New technologies such as Artificial Senses and Virtual Reality are here to stay, and they will change our world dramatically. According to Ray kurzweil, leading innovator and futurist, "the pace of change will be so astonishingly quick that we won't be able to keep up, unless we enhance our own intelligence by merging with the intelligent machines we are creating”. Inspired by his visit to SuperNova, THoMers Florence and Laetitia listed 5 trends and technologies to watch.
Meet Artificial Senses (AS)
While it’s currently all about Artificial Intelligence (AI), cyborg Neil Harbisson is convinced that our focus will soon shift towards Artificial Senses (AS). The term ‘cyborg’ refers to a human being with both organic and biomechatronic body parts. Born color-blind, Neil Harbisson implanted an antenna in his head which allows him to hear colors, including colors invisible to the human eye. The antenna connected to his brain creates an extra, artificial sense. The main difference between AS and AI is the place where the intelligence is created. While Artificial Intelligence is ‘intelligence created by machines’, the knowledge and intelligence as a result of Artificial Senses is created in your own brain, AS just gives your brain additional input. In other words, it creates a ‘revealed reality’. Harbisson believes that in the future we will change ourselves instead of changing the world. It will be normal to add and change body parts. When it’s too hot, we’ll lower our temperature, when it’s too dark we’ll light a part of our body. What’s the first feature you’d add?
Data is the new world currency
There is no doubt that data has become one of the most valuable resources for companies worldwide. Biz Stone illustrates the growing importance of data by describing it as “the new world currency”. Think about blockchain technology for example: by investing in cryptocurrencies, our money is transformed into data, while at the same time, our data has become our money, as it has gained the ability to create and exchange economic value. Next to the banking industry, data is impacting and will certainly impact other industries as well. According to Jorg Snoeck, founder of the retail communication and network platform Retail Detail, the retail landscape of the future will be shaped by big data and artificial intelligence.
The future is conversational
Enhanced by new types of devices, our daily lives will be more and more conversational… with machines. As half of the searches will be performed by voice by 2020, it is no surprise that the sales and consequently the use of smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home is on the rise. Voice assistance will increasingly become part of our lives, simplifying everyday activities and tasks. Although smart speakers are currently primarily used to carry out basic tasks such as putting on music or checking the weather forecast, the application of these devices will be extended considerably. According to Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, even the future of social media is conversational, and voice is just another User Interface. Soon our smartphone will be replaced by almost invisible wearables. Think about a mini-accessory in your ear or attached to your hand. Good bye to the panic you felt when you thought you’d lost your smartphone once again. A permanent device inside your body is the logical next step - Neil Harbisson’s world is closer than you might think. And what if we not only connect the device but also our brain to the cloud? Will the next Twitter user interface be designed for voice, and the one after that for 'thoughts'?
Don’t ignore the dark side of technology
Start thinking about the potential negative consequences of new technologies and anticipate them. New technologies are usually created with good intentions, but it’s quite likely that they will give rise to undesirable results too. Solutions today will be the cause of problems in the future. If you wonder what this might look like, watch the Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’ about current and future technologies and how they influence our reality.
The testimony of Biz Stone, fuels this concern. He said that Twitter has been regarded as a ‘telephone company’ for too long: responsible for the platform but not for the content. When founding Twitter, they probably didn’t think about hate speech or state-sponsored trolling characterizing their platform. They changed their position and are actively working on solutions (for example, removing fake accounts) to increase the quality and collective health of the public conversation.
Jane McGonigal believes that anticipating the negative consequences of new technologies is not only the responsibility of the people who create it, it’s the responsibility of the ones using and supporting these technologies too. Jane McGonigal also has an interesting idea on how to find solutions: by playing games. People playing games create a massive ‘collective intelligence’ that we need to use to solve future problems. This is because fake videos (the next wave of disinformation) and ever available facial recognition are almost here!
When it comes to innovation, it’s all about timing
Innovation primarily starts with a good idea. Biz Stone, was asked how he makes the distinction between good and bad ideas. He stated that “one cannot recognize good ideas; one must be emotionally involved to be able to bring them to life and make them successful”. However, in addition to that, innovation is about more than just ideas. According to Ray Kurzweil the most important aspect that makes a successful innovator is timing. Let’s take Airbnb as an example. Even though the platform was launched in the middle of an international financial crisis, it was still able to disrupt the housing market in 2008. As people were desperately looking for alternative revenues, Airbnb turned a threat into an opportunity and now rents out millions of rooms every night. So next to your business model, team and funding, innovation is really about being at the right place at the right moment.
Today, new technologies may seem to be something far away, not transforming your business immediately, but tomorrow they will. So, force yourself to keep up with the latest trends and technologies, it’s definitely worth the effort!