The future of machines and humans

By the 2 November 2017

At the 2017 Cegos Business Transformation Summit 2017 [17 Oct.] futurist Gerd Leonhard and expert Professor Manuela Veloso took to the stage to share their insights on the future of humanity and technology and some of what they said surprised me.

Gerd Leonhard, Manuela Veloso, Simon Vuillaume and Laura Overton at the Business Transformation Summit 2017 - Lisbon

Here are my top 5 take-aways for the day:

1. It’s difficult to predict the future when it’s moving so fast.

10 years from now the future will be so fundamentally different that it is impossible to predict.

The future is no longer an extension of the past – Gerd Leonhard, Futurist

What we have learned in the past may no longer be useful in the future. Things won’t necessarily just improve they will probably transform. Just look at the music industry today versus 10 years ago. Because of companies like Spotify we now buy access to music and the experience rather than buying music itself.

Blockbuster resisted the same shift in the TV entertainment sector and we all know how that went. Car manufacturers are investing more in electric vehicles and self-driving cars.

In the future it may be your business that needs to transform!

2. Anything that is routine, machines will do in the future

We see it happening around us all the time. Machines are increasingly taking over the routine jobs. It started out in manufacturing with robots assembling products but now what was previously human-to-human interactions with customers are being done by machines too. Walk into any large supermarket such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Asda and you’ll find a growing number of self-checkouts.

3. Data is the new oil

Take a look at the top companies of 2006 vs 2016 [below]. In 2006 Microsoft was the only technology company in that list – the rest being oil and banking companies. In 2016 all except one company are technology companies.

The marketing economy sees enormous value in our data and the content we interact with. But if data is the new oil should we pay close attention to the impact of technology on humanity and should we regulate it? Just this morning on the news I heard the head of MI5 say technology companies have an ethical responsibility to crack down on terrorists using technology to plan attacks. And that’s the thing – technology has no ethics. It’s how we use technology that makes it good or bad.
Infographic: The Age of Tech | Statista

4. Deep learning is what will make machines in the future

Deep learning has already enabled machines to turn ambiguity into certainty. Where machines previously processed an image as a collection of RGB numbers they now recognise and label objects. Increasingly machines are learning to see the world as we do and communicate as we do.

Professor Manuela Veloso talks about understanding what her autonomous robots (called CoBots) do when she doesn’t see them – reading syntax code that would require an expert to understand. But now the CoBot translates the code into meaningful information than any English speaking human would understand.

5. The future of machines and humans is working together

Picture - Cute child invented robot arm with cardboard

The future will not see us ending up as ‘useless humans’ like most of Hollywood and TV would have us believe. While machines will almost certainly take over routine work some things like imagination, creativity, and emotional intelligence are unlikely to be replicated.

The future is machines that recognise what they can’t do and ask for help – Prof. Manuela Veloso, Carnegie Mellon University

Manuela Veloso reminds us that robots won’t be able to do everything but then again, what human can do everything? Accept that in the future machines and humans will have limitations, but working collaboratively we can overcome those challenges.

Thanks to everyone…

… who attended the Business Transformation Summit in Lisbon and the Live Streaming Events in Barcelona, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris and Valencia on the 17th of October!
Edit: The following Business Transformation Summit in 2018 explored the theme of ‘experience’ in the professional training industry. Check out our highlights page for reflections on the day, in-depth articles and more

Business Transformation Summit 2017 - UK, France, Portugal, Italy

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