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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What Does A Recent Trend Study Tells Us About The Future?

Each year the Future Today Institute releases a very comprehensive trend study during SXSW. I just finished getting through this very comprehensive installment. In announcing this year’s report, Founder Amy Webb had this to say:

The cataclysmic events of the past year resulted in a significant number of new signals. As a result, we’ve analyzed nearly 500 tech and science trends across multiple industry sectors. Rather than squeezing the trends into one enormous tome as we usually do, we are instead publishing 12 separate reports with trends grouped by subject. We are including what we’ve called Book Zero, which shows how we did our work. There is also an enormous, 504-page PDF with all content grouped together as one document.

Well, Amy was not kidding, there is quite a bit to digest. The 12 separate reports referenced can be downloaded Here. As I do with each look into the future, I captured some highlights from this year’s trend study. I will start however with an important observation that Amy made in the opening of the report.

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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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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.

Dancing Robots – How Do You React?

By now, many of you may have seen this video of dancing robots. Yet another remarkable accomplishment delivered to us by Boston Dynamics. The reaction to this video has been varied. Many view it with fascination, while others fear. Those reactions reflect the broader response to possible emerging futures. This recent Article views dancing robots as a really big problem, going as far as calling them unethical. This One sees them as fun and games – until they murder us. Yet Another sees them as eerie, yet marvels at the accomplishment. Finally, this Look at the video calls it unsettling. What about you? What is your immediate reaction when viewing this video? Take the poll below and select your initial reaction.

Artificial Intelligence And The Pursuit Of Global Power

A Sputnik moment: events that cause nations to suddenly realize they must work urgently to bridge or surpass a gap that’s arisen between them and a competitor. A book I recently finished titled “T-Minus AI”, reflects on the moment in history when that phrase was born. On October 4th, 1957, the United States was taken by surprise. The Soviet Union, under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, had just launched the first artificial satellite into space. As the book describes, Sputnik, a beachball-sized, silver metal sphere that weighed 184 pounds, was in orbit 495 miles above Earth. Speeding through space at 18,000 miles per hour, Sputnik crossed directly over the US mainland with each new orbit.

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Transformers Prioritize AI Investment

There are many examples of COVID-19 serving as an Accelerant. History and necessity tell us that automation is one of those examples. According to a Business Insider survey of 53 leaders featured in the Transforming Business series, AI and Cloud are at the top of the list of transformation that companies will invest in during 2021. It’s on the agenda of 47% of those surveyed. The connection to the pandemic can be seen in examples of where automation is applied. This recent Article describes a scenario where social distancing requirements are met through automation. Author Joe Mullich points to the kitchen of a burger joint, where a hard-working fry cook named “Flippy” is paving the way for greater use of artificial intelligence and cloud technology in the restaurant industry. 

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Eight Trends Amplified By COVID-19

I just finished another book and added it to my Library. Pandemic, Inc. explores eight trends that are amplified by the current pandemic. Author Patrick Schwerdtfeger believes we will see more change in the next 12 months then we saw in the last 12 years. He views the current crisis through an optimistic lens, seeing a time of incredible change, but also opportunity.

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The Workforce of 2025

“According to experts, remote work is here to stay and even when the health crisis ends, a good portion of the workforce will remain working from home”

That’s the sentiment from a recent Article that looks at the workforce of 2025. Author Lori Ioannou explores the challenges of keeping employees connected, innovating and collaborating in a world of virtual organizations. Evidence that remote work is likely to continue keeps mounting. Microsoft told employees that they can Work From Home Permanently. Dropbox recently did the same, announcing on Tuesday that they will stop asking employees to come into its offices and instead make Remote Work The Standard Practice. For employees that need to meet or work together in person, the company is setting up “Dropbox Studios” when it’s safe to do so. In the meantime, the company extended its mandatory work from home policy through June 2021.

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Artificial Intelligence And The Cerebral-Physical Gap

As artificial intelligence continues to both dominate the news and stimulate our imagination, many questions remain. One such question was explored in a recent Article. As the authors describe, artificial intelligence still needs to bridge the gap between mastering cerebral games like chess and Go and translating that impact to the physical world. The latter remains a bigger challenge.

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Philosophy Complicates The Convergence Story

In a post from last year, I focused on the Convergence story. This story has one foot in the past, and another in the future. The realization of great advancements in human development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries is a convergence story. A period of great invention converged with other domains to enable our modern society. As we stand at the threshold of another period of great invention, the convergence story is more complicated. This time, complexity is added by the introduction of two new domains: philosophy and environment.

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The Next Generation Of Artificial Intelligence

Two recent articles caught my eye this week. One article focused on the Fourth Generation of artificial intelligence, calling it artificial intuition. The other article explores the shift from artificial narrow intelligence to Artificial General Intelligence. In the case of artificial intuition, author Mark Gazit describes how helpful AI has become, and its ongoing limitations. Machine learning is still fully dependent on historic data. New and unknown scenarios leave data scientists helpless. Mr. Gazit suggests that in order to have true artificial intelligence, we need machines that can think on their own.

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MIT Releases Deepfake video of Nixon Announcing NASA Apollo 11 Disaster

Per a recent Article via Bonnie Burton, MIT and Mozilla embarked on an initiative to help us better understand the disturbing power of deepfake videos in a new project called “In Event of Moon Disaster.” The resulting video below combines actual footage from the Apollo 11 mission with the delivery of a speech that Richard Nixon was prepared to deliver if the mission failed. The disturbingly real video used artificial intelligence to make Nixon’s voice and facial movements convincing. The contingency speech (which can be found in National Archives) was read aloud by an actor.

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COVID-19 Is Not Slowing Artificial Intelligence Down

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.

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The Augmented Age: An Accelerated Path

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.

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The Personalized Health Ecosystem

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.

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What Skills Do You Need To Outsmart Robots?

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.

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Connecting our Brain to the Internet

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.

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Is Artificial Intelligence Dangerous?

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
  • Deepfakes
  • 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.

From Automation to Hyper-Automation

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 expressStalled Productivityed 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.

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