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Blog: The future is now — but it is available only to those with new habits


Photo credit: Karl Östgren

The future is now — but it is available only to those with new habits

In April, I had the great privilege of hearing one of my heroes speak at SAS Global Forum; #SASGF. I first heard about Dr. Michio Kaku — renowned physicist, futurist, broadcaster and writer — when I was in business school, and I have been following his activity ever since. His work (@michiokaku) provides fascinating insights into where the world is going and how it will get there.

I have watched with interest over time as much of what Dr. Kaku spoke about then has come true. From artificial intelligence to virtual reality, we now have the necessary tools available. What, then, is stopping us from taking advantage of these tools of the future? Why haven’t we fully embraced them, and why aren’t we speeding ahead to a great new world (or possibly even another planet)?

A question of habit

I think much of it comes down to habit, although it could also be part of how we are wired as humans. For example, my children spend hours online in their gaming and social media worlds. I, and many others, however, have still to embrace virtual conferences and interactions. I prefer to travel in person to an event like SAS Global Forum. I know from experience that I will return tired and jetlagged, but I will also be energized and full of inspiration from meeting journalists and experts in a wide range of subjects and from around the world. The face-to-face social interactions forge valuable bonds and build long-term relationships. And even my children, to be fair, also like to interact with their friends in person.

I think this need for interaction is a fundamental part of being human. Is it possible to get that feeling from a virtual conference? I don’t know. However, I can see a future in which air travel is heavily taxed or even socially unacceptable because of its impact on the climate. Under those circumstances, I can see that I and others might easily embrace virtual conferences as better than no interaction at all. Perhaps, then, the looming climate and ecological crises will be the catalyst for adoption of the innovations that will truly change how we live, work and interact with our planet.

Looking into the future

In his presentation, Dr. Kaku predicted that we are facing a fourth wave of business transformation. This will be focused on biotechnology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. It’s a move away from Silicon Valley and the current tech giants, and more into a symbiosis with technology. Dr Kaku suggests that should aliens ever land on the lawn of the White House, we are likely to find that they are only part organic: the rest will be cybernetic. He believes that this is where we are heading in the future: a combination of biology and technology.

This sounds far-fetched when put like that. However, I am inclined to accept it. This is partly because he is one of my heroes, and so many of his predictions have been correct in the past. But it is also partly because there is no question in my mind that AI is at its strongest when combined with human input — and also that humans are more powerful with access to AI. Examples such as 3D scanning and image analysis during surgery show the potential. More importantly, perhaps, human input is needed to ensure that AI does not become biased. A physical merge is only a small step beyond that partnership.

Moving into the future

John Lennon famously said that life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. Sometimes it seems like the future is happening while we are busy discussing it. AI is likely to be central to addressing and solving big problems like climate change, both now and in the future, but how can we ensure that we become part of the future, and do not get left behind?

I think the key is to change our habits, starting with small things. For example, I don’t really need to use a keyboard to convey my thoughts. I could be using voice recognition on my phone (a skill I know @PuniRajah has mastered) but my habits have not kept up with the technological advances. My comfort zone has not yet shifted.

I know I need to do it. I think we all know we just need to get started. So, I am making a commitment to change. Next time I post, I will do it differently. Watch this space to find out how.

Source: Artificial Intelligence on Medium