A Perspective On Where We Are On The Autonomous Vehicle Journey

Francesco Biondi doesn’t mince words in his recent assessment of autonomous vehicles both today and into the future. I looked back on my thoughts regarding this scenario in a recent post, concluding that self-driving cars have not evolved to where experts predicted. There was a lot of hype across industries regarding the disruptive potential of this one scenario. I remember the countless conversations about insurance premiums drying up, or how Internet companies would displace the automakers – so I get the skepticism. As Mr. Biondi asks: what went wrong?

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The Road To Artificial General Intelligence

The tremendous advancements in artificial intelligence remain focused in narrow applications. As described in a recent article authored by Ben Dickson, these narrow systems have been designed to perform specific tasks instead of having general problem-solving abilities. The quest for general problem-solving ability has long been pursued, with many focused-on replicating aspects of human intelligence like vision, language, reasoning, and motor skills. Now, a new paper submitted to the peer-reviewed Artificial Intelligence journal describes an argument put forward by scientists at U.K.-based AI lab DeepMind. They argue that intelligence and its associated abilities likely emerge by rewarding maximization versus formulating and solving complicated problems.

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Are Electric Vehicles Taking Over Faster Than We Think?

We are in the middle of the biggest revolution in motoring since Henry Ford’s first production line started turning back in 1913.

Justin Rowlatt – Why electric cars will take over sooner than you think

That quote from a recent article brings to mind a fundamental truth: there are divergent opinions on just about any emerging future scenario. Author Justin Rowlatt states that we have past the tipping point; that milestone where electric vehicle sales begin to overwhelm traditional car sales. As the big car makers position themselves to sell only electric vehicles at some point this decade, one must wonder what factors led to those decisions. One of those factors comes from government, as they ban the sales of traditional vehicles on some predetermined timeline. The author however points to the speed of the technological revolution the world is experiencing. I liken this period to the early days of the second industrial revolution. A period of great invention which is likely surpassed by the period we have entered – with the big difference being the speed of realization.

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Seismic Shocks In The Never Normal

Thinking it’s going back to the calm old normal, forget it. It’s a world of volatility. That’s what I call the never normal.

Peter Hinssen – Thriving in the Never Normal

I obviously agree with that quote for the most part. I would argue that the old normal wasn’t all that calm. It took a pandemic to illuminate what was lurking beneath the surface. However, this is a brilliant short keynote on the decade ahead. It is loaded with great quotes and examples of reinvention. Holding on to the past is a losing strategy, as a funny segment in the video makes clear:

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Resilience Is Top Of Mind These Days

Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. That word is suddenly in everyone’s vocabulary. Whether it is individual or organizational, resilience helps us withstand adversity and bounce back. The pandemic can be credited for our heightened awareness, but it was just a matter of time before we all got here. The factors described in my Post yesterday describe why: complexity, pace, volatility, unpredictability, and the unexpected. These factors have always been there, but during specific transformative eras throughout human history, they combined in ways that challenged the existing order.

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A Possible Future: Automation Shifts The Economic Paradigm

In exploring possible futures, we give ourselves an opportunity to shape them. With all the existing and emerging science and technology building blocks converging with domains like society, the economy, and geopolitics, predicting the future is impossible. But we can look at possibilities and what they mean to our future. One great recent example was described in an article by Tristan Greene. In looking at artificial intelligence and related automation, Mr. Greene focused on how automation could turn capitalism into socialism. This is not a political discussion, rather, it is following a thread to a logical conclusion. In this case, the impact of automation on the future of work. Mr. Greene said:

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China Launches Autonomous Taxis

In a recent post, I Revisited Autonomous Vehicles. The conclusion is very apparent, we have not realized what many thought we would – at least not yet. But as I mentioned in that post, these scenarios move slowly and then suddenly. In an example of that phenomenon, China just launched an Autonomous Taxi service in Beijing. In a recent article, author Matthew Crisara said the following:

Baidu’s Apollo Go Robotaxi service is the first paid autonomous vehicle service where users can hop in a taxi without a backup driver to intervene. Customers will be able to hail a ride using an app, which allows them to locate a taxi within their vicinity. If they are unable to spot the car, users can remotely honk the horn to find their ride.

Matthew Crisara

The video below describes the new autonomous service.

The Future Of Information Ecosystems

Fellow Futurist and TCS colleague Kevin Benedict has been exploring the topic of information and the ecosystems that support it. In this wide ranging series, he looked at things like social engineering, device dependence, and behavioral science. In a world where information is weaponized, this is an important discussion. Below is a summary of the series in Kevin’s words, followed by a link to each article.


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Revisiting Autonomous Vehicles

In reflecting on thoughts from the previous decade, I looked back at Automation and Digital Transformation. Today I will focus on autonomous vehicles. I first wrote about them in 2014 when I looked at their Disruptive Potential. At the time, the compelling case for moving to full autonomy was truly clear. From the post:

In a recent book titled: The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups, the authors (Chunka Mui and Paul Carroll) dig deeper into this topic. About 5.5 million U.S car accidents occurred in 2009 involving 9.5 million vehicles; the accidents killed 33,808 people and injured 2.2 million others. The total accident related costs in the U.S. are estimated to be roughly $450 billion.

Autonomous vehicles: a disruption case study

The focus was to shift to preventing crashes versus previous efforts to ensure accidents were survivable. Automobile makers would rethink the design and construction of cars from built to survive a crash, to built to avoid them. A report titled Preparing a Nation for Autonomous Vehicles predicted mass market adoption of autonomous vehicles between 2022 and 2025. My post mentioned announcements by Nissan and Volvo of their intentions to have commercially viable autonomous-driving capabilities by 2020. In their view back then, it would take an additional five years for prices to drop to allow for some degree of mass-market penetration.

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Revisiting Next Generation Automation

Back in 2014, the thought of advancements in automation was picking up steam. I wrote about a Next Generation Automation and focused on five primary drivers of advanced automation: the automation of knowledge work, advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, and the mobile Internet. A McKinsey report from that period sized five disruptive technologies that could have an economic impact between $14 and $30 trillion. How much have we accomplished exactly seven years since that Blog post was written?

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Navigating Technology Futures

Mike Bechtel recently shared a World Economic Forum Report that introduces a framework for thinking about the future. Having read through it, I highly recommend the approach to Future Thinking described by the authors. A very powerful part of their work is the use of Storytelling. Several scenarios are explored to showcase the framework’s ability to identify probable and possible futures, while the stories help us imagine and feel those scenarios. The stories are very impactful, placing us in these various futures in a way that helps us understand the world that is emerging. My compliments to the authors and gratitude to Mike for sharing it.

What Does 250 Years of Innovation History Say About Our Future?

“Without good stories to help us envision something very different from the present, we humans are easily stuck in our conventional mental programming.”

Per Espen Stoknes

That quote captures a phenomenon that has plagued humans throughout history. In a recent article, Per Espen Stoknes looks at 250 Years of Innovation and what it reveals about the future. History is indeed very revealing, a fact that explains why Futurists spend so much time in the past. Whether it is the Uncanny Similarities to the 1920’s or other Lessons from History, applying history is very instructive. That quote speaks to a status quo bias that has existed in every age. As the article’s author describes, we have a strong emotional bias that prefers the current state of affairs over change. That bias now hampers our response to an ecologically destructive future. The article views the topic through this lens.

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From Sage On The Stage To Co-Creator Of Learning

20th century education was based on the assumption that the teachers have the answers and that their job is to impart those answers to the students, as the “sage on the stage.”

By contrast, 21st century education is, or should be, based on the assumption that the answers are already available in the digital world. The purpose of education should be to inspire the students to ask the right questions and discover those answers for themselves and start applying the answers in their own lives

Steve Denning

That quote says it all and this short video captures the thinking from an earlier post on an Education Revolution. A number of interviews with educators can be found at the Reimagining the Future YouTube Channel.

A New Post K-12 World and A Future Capability Profile

Education is a common thread that flows through posts like this one on Poker and an earlier one on Robot Artists. Steve Denning said it well when he said: “There could hardly be anything more important for the future of the country than the strength of its education system.” This short video clip looks at aspects of an emerging Education Revolution.

Robot Artists And Musicians

I’ve asked this question before: Is Creativity the Sole Domain of Humans? As each day passes, the answer becomes clearer. One of the most impactful videos I use captures a conversation between Sophia the robot and Jimmy Fallon. As you watch their interaction, you quickly lose sight of the fact that Sophia is a robot. It’s easy for humans to be threatened by a robot that seems to encroach upon the characteristics that make us distinctly human. However, the other side of this discussion represents the potential for a positive human outcome. One example is the introduction of Companion Robots that help deal with the challenges of loneliness and isolation. Another is the role of robots in healthcare and elderly care.

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An Education Revolution

There could hardly be anything more important for the future of the country than the strength of its education system. 

Steve Denning

I read a great Article on education the other day written by leadership thinker Steve Denning. My passion for the future of education is expressed in frequent Posts on the topic – so the article struck a chord. As a leadership guru, Mr. Denning focused on the management of education and provided some fascinating statistics. For example, in 2006, only 43% of school personnel in the US were teachers, while in other countries, that percentage was 70 to 80%. Seems that this imbalance is driven by a compliance focus that has employees trying to monitor and comply with federal and state requirements. Mr. Denning believes that lost in this period of industrial-era bureaucracy is the purpose of organizations involved in education. He describes a current corporate revolution in management and leadership that he believes needs to take root in education. There are two very critical points made in the article that speak to a need to Think Differently.

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Animating History

What if you could bring your ancestors back to life? Creepy, or fascinating to see what it would have been like to interact with them? MyHeritage is a company focused on DNA testing and helping discover their family history. They recently developed what they call Deep Nostalgia, which uses AI to animate photos of people from the past. The company encourages you to decide for yourself by creating a video and sharing it with your family and friends. This Article describes how it works, shows some amazing examples from Twitter, and encourages people to try it. Those interested can do so on the MyHeritage Website. Look at the video below to watch the animation of history.

Sustainability: Not Just Talk Anymore

Sustainability is not a new topic. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals have been in place since 2015 and were adopted by 193 countries. At the heart of these goals lies our desire to advance our Human Development. We may be in a better position to do so now then we have in quite some time. In fact, History tells us that the last time we experienced a period of great human development spanned the century from 1870 to 1970. While there have been notable efforts to realize these U.N. goals, progress has been slow. Let’s take energy as an example. It is a big part of the sustainability story and the Future of Energy has been discussed for years. However, progress towards that future has been slow. That could all change in the next decade. Several forces are Converging to accelerate the path of energy. One of those forces is a shift in orientation to purpose:

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As We Accelerate In The Short Term – Horizons Move Closer

While COVID-19 is an acknowledged accelerant, we are accelerating towards a known destination. Remote learning and working should have evolved sooner; the digital foundation should have been a priority earlier; eCommerce should have exploded by now; and last-mile delivery is only just beginning. Although we may arrive at this destination sooner, acceleration now draws scenarios that are further out closer. Those that may have been reluctant to order online overcame their fears. The elderly on zoom calls is now a thing. With broader societal adoption comes an ability to more aggressively pursue innovative ideas that may have been further out. When combined with learning that comes from broader adoption, acceleration becomes a virtuous cycle.

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