I love a good argument, so please, humour me.
Things have been moving forward so fast and the acceleration of innovation opens so many gaps, people have been having a hard time keeping up.
It feels like technology, just like politics is going through a period of uncertainty. It tends to happen in periods of very rapid evolution and growth – some move forward and others get left behind. It seems to me there are more opportunities than threats, but I’ll let you be the judge of that at the end of the post…
I personally feel we’re being a bit unreasonable with #AI, and scaremongering has grown to levels of the best sci-fi classics such as Terminator, Her, 2001: A Space Odyssey or even Ex Machina – all of which I love by the way…
PHASE 1: HISTORY IS CIRCULAR
^ This is us ^
The truth is we’ve sort of been through this before. We invented the wheel to be able to grind more cereal to feed the newly created settlements.
We then abstracted the concept and placed four of them in carts, to revolutionise mobility, and ultimately fuel an industrial revolution by placing that shape on a spinning jenny.
How many people that manually ground their cereal production lost their jobs? How many still deny that technology today and grind it manually?
How many weaving companies closed because of the industrial revolution? How many companies made a brand out of doing it the old fashioned way?
It’s taken us so long to adjust to the disruptive impact of the wheel – approximately 5.500 years (give or take) – to the point that only 100 years back we made up a red flag traffic law.
In the US it would require all motorists piloting their “horseless carriages”, upon chance encounters with cattle or livestock to:
- Immediately stop the vehicle
- Immediately and as rapidly as possible … disassemble the automobile
- Conceal the various components out of sight, behind nearby bushes until equestrian or livestock is sufficiently pacified
I’m sure horse breeders had nothing to do with this…but anyways, it was vetoed by the governor of Pennsylvania.
Now think about the horseless carriages and driverless cars – do you get my point?
And even after all this commotion, take a moment to look around you and ask yourself a question: can you see anything that doesn’t contain a round shape or didn’t use one to be there with you?
The fun begins when begin to showcase the applications of AI, and how it will impact out capability, our speed, our efficiency and even our effort to achieve an end or complete a task.
The augmentation, automation and exploration capabilities of narrow AI will finish removing the physical barriers that still challenge our creativity and take us beyond what we have the capability to see today.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Henry Ford*
Financial Services, Manufacturing, Mobility, Health and Education are probably the big explosion areas of the next three years, with AI teaming up with Blockchain, IoT, 3D printing, Bionics and VR/AR to take disruption to unprecedented levels.
PHASE 2: DENIAL
At the moment most governments, regulators and incumbents seem to be under the impression they can stop change – they might slow it down a bit, but the more pressure they put on it, the easier it will be for new ideas and new ways of doing things to take over and bypass the industry entirely.
This can happen by setting the standards so high, industries have no choice but to keep up – the Uber phenomena – or by eliminating the need for them completely – the Kodak phenomena.
The biggest realisation will come when companies see this revolution is not about manufacturing physical objects, or digitising the real world – which were the result of the industrial revolution and the internet.
This is a step-change in the way we learn, think and ultimately communicate. When we take all of this in, we will have hit the bottom, and the real work begins.
Quick example: Have you seen how good google translate has become in recent months? Is universal communication at our grasp…today?
PHASE 3: LEAN EDUCATION
Why go to school for 16, 18, 20 years to become an expert on a topic based on the notion you must have all of the information memorised?
Are the skills of the professionals of the future going to even resemble the curriculum of a College degree of today? I love Edgar Dale‘s theory that my inspiring colleague (and VR guru) Nicola Rosa shared with me the other day, and I suspect we have a lot to learn from it when it comes to education.
Today’s education, ways of working and communication patterns were designed in an age where information was power but that has changed because the internet has made it free – so power shifted from having access to information to actioning information differently and more productively.
Common business expressions you might have heard recently: scale, sweat the assets, replicability, reusability, simplification, optmisation.
Quick example: See how IBM Watson can help us search video content in TED’s archive, and answer questions asked in natural language.
Accessibility enables instant learning, through youtube videos, whatsapping our dads, or asking the manufacturer’s chatbot how to fix something. The real question is whether we want to dedicate the time doing those things, or prefer to pay someone to do it, because we’re so busy doing all these unproductive, repetitive things, just to be able to dedicate a limited amount of time doing what we actually love.
We have to eliminate waste and get to the root cause to have an impact. With this mindset (lean & agile) and like minded people we can immediately start asking bigger questions. And I bet in no time we will have solved hunger, health, pollution and energy sustainability problems that threaten future generations today.
The very same rules we design to maintain the status quo and “protect us”, prevent us from drastically improving our quality of life.
Quick example: Autonomous and shared electric vehicles could help solve a big part of the pollution problems of our cities and at the same time enable us to reduce the amount of roads required, the need for parking spaces – more affordable housing and green spaces – and massively reduce the proliferation of respiratory diseases.
Leadership, trust and empathy seem to be the skills of the future, and they will be far more important than what we value them today.
PHASE 4: EMPOWER FOR GOOD
That doesn’t mean everyone will be okay in the short term – there are generations that will have a hard time adjusting on the fly. People haven’t even gotten used to the digital age, and they’re already being forced to make space for new abstract tools like #AI and #Blockchain.
Again, this is an opportunity for governments and bold companies to start pushing the agenda of re-skilling entire generations. There is a need to empower for good, and give tools to those with a mind set in the future.
There will be a need to define rules, and to be honest Isaac Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics have never been so needed, along with some other ground rules around transparency, ownership and privacy.
Gladly, the leaders of the revolution have come together to build a framework of responsible use of AI – it’s called the “Partnership on AI” – a fellowship-of-the-ring-type relationship, where it’s still not clear who’s Frodo, who’s Sam, who’s Gandalf, who’s Gollum and who’s Boromir.
At the same time we develop the technology to push the boundaries forward we need to think how to use that same technology that’s disrupting people, industries and economies, to create alternatives that create options for those same affected people, or at least the opportunity to choose not to participate.
Today’s moonshots will be the basic entrepreneurship of the future, since technology and resources will not be scarce – the question you ask will dictate how far you get.
I’ll finish with some advice from the wise, that links back to my initial point about history being circular:
If you’re a fan of the topic, don’t miss out on these fantastic articles, from which I’ll quote a few cool quotes:
* There’s actually no proof that Ford said those words, but kudos to the guy who did!
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