees a broad societal impact from AI technologies, making many professions and people obsolete. This led to the following question: Could universal basic income be the lifejacket we all need as we try to find our new position next to AI, especially in fields like healthcare?

Others strongly disagreed with this extreme prediction. Some audience members argued that out of human resilience, new job opportunities would emerge and our human touch would remain in demand. The real test, they said, would be in the adaptability of large organizations, especially those in the public sector, which might not be quick enough to respond properly to new technologies. And let’s not forget, AI still has its defects – it’s not the most creative or trustworthy tool in the tech world. AI is not yet creative and trustworthy enough to bring about a broad societal change in the near future. Only when AI technologies will be able to intelligently process large sums of data, find correlations in research papers will we see a disruptive force. 

AI as Cybersecurity.

From that argument, the discussion took a detour into the world of cybersecurity and AI’s role in it. The audience raised questions about how to tackle cybersecurity threats and whether AI could help or become a threat itself. It was clear to all that both defense and offense in the cybersecurity game would evolve, and staying one step ahead of the digital rogues was essential. As Arno van den Berg summarized the discussion: “You just have to be a bit more secure than your neighbour.

AI as the New Frontier.

The event led to valuable insights on how AI technologies would alter the role of CTO, due to  the questions raised by our panel and our audience. While opinions varied, one thing becomes very clear: adaptability and innovation are key for professionals that want to keep up with the rapidly changing tech-landscape. AI is the co-pilot of the future, but the captain’s seat remains firmly in human hands. As AI plays a more prominent role in our professional life, the CTO’s role will surely evolve. Our human touch, creativity, and ability to make right decisions will be our way to stay relevant and indispensable. The future of the CTO in the age of AI is a field of challenges and opportunities, still waiting to be fully discovered. We at Newpeople cannot wait to start exploring.


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