Computers, Automation & Robotics
I hope you enjoyed Parts 1 https://www.ceocoachinginternational.com/articles/week-disruption-singularity-university-part-1-scary-stuff-didnt-know-existed/ & 2 https://www.ceocoachinginternational.com/week-disruption-singularity-university-part-2-cutting-edge-advancements-in-medicine of this series. When I think about the potential implications of the technological advancements we are seeing today, it seems to me that we are catching up to the science fiction books that captured our imaginations. In fact, today’s computers have already surpassed HAL 9000 (the antagonist of “2001 A Space Odyssey”) in many ways.
It hasn’t been that long since computers started making our lives easier. Although the introduction of the IBM 650 in 1954 is recognized as the first “mass-produced” computer with approximately 2,000 installations, it wasn’t until 1971 that Texas Instruments released the first easily portable electronic calculator. As recently as 1997 an IBM Computer called Deep Blue made headlines by beating Chess Grandmaster, Garry Kasparov in a six-game match. As a side note, no human has beaten a computer at chess since 2005 (Your iPad App set at Level 1 doesn’t count).
Most of you have heard of Moore’s Law which (somewhat simplified) states that computer speed and power doubles every two years while costing half as much. As impressive as this sounds, I was never able to get my head around it until a speaker at Singularity put it in perspective. Within the next 10 years, we will have a $1,000 computer with the computational power of the human brain. By 2050, that same $1,000 will buy the computational power of the entire human race.
In Part 2 of this series, I highlighted some major advancements in health and wellness that are already impacting our world. If you allow yourself to imagine the potential of combining these biological and technical advancements, the possibilities are mind-boggling. What if science provides us with a way to upload our brains to a server every night while we sleep? Meanwhile new (and more youthful) bodies, grown from our stem cells, are stored at local medical facilities. Even a tragic event such as being hit by a bus during your morning run would not need to be life-ending. Just download your “brain” to your new body and the only thing lost would be the taste of your morning coffee. How about if instead of hopping a 14-hour flight from LA to Sydney, you “rented” a body and just transferred your brain across the ocean? Why stop there? NASA could conceivably send bodies into space giving us the opportunity to upload and travel to Mars in hours, rather than months. Would we be able to download our brains into two bodies and synch the memories from the day on the server? Now think back to Part 1 and the potential impact hackers would have on this world.
While a scenario like the one above could lead us toward immortality, the advances in automation and robotics brings the question, “What we will all be doing?” As it is, 40% of the jobs in the U.S. today could be replaced by machine based algorithms. A company called Foxconn is currently erecting a factory where they will build robots to replace 500,000 workers. These robots don’t care about the minimum wage, they don’t use 50% more energy when working overtime, they don’t leave early to attend their daughter’s soccer game, etc. And if you think that worker replacement will be limited to blue-collar jobs, guess again. In fact, there is much more to gain by replacing higher paying, white-collar jobs.
Robocars (or more correctly, Autos) are not a thing of the future. They are already here. Car crashes kill 40,000 people per year and 50% of the lawsuits in the U.S. are car related. The fact is robocars are already safer than human drivers. They don’t blink, they don’t get distracted by text messages and they don’t get caught daydreaming, requiring them to cut across 4 lanes of traffic to make their exits. Are they perfect? No, but they only need to be better than us.
The video “Humans Need Not Apply” gives some terrific insight into the role automation will play in the near future. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pq-S557XQU&feature=youtu.be
We are witnessing the very beginning of how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will change our lives. Recently, Tesla Founder, Elon Musk described AI as the “biggest existential threat there is.” He added, “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”
You may be thinking, “Mark, this voyage into The Matrix is amazing (and a little scary) but does this really impact me today? Our world is changing faster than ever and our future is exciting. Do you have a robotics strategy? If not, I suggest you start thinking about one…because your competition might already have one. The next innovation that could disrupt your business is already being developed by some kid in his bedroom. It will start slow, gain momentum and before you know it, you could be the next Kodak or Encyclopedia Britannica.