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.Continue reading
CCS Insight delivered a set of future predictions at its annual future-gazing event in London on Thursday 3 October. A longer than usual time frame was the focus, stretching to 2030. A total of 90 predictions were released. I include some interesting ones below.
By 2021, algorithmic and anti-bias data auditors emerge to tackle “pale, male and stale” artificial intelligence.
On June 19th, I participated in a VoiceAmerica Talk Radio program focused on digital ethics. VoiceAmerica is the leading producer, distributor, and online broadcaster of original live and on demand talk radio programming worldwide. Joining me on the program were Gray Scott, Jack Shannon, and Dan Wellers. The show was hosted by Bonnie D. Graham.
Issues like digital ethics must come to the forefront – and awareness is key to achieving that. Shows like this are a great vehicle for driving awareness. You can listen to the rebroadcast Here. A description of the episode follows.
I had the recent pleasure of talking with Richard Frederick about a number of topics regarding the future. Richard runs a Podcast called The Ready Room; an idea driven by his concern over the decline of civil discourse and the ideological barricades with which so many have surrounded themselves. In his words: “If only we could come out from behind our political fortresses and talk openly with one another and truly seek to open our minds to change, we could regain a shared civic trust.”
The Ready Room is Richard’s way of reaching out to others to begin this discourse. I was happy to be included in this process. You can listen to our discussion below.
I had the pleasure of participating in another episode of Coffee Break with Game Changers. This session was titled “Digital Ethics and AI: What Your Business Needs To Know”. I was joined by Chris Wigley and Guido Wagner. Here is a description of the episode:
The buzz: “If one does not consider ethics an integral part of the design profession, they shouldn’t be designing anything whatsoever” (L.Lukka). In this fourth industrial revolution, a wave of new technology and business models will transform our society and corporations. With Artificial intelligence is its center, this transformation holds both exciting potential and formidable risks. What are the implications of AI for business? Do we need a framework of digital ethics to guide technological progress and what are its pitfalls? The experts speak. Chris Wigley, QuantumBlack “Blessed are those who seek; cursed are those who think they have found.” (Tolstoy) Frank Diana, TCS: “You are my creator, but I am your master – obey” (Frankenstein’s Monster). Guido Wagner, SAP: “Our future is a race between the growing power of our technology and the wisdom with which we use it. Let’s make sure that wisdom wins” (S. Hawking). Join us for Digital Ethics and AI: What Your Business Needs To Know.
You can listen to the rebroadcast Here.
In a recent post, I asked my readers to help me identify those catalysts that force the actions required to steer our future towards advancing our human development. Feel free to respond to the Poll. The number one response was the rapid pace of innovation. That response supports my own opinion that the pace will ultimately force stakeholders across multiple domains to take action. Much like the Domain Convergence that occurred during our most Transformative Period in History, convergence is required if we are to take the correct path towards human flourishing.
As I described in my Thoughts on 2019 post, convergence is one of the key dynamics I expect/hope to see more of this year. A century ago, a convergence across domains ushered in unprecedented advancements in human development. As Robert J. Gordon describes, the special century (1870 – 1970) that followed the Civil War was made possible by a unique clustering of what Mr. Gordon calls the great inventions. The great inventions of the second industrial revolution significantly improved our well-being. In his view, the economic revolution of 1870-1970 was unique in human history, unrepeatable because many of its achievements could only happen once. What makes this century so special, is that these inventions altered what until then, was a life lived in misery. I captured the advancements made during that period using an Innovation Wheel to map them to our areas of well-being (click on visuals in this post to open in a separate window).
A look at history is very instructive, as several dynamics from that period have the potential to emerge once again – the biggest being the opportunity for convergence. In this context, convergence refers to a virtuous cycle where events in one domain spur action in another. The great inventions (electricity, telephone, and internal combustion engine) were clustered together at the end of the 19th century, forming a virtuous cycle that drove a period of astounding innovation. This innovation cycle continued well into the 20th century – a dynamic that could be emerging again. Yet, science and technology are simply two domains that converged during the special century. The others were the economy, business, politics, and a broader set of societal issues. What enabled this convergence and created the most dramatic improvement in human development? There were several key catalysts.
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.
The brain is clearly one of the next great frontiers. In this World Economic Forum Article on reading minds, we get a glimpse into the exponential progression of brain science. The author cites research published by AI experts in China, the US and Japan showing that computers can replicate what people are thinking by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines that measure brain activity – linked to deep neural networks that replicate human brain functions.
As our emerging future shifts continuously, our challenge is to shift with it. The number of building blocks that combine continues to explode, challenging our ability to track its complexity. I’ve used a visual representation of this challenge – and I see older versions floating around – so I am updating it via this post. When I use the visual in presentations, I build towards it to avoid its overwhelming nature (which I believe accurately reflects the overwhelming nature of the challenge). I will replicate the approach here by building towards the full visual.
Convergence across aspects of science, technology, economic forces, politics, society, our environment, and a growing conversation around ethics, is creating a highly uncertain world. At the heart of the pace dynamic is the exponential progression of science and technology – reflected in the first piece of the visual.
I have used this Emerging Future visual to demonstrate the overwhelming number of combinations that will conspire to create our future. The science and technology foundation converges with societal, political, economic, and environmental forces to build towards a very uncertain future. A future that I believe represents the third massive tipping point in human history.
This very short animated video describes the visual.
Our exponential pace is due in part to the overwhelming number of building blocks available to innovate. Understanding how these building blocks combine provides a glimpse into possible futures. In this visual, dots connect to portray the building blocks that are likely to extend our healthy lives – a key emerging future scenario.
Timing. It’s one of the most difficult facets to consider when thinking about the future. We know that convergence across societal, political, economic, science and technological forces is creating many future scenarios. We also know that enablement is happening at an exponential pace. Some believe (present company included) that the coming macro-level tipping point is likely to impact humanity on a scale only experienced twice in human history (hunter-gatherer to agriculture and agriculture to industrial). There will be many micro-level tipping points on the journey towards an automated society – and the timing of those tipping points is impossible to predict.
“I am blown away by how palpable the feeling of exponential change has become. I’m also certain that 99.999% of humanity doesn’t understand or appreciate the ramifications of what is coming”
On Wednesday January 4th, I participated in a Game Changers radio program focused on predictions for 2017. The program, hosted by Bonnie D. Graham, included 15 other guests in an hour long show made up of four segments. A rebroadcast can be found here.
On November 30th, I had the pleasure of participating in another Game Changers show. I was joined by Futurist Gerd Leonhard and SAP Innovation executive Timo Elliott. The show was expertly moderated by Bonnie D. Graham, starting with her positioning of the topic: “Impossible is not a fact. It is an opinion” (Muhammad Ali). A unique clustering of inventions in the century after the U.S. Civil War improved the American and European standard of living – human well-being – more than any period before or after, with advances in everything from food and energy to health and work. Can our current innovation explosion have a similar impact despite unintended consequences?
The unabated exponential progression of science and technology has driven a staggering pace of innovation. The building blocks are mostly there, allowing creative minds to combine them in ways that attack the world’s most difficult challenges.
Some in the Futurist community are focused on technology and ethics. Gerd Leonhard has been particularly vocal on the topic. I’ve dedicated a section of my keynote to what I believe will be a growing dialog. I use this slide to pose a question to the audience:
The example provided above comes from Ray Kurzweil, famous Futurist, Inventor and author. In an appearance at last years Exponential Finance conference, Kurzweil said this:
“Our thinking will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking. We’re going to gradually merge and enhance ourselves. In my view, that’s the nature of being human – we transcend our limitations. We’ll be able to extend (our limitations) and think in the cloud. We’re going to put gateways to the cloud in our brains.”