From robotics and artificial intelligence to virtual reality, digital innovation is poised to accelerate this year.
Change has always been a constant, but it is now happening faster than ever before. The exponential pace of technological innovation is leading to a world of templosion, in which very large things happen in increasingly compressed amounts of time. The impacts of this acceleration — and digital transformation — will be felt everywhere.
Below are four areas where this era of templosion will play out this year:
1. Workreation: The Emergence of a New Creative Class
Robots are increasingly being trained to match human dexterity and speed. However, this new wave of evolutionary technology can automate not just manual, but cognitive tasks. Up to 44 percent of jobs may be automated within the next decade. What may be looming is an era of technological unemployment, in which computer scientists and software engineers essentially invent us out of work, and the total number of jobs declines steadily and permanently.
But as smart machines relieve us of tedious tasks, they may allow us to spend more time being creative. Traditional paths to economic viability are vanishing. We are hardly needed for — or benefiting from — any of it anymore. Instead, we may see the mind redeployed in much more highly engaging ways.
A broader question that emerges is: Are we heading towards a workreation future — where jobs consist of more creative endeavors? A future where creation itself — rather than material compensation — is what compels us to work. Skills like relationship-building, collaboration, empathy and cultural sensitivity will become top currency in the future.
2. The Neural Net: The Next Frontier for Artificial Intelligence?
One of the biggest philosophical debates centers around whether artificial intelligence (AI) will ever be able to fully replicate human intelligence. If we are indeed moving towards a workreation future, can true AI express creativity, empathy, emotion? There is a fundamental difference between “smart” and “intelligent.” While we’ve long been able to develop “smart” systems — abie to absorb and integrate inputs that have in some way been taught — the challenge has been how to develop “intelligent” systems — able to devise a solution to a problem never before encountered.
Now we’re beginning to conquer that hurdle through the development of artificial neural networks — inspired by the way neurons operate in the brain. These networks are used to approximate functions that can depend on a large number of inputs and are generally unknown. A key component of this is deep learning, which teaches computers how to solve perceptual problems including image recognition, speech recognition and bioinformatics. Artificial neural networks represent an exponential leap forward in AI that could change everything from search to mobile, the Internet of Things, infrastructure (built & digital), drones, robotics, space exploration and beyond.
3. Awhereness: The Future of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) is still considered niche, but we may be nearing a significant inflection point,. We may be increasingly moving towards is a time of awhereness: being aware, but not sure where —in reality or in a virtual environment, or a combination of both.
The biggest hindrance for consumers may be the comfort associated with being removed from the real world. We have defined VR as tricking the brain into believing it is somewhere else — doing something else — in real time. That’s what presence is, the sense that you are actually where VR wants you to believe you are.
Until developers fully unlock and exploit this incredibly powerful secret sauce, VR will remain a nice-to-have versus a need-to-have technology. In the not-so-distant future, computers may fluently interact directly with the human brain, eventually supporting computer-brain communication in VR. Learning a skill, an organization’s history or even an entire marketing strategy will straddle the worlds of real and virtual seamlessly.
4. Everyone Is a Technology & IP Company:
In a world of templosion, many long-established corporations are facing a marketplace mandate to audit and overhaul much of what they do — and how they do it — to remain sustainable and competitive in a vastly different operating environment. Even the most traditional manufacturing firms will have to identify as technology- and intellectual property (IP)-based companies. Artificial intelligence, the Industrial Internet, 3D (and eventually 4D) printing, Big Data, new communications and energy technologies, state-of-the-art robotics, the neural net…these things are not coming, they’re already here. Every entity will have to protect the IP that not only goes into all of that technology, but that is the output (in the form of proprietary data) of these new platforms.
In the end, the amount of innovation and transformation taking place is staggering. The considerable impacts of this acceleration will be felt across all industries and disciplines. Those who are able to constantly refresh their thinking and remain relevant in a time of rapid change, will emerge on top.
(Top GIF: Courtesy of GE)
Erica Orange is Executive Vice President & COO of The Future Hunters, a boutique futurist consultancy that looks at long-term global trends.
Jared Weiner is Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer of The Future Hunters.