A recent Report on artificial intelligence (AI) suggests that COVID-19 is not likely to slow the path of AI. Per the report: nearly three-quarters of businesses now consider AI critical to their success, as it continues to grow in importance across companies of various sizes and industries, according to a new report. Appen Limited’s 2020 State of AI Report indicates that two-thirds of respondents do not expect any negative impact from the COVID-19 pandemic on their AI strategies.
In a post from the summer of 2019, I explored the notion of an Augmented Age: a future where our natural human capabilities are radically augmented in three ways: Computational systems will help us think. Robotic systems will help us make. And a digital nervous system will connect us to the world far beyond what our natural nervous system can offer. Fast-forward to a world altered by COVID-19: Are we on an accelerated path to augmentation and automation? This recent Forbes Article takes an interesting look at the question from the perspective of lights out factories.
A recent article on the Future of Medicine explores the emerging Wellness Ecosystem and the impact that COVID-19 is likely to have on its path. The key message from the article and associated video below is that Connected Health has a greater opportunity for realization. The pandemic has proven that virtual ways of working and telemedicine can work. The video examines the role of artificial intelligence, 5G, Sensors, and data in the progression towards a personalized health ecosystem.
What job skills do we need for the future? A popular question that comes up a lot. In a Recent Post, I listed several: emotional intelligence, creativity, flexibility, adaptability, data literacy, and technology savviness. This Tweet of a World Economic Forum video adds complex problem solving, critical thinking, people management, working with others, and decision making to the list.
In a world of knowledge abundance, there are so many things to consider. Knowledge has always been the engine that drives human development – and it has been throughout history. Knowledge expanded in the hunter-gatherer days with the invention of fire. In those days, a human obtained all its food by foraging. Although the source of food did not change, fire allowed humans to cook food and consume more calories. The human brain expanded with this caloric increase, and soon we invented language – the first in a series of innovations that drove the growth of knowledge. All that followed – from agriculture to the great inventions of the second industrial revolution – enabled us to advance as humans. I explored that progression Here.
A recent Article written by Futurist Bernard Marr describes a conversation with Oxford University Professor Nick Bostrom, New York Times best-selling author of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Although the books focus was on those things that could go wrong, this recent conversation with Bostrom acknowledged the enormous upside to artificial intelligence. You can see the full video of their conversation below.
Some of the AI impacts explored in the video are:
- AI will change the workplace and the jobs that humans do
- AI-enabled terrorism
- AI surveillance
- Social manipulation and AI bias
- Political, legal, and social ramifications
Bostrom advises that rather than avoid pursuing AI innovation, we should put ourselves in the best position possible, with scalable AI control methods, ethics and governance. If we don’t, those significant negative ramifications he described in his earlier book could be realized. But as noted, there are so many positive outcomes to consider. This revolution represents as it always does a need to Manage the humanity enhancing and humanity diminishing pathways.
In a recent Article, Gartner says that no single tool available today can replace humans in the workplace. The article goes on to say that hyper-automation is a response to this challenge – bringing together different tools, technologies and techniques to amplify every company’s ability to automate more processes, more rapidly, with better results.
It is no secret that productivity has slowed. In a Post from 2016, I described this phenomenon in detail. According to Wikipedia, productivity is an average measure of the efficiency of production. It can be expressed as the ratio of output to inputs used in the production process. In a Citi Report I shared in that post, they describe the significant slowing of labor productivity growth, which drives a focus on next generation gains. But In spite of technological progress and innovation, measured productivity growth is low by historical comparison.
In a recent Article by Bryan Walsh, he describes the mega-trends that are likely to shape this century. These trends are driven by the Acceleration of innovation and a growing set of Societal Factors. In describing the seriousness of these trends, our author points to a forthcoming book titled “The Precipice”. In the book, author Toby Ord of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute gives one in six odds that humanity will suffer an existential catastrophe during the next 100 years — almost certainly due to our own actions.
In the book The Fourth Turning, authors William Strauss and Neil Howe illuminate the past, explain the present, and reimagine the future. They offer an utterly persuasive prophecy about how America’s past will predict its future. Here is what they had to say:
Artificial Intelligence is expected to handle many things in the future; is predicting that future one of them? In a recent Article by The Economist, an AI called GPT-2, created by Openai, was asked to do just that. GPT-2 answered questions on the big themes for 2020. At this time of year, predictions are front and center. What did our AI have to say about the year ahead? Read the article to see how GP2 answered these questions.
In a recent book, Richard Baldwin takes us on a fascinating journey to the past, and then provides a peak into the next great transformation. In The Globotics Upheaval, Mr. Baldwin describes a cycle that has played out multiple times throughout human history. The cycle of transformation, upheaval, backlash and resolution (Let’s call it TUBS) was experienced each time the world entered periods of major disruption. Mr. Baldwin introduces the Globotics Transformation as the third great economic transformation to shape our societies over the past three centuries. As he describes, the first was known as the Great Transformation started in the early 1700s, and it switched societies from agriculture to industrial and from rural to urban. The second started in the early 1970s, shifting the focus from industry to services – the Services Transformation. I take a different view of transformation in the context of Tipping Points – but the cycle is the same.
Add Singapore to the list of Nations establishing a Smart Nation agenda. In a recent Article authored by Eileen Yu, she describes the launch of Singapore’s national artificial intelligence (AI) strategy. The Singapore government aims to drive AI adoption to generate economic value and provide a global platform on which to develop and test AI applications. As future scenarios go, Smart Nations represent a complex intersection of multiple ecosystems – broader than similar complexities associated with the Smart City scenario.
“When considering potential risks from future technology, one should not be content with merely analyzing what’s likely to happen—instead, one should look at what’s possible, even if unlikely.” – Jaan Tallinn, founding member of Skype, and co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk
Very well said. I’m a big believer in that quote – the reason I spend so much time painting pictures of possible futures. Mr. Tallinn expects the backbone of technology in the 2020s to be defined by gradual improvements in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and Artificial Intelligence. What else can we expect in the next decade? A recent Article by George Dvosrsky – a senior staff reporter at Gizmodo – explores the futuristic developments in the next ten years.
Although I believe prediction in this era is a fools errand, we can look at the trajectory of our Science and Technology Curve to make some informed guesses. That’s precisely what the above article attempts to do. Here are the author’s informed guesses.
Maurice Conti is the Chief Innovation Officer at Alpha focused on what he calls the Augmented Age. He talks about it this way: We’re heading for a future where our natural human capabilities are going to be radically augmented in three ways: Computational systems will help us think. Robotic systems will help us make. And a digital nervous system will connect us to the world far beyond what our natural nervous system can offer.
I recently ran into a TCS colleague at a forum in which I presented. Ryan Metz is a Data Scientist working at our Cornell Innovation Lab. Ryan mentioned an Article he had written about the short term impact of AI – versus the long term concerns voiced by the likes of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. As he states in the article, the long term concern is that we will produce machines so intelligent that we lose control over them. They will become a new form of life that rules over us as we do the the animal kingdom.
Two recent articles highlight the dilemma faced in this era of rapid innovation: the potential to enhance humanity, and the opportunity to diminish it. This article on DeepFakes describes the challenge that society will face as Deepfake video and audio make it impossible to tell the difference between reality and fiction. Audio attacks using convincing forgeries can send stocks plummeting or soaring. How about mimicking a CEO’s voice to request a senior financial officer to transfer money? These are real examples provided by Symantec. This short Video describes the money transfer scenario.
Nick Burnett, Futurist and Education and learning entrepreneur, recently published an Article on education and artificial intelligence. The article launches a series that explores exponential technologies and their impact on learning and teaching. The post was co-authored with Nick Kairinos and the Fountech team. A focus on learners, teachers and leaders is critical, as education is the key to success in the 21st Century. I recommend the article.
In the past several weeks, the topic of Digital Ethics has come up several times. A critical piece of this discussion involves the bias that is and will be built into the applications of artificial intelligence. Amy Webb is a Quantified Futurist, Professor, Strategic Foresight at NYU, and the Founder and CEO of The Future Today Institute. In March of this Year, Amy published a book titled The Big Nine.
In her book, she tackles the issues associated with bias; specifically, the lack of diversity in computing. In this recent Article, Amy discusses the consequences of computer systems that don’t anticipate all the types of people who might use them. For example, Computers have started issuing prison sentences. A quick look at one of the largest technology companies underscores the severity of the issue: At Google, more than 95 percent of technical workers are white or Asian.
In reacting to the big focus on STEM, AMY had this to say: “If everyone is focused on the nuts and bolts of making software quickly at scale, where will they learn to design it with equity and care? Critical thinking is what the computers won’t be able to do,”. I recommend both the book and the article as a means of education and awareness regarding this critical issue of bias.
Amy Webb is a Quantified Futurist. She is a Professor, Strategic Foresight at NYU, and the Founder and CEO of The Future Today Institute. In March of this Year, Amy published a book titled The Big Nine.
Here is a description of the book via Amazon:
In this book, Amy Webb reveals the pervasive, invisible ways in which the foundations of AI–the people working on the system, their motivations, the technology itself–is broken. Within our lifetimes, AI will, by design, begin to behave unpredictably, thinking and acting in ways which defy human logic. The big nine corporations may be inadvertently building and enabling vast arrays of intelligent systems that don’t share our motivations, desires, or hopes for the future of humanity.
Much more than a passionate, human-centered call-to-arms, this book delivers a strategy for changing course, and provides a path for liberating us from algorithmic decision-makers and powerful corporations.
With the start of a new year, the traditional focus on predictions has begun. Prognosticators do so at their own peril – as this New Yorker Article clearly articulates. It seems that in 1968, the Foreign Policy Association (formed in 1918 to promote the League of Nations), celebrated its fiftieth anniversary by publishing a book of predictions about what the world would look like in fifty years. Well, here we are fifty years later, and if history is any guide, futurists have very little credibility. Although predictions these days may be even more difficult given our complex systems are progressing and scaling at an unprecedented rate, a macro-level focus can provide an ability to scan beyond the horizon. So rather than attempt to predict, here are my 2019 thoughts on several macro-level forces.
The dialog surrounding artificial intelligence and ethics is amplifying. As society continues this rapid progression towards an automated future, the role of ethics becomes increasingly important. After painting a picture of several possible futures for an audience, I would ask this question: Is this a society that you want to live in. This discussion was captured in a post on Technology and Ethics, along with a poll to capture my readers thoughts on this same question (please take the poll to keep the dialog moving).
This question underscores the need to proactively manage the path towards these possible futures – and the discussion surrounding ethics plays a critical role. Enter initiatives like Moral Machine from MIT. As described by their website, machine intelligence is supporting or entirely taking over ever more complex human activities at an ever increasing pace. The moral machine provides a platform for building a crowd-sourced picture of human opinion on how machines should make decisions when faced with moral dilemmas. Given the challenges of coding an ambiguous set of morals and ethics into machines, crowdsourcing makes great sense. So visit the Moral Machine platform and add your voice to the conversation.