Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Renewable Energy and More


The airwaves are filled with talk of exponential technologies like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Renewable Energy and more. In addition, societal factors that influence or are influenced by technology are getting more attention. So what’s the buzz?

Blockchain

An article on Blockchain uses eight visuals to describe The Future of Blockchain and provides a Financial Services adoption timeline. The adoption scenario predicts that Blockchain will move past the Innovators phase in 2016 and reach 13.5 percent of early adopters within financial services. The tipping point is then expected to happen in 2018, as the early majority begins to see benefits realized by early adopters, and new models emerge. The growth phase lasts until 2025 when Blockchain goes main stream within financial services. This visual from the article captures the adoption cycle.

Blockchain Adoption Timeline

A separate piece by Mckinsey focuses on Blockchain in Insurance. A key take away from this report is that Blockchain is yet another example of an ecosystem growing beyond traditional industry.

Artificial Intelligence

This recent piece describes The Partnership of the Future, suggesting that ultimately, it will be humans augmented by machines, not human vs. machine. In building intelligence, the authors believe the first phase focuses on augmenting human abilities and experiences. As we automate everything, human traits like creativity, empathy, emotion, physicality, and insight, can be mixed with powerful artificial intelligence. They then describe a second phase that aligns with an emerging focus on ethics, with a growing need to build trust directly into technology with protections for privacy, transparency, and security. Intelligent devices themselves must be designed to detect new threats and devise appropriate protections as they evolve. The authors reflect on the artificial intelligence principles and goals that should be discussed and debated as a society. AI must:

  • Be designed to assist humanity
  • Be transparent
  • Maximize efficiencies without destroying the dignity of people
  • Be designed for intelligent privacy
  • Have algorithmic accountability so that humans can undo unintended harm
  • Guard against bias, ensuring proper, and representative research so that the wrong heuristics cannot be used to discriminate

There are also things for us humans to consider, specifically as it relates to the skills that future generations must prioritize and cultivate. The authors identify creativity, judgment, and empathy as some of these skills. They look to the past seeking a road map we can learn from and point to previous industrial revolutions. In these revolutions, society transitioned in a turbulent way through a series of phases. The authors describe those phases as:

  • Phase one: we invent and design the technologies of transformation, which is where we are today
  • Phase two: we retrofit for the future. The examples they use are drone pilots needing training and steering wheels being removed as cars are converted to autonomous vehicles
  • Phase three: navigating distortion, dissonance, and dislocation. Examples here include answering questions like: what is a radiologist’s job when the machines can read the X-ray better? What is the function of a lawyer when computers can detect patterns in millions of documents that no human can spot?

Agreeing on an ethical framework for its design, and incorporating the right values and design principles will help us prepare ourselves for the skills we will need for humans and society to flourish.

Automation of Everything

While speaking in Singapore, Futurist Gerd Leonhard urged society to Be Careful with Automation. He stressed that the goal of business is not efficiency, but customer happiness; and that is created by much more than numbers and algorithms. He states that humans don’t function on an algorithmic scale – we buy things from people we trust and value emotions and experiences. In his eyes, becoming technology makes us a commodity. He uses the examples of Telco have becoming merely infrastructure providers, and banks becoming money providers but not brands. Gerd has been one of the loudest voices in the emerging ethics discussion. He believes the efficiency mindset will not appeal to the new generation of consumers who are focused on experiences. He states: “In the future if you want to be successful, you have to be a brand, a personality; you have to stand for something”.

Income Inequality

The sixty two richest people on earth now hold as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion. That’s the conclusion from a recent Oxfam Report. Credit Suisse noted in its Global Wealth Report last year that much of the astonishing rise of wealth at the top is tied to the booming stock market. That report, which Oxfam used in its analysis along with a list of the richest people in the world from Forbes, determined that global inequality had reached a new milestone: The richest 1 percent of the world’s population now owns half the world’s wealth. Beyond the stock market impact, tax dodging is another enabler. The report urges governments worldwide to get a handle on tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and corporations.

Renewable Energy

In a recent SAP Interview with Futurist Gerd Leonhard, he discussed a future of abundant and cheap energy. In describing that future, Gerd sees a world where you fill up your electric car once a month, then once a year, and then once when you buy it – and that future is coming much faster than we think. As these exponential technologies explode, we must remember that machines are exponential, but humans are not. We must program digital ethics in as we go.

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