In the meadow, One would imagine that songs of innocents should triumph yet in this story the killer wins. Awakened before dawn, he walked between the soldiers. their bodies he slew to feed the ground. Molded dreams of conquered future shattered to pieces. Carried on the wings of butterflies, deep into the devil’s lair. To stand trial against the emptiness of wishes.
“We’re free, yet we’re bound. In the invisible universe, we’re the masters of the nothing. The knowledge of the unknown is hidden. Though our eyes are open, we’re blind to the sounds behind the curtain of our heart.
(if) We experience our freedom by justifying logic; indeed it’s nothing but ignorance thought that we can experience the freedom of others. It’s our eyes that create our image in the eyes of others. The only way to win true freedom is to spin around our emotions. They are in control!”
It’s said: The possibilities are infinite, so as changes.
The clock inside my soul is counting backward
To the time I was, no more
Beside the emptiness, I lay naked from guilt
Yearning for the blunt blade to relive my memories from their umbilical cord
For it is the sweet awareness of my bloody tick I am the nothing but a madness gold
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt
I was always driven by my dreams. Be that the case, when I sat to write this piece, I realized that for the past few years it wasn’t my dreams that shaped my perceptions but frustrations. We tend to think about frustrations in a negative context, yet I try to let it define the outcome of my everyday activates after all frustrations are born out of bad experiences and frictions, and if I am aware of that I can do something about it.
When talking to people, I tend to quote the New York Times from 1920 “a rocket will never be able to leave the earth’s atmosphere.” Just 25 years later that feat was accomplished. The ensuing 50 years brought incremental achievements. It wasn’t that we didn’t succeed in soundly shuttering that prediction but did need to wait for Elon to say “screw it” to understand that leaving the earth’s atmosphere is but a small piece in the puzzle of building a sustainable civilization.
Listening to Carl Sagan talking about the Voyager, I can’t but think why whenever we refer to NASA, the first relation is to the moon landing. I do not, even for a second underestimate the magnitude of the impact of Neil Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” statement had on humanity. Yet I do feel we capitalized on that as a one-off PR stunt, and from a technology point of view, the moon landing was nothing, but incremental modifications NASA made to rockets so they can land a man on the moon.
The Voyager on the other hand, also sent a manmade object to space, yet the objective was not technological by nature but philosophical – what are we going to do about aliens once we encounter them? How do we push forward to explore the universe while- without refueling- maintaining and still capturing data from an object that continuously increases its distance from earth?
ONLY WHEN WE CONFRONT THE UNKNOWN WE EXCEL BEYOND IMAGINATION
The amount of collaboration needed to pull off the Voyager was unprecedented at that time- and I will argue that even today, that collaboration is unique. The results are amazing. The Voyager left our solar system and continues to explore space. And while my $1K smartphone losses its reception every time I go into a basement, the Voyager is still sending images back to earth.
The Voyager project was never about technology, it was about exploring the unknown, and I believe that only when we confront the unknown- we excel beyond imagination.
What are the fundamental questions we need to ask ourselves when facing yet another unknown? Not in space, but the changing technology is going to enforce on us?
The hidden change.
Humanity is facing an unprecedented change in its perception of reality and in the narratives that defined its existence. Much as past extinctions that pushed the reset button for the entire planet- thus enabling rejuvenation and new creation- humanity is but a touch away from such a reset.
Since the invention of the axe, technology was always the force that paved the way for better and smarter social constructs. From Watt’s steam engine in 1775, sewage systems, elevators, and shipping containers- to screens, smartphones, processing power, and machine learning- it is technology which helps us to push the barriers and build our world. It’s the one function that never stops, it continually changes itself, reinvents and defines new horizons- most, unfortunately, are now beyond our ability to understand.
The industrial revolution wasn’t just a buzzword, it was the compounding accumulative impact of humanity’s maturity and acceptance that met with technology on the same field of understanding and mutual benefits – values. Yes, it bolstered urbanization, innovation, and creativity for many years, yet it is fast approaching a critical peak and is about to leave us facing the unknown, naked from knowledge.
THE IDEAS OF OUR FUTURE ARE NOW ANCHORED IN CODE.
For the past few years, a new breed of technologies is stepping into our arena. Artificial Intelligence, robotics, genomics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, terotechnology- adjustable reality and the codification of value interactions enable us to reexamine and repurpose every aspect of our existence. From our digital-selves to the cities we live in- from mobility, energy, and communication to new financial models- the ideas of our future are now anchored in code.
The future always required strategic, patient thinking and to be honest, before the 50’s, these were qualities we possessed. Most books, art or movies written and produced had a holistic view of things. They describe a point in time where the world was dominated and powered by technological gadgets, body enhancements, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, flying cars, cities in the clouds or underwater but most important they investigated the impact of these ideas of society.
WE OUTSOURCED OUR POTENTIAL INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY AND STARTED TO BUILD TECHNOLOGY FOR THE SAKE OF TECHNOLOGY
Sometime around 1983 – 1984 computation power shifted humanity’s focus from imagining to engineering. Suddenly we had machines that could do the things we always did but better and faster and we became addicted to them. We enslaved our minds. We outsourced our potential innovation and creativity and started to build technology for the sake of technology.
We replaced our strategic vision with a tactical search for answers, we have surrounded ourselves with buzzwords like “the 4th industrial revolution,” “IoT,” “smart cities” and more- all while forgetting that technology was meant to be nothing but a means to an end.
Focusing on the means, we are now left behind and unable to see the end. It’s time to rethink life by imagining the potentials and the desired impacts not only from a technological point of view but also incorporating ethics, morality, trust, and education into this equation.
The stupid intelligence
Without a point of reference that is anchored in past experiences, it’s hard to tell the future.
Hawking dismissed the ideas that the existence of the universe can be attributed to a single point in which everything that happened before is meaningless. Yet I cannot ignore the fact that we did evolve from that point of the big bang and we do not carry the heritage of things that existed before that peak.
Throughout the years we have struggled to understand intelligence. Although organic and inorganic matters are both made from the same building blocks we call atoms- we still cannot breathe life to silicon. Maybe, intelligence is the narrative that manifests itself via the bonds and reciprocal relationships in the creation of a self-contained universe. Perhaps it is not a stand-alone “brain” but the fact that that brain is derived from the complexity and context that pushed that brain into existence. We have created beautiful technologies but as we cannot break our “anchored in historical chains” perspectives while searching for life on other planets, we cannot “build” intelligence by merely copying existence into a code, so we are left with machines that operate in the realm of life yet are not alive.
It was not long ago that innovation boomed from the ideas of individualism, self-interest, logic, reputation, and honesty. And by all accounts, life was good. It seemed that we have found the formula for economic growth. But a strange thing happened. Alan Greenspan, in the aftermath of the collapse, said: “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, was such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders.”
The bigger mistake was that even so- all data showed almost no growth in productivity, the government sided with the 0’s and 1’s that continued to push numbers to new, unimaginable heights. We assumed that the “room can speak Chinese,” we were dazzled by the output. We had a perfect “distance economy,” and we missed the fact that John Searle’s “Chinese room” experiment (this is the moment where you open a browser and Google John Searle’s “Chinese room”) showcased the simulation of intelligence rather than possession of intelligence.
Let us examine this for a moment. Throughout history, the success of intelligence systems depended on the idea that situations should be driven by their potentials and values are determined via the beneficial reciprocal relationships between the actors that make the system. In Searle’s demonstration- the wished outcome- the connections between the actors, was mechanical and without any reciprocal value.
In the model of the economy, we took this yet one step further- we placed a singular actor to define the inputs, outputs and the value creation mechanisms. At each point of action, there was a different view on the model.
It was not the model itself that failed, it was the way we implemented it.
Awakening – The divided world
The most significant risk we have as a society is not from the unknown, but for the known to fall apart.
For the first time in history (at least the one we can trace back to the big bang) natural evolution had peaked it’s potential- there is no place to go from a biology point of view. Yes, we might be a bit faster and jump a bit higher, but we have reached a point where our organic structure just cannot evolve anymore. Even with genetic modifications- sooner or later- we will hit a limit. It is not only our organic structure that is facing evolutionary ends; our mental abilities are also severely limited. This is also translated from the narratives in which we created the reality around us- from geopolitics and global C-Suites- we managed the world with a limited understanding of the challenges ahead and thereby under-utilize our evolutionary potential in almost every area.
The fundamental building blocks of society can be folded into three domains, mobility, energy, and communication. Traditionally, they always operated with degrees of freedom. Yet, they never applied that to the reciprocal relationships between each other. Today, and because of technological development, these connections can manifest themselves via the codification of the logistic systems that carry the societal interaction models- yet instead of letting this natural process evolve itself- we are confining it to the limited information input/output model of yesteryears society and are therefore leaving ourselves with output patterns from our halcyon days.
When the sovereign knows less about the needs of a free market than the players that must compete in that market- the value creation is twisted by bias. The role of the sovereign is to create a set of societal APIs’ that will define its own operating boundaries and at the same time will be open, so the market can repurpose itself to its own benefits.
Time to change
It is hard to write about changes without talking about politics and leadership. It is said that if you do not accept change yourself, you will be rendered irrelevant and eventually perish.
Change is one of the most laborious processes to swallow- as individuals and moreover as a society that flourishes on the idea that what exists is right and shouldn’t be changed. Thought fixation defines the reciprocal relationships between the various examples that we use to measure success- but they also make us forget that by doing so, we build a wall around our creativity and innovation.
Some may disagree, but facts point to the notion that for the past ten years the global economy as a whole and Silicon Valley, in particular, presented a slow yet constant decreased ability to innovate. Most companies (excluding some well-documented examples) have reached their “golden age,” or in other words, they got old, less observant, full of bloated ego but more importantly-they became fragile. They are stuck in the loop of thought fixation and to ease the pain, they have surrounded themselves with rings and rings of regulations that are anchored in paper-based politics.
The ideas that our knowledge and values are inductive yet must be shaped by the deductive nature of reality- so they can deliver value- is a great way to look at businesses, society and politics operating together. It is not about what was, nor about what will be, but what is.
“Looking into the future, you cannot predict which groups will survive, it’s well known that many advanced groups eventually fade away.” Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, 1859
We live in an unfortunate reality where many leaders have dismissed their responsibility for the future and lost their appetite to think big. These heroes without vision are busy analyzing and planning, while others are building for immortality. Powered by siloed vision- they are fragmenting our reality and creating a new circle of ideological wars.
In the current claimant of blind leadership, we have to distance ourselves from the contradictions that the political situation is placing in front of us and look at change as an opportunity to use our collective mind.
Not to continue on the same path of “things we know that we know” but disconnect from the laziness and fear and build an infrastructure for new business models, new definitions of innovation and most importantly create a mindset, that will encourage the next change.
We need to believe that the best solutions to a problem are not hitting it with everything we have, but by viewing it from all possible angles. If something does not work for its intended purpose, it might work for something completely different — that is the meaning of change.
Short interview before keynote about the future of cities.
1. How do you see smart cities in 2030?
Since I was a kid, every story about the future included flying cars, robots, automation and incredible landscapes. There was also the more apocalyptic, dystopian, Nineteen Eighty-Four type of future possibilities. In both cases, it was a future where beautiful technologies dominated and stood at the center of society. Here we are today, realizing that it is not so simple to predict the future. Yes, we have the technologies to build that dream (for good or bad), yet the biggest challenge is not technology for technology but our imagination or the lack of it, our ability to understand the new narratives and rethink our infrastructure to be able to carry society into the future.
Cities are the cradle of civilization yet for the past (more than few) years we let nations dictated the decision-making process of the urban “want’ and “needs.” 30 years from now most of the world population will live in urban areas, and we have but a small window of opportunities to stop and rethink the stories of the future, to redesign technologies to be invisible and transparent, to build new digital infrastructure and interaction interfaces.
I do not see smart cities in the future; I see learning cities, rejuvenation cities. Cities that act as an inorganic extension of the organic society that defines its existence. I see cities that govern by new economic models and further decision-making processes, ones that are anchored in code rather 18th-century laws. I see cities that hide technology and uses it to augment the city intelligence rather than outsource it. I see virtual landscapes that enable new productivity models, new materials that will allow a self-sustained utilization of energy and value generated from below zero environmental impact. I see a city that knows that the most significant assets we have as humans are our creativity and curiosity and a such knows how to harness these qualities to feed its potentials.
2. Can you give us an example where technology made a huge positive impact on the functionality of cities?
The steam engine
3. In which field we can make the most significant progress in your opinion? Is that traffic, science, technology in service of people or something else?
There is a difference between what we can do and what we should do. We should rethink our infrastructure. We should rethink the narratives of ethics, morality, and trust; so they can transcend the physical into the digital. We should rebuild our education systems. To do all of that, to step into the unknown, we have technology and science.
Retake on old thoughts.
Today 3.7 billion people live in urban areas and that number will double by 2050, but cities and industrial companies (such as the automotive players) still operate under the 17th to 18th-century mindset. Most of our eco-social constructs have expired and our urban, medical, educational, transportation systems serve the limited information input/output model of yesteryear’s society.
To be able to survive tomorrow, we have to step back and take a holistic approach. It is essential to recognize that this gap is not due to a lack of technology. Like in several other industries, technology has progressed leaps and bounds in the automotive domain as well. However, the supporting ecosystem has been lackadaisical at best. While electric vehicles are ready to go, charging infrastructure is lacking; in spite of 5G is at our doorstep, seamless connectivity is lacking. A zero-emission electric vehicle running in semi-autonomous mode on the current outdated infrastructure will not deliver wholesome value to the consumer.
The glory numbers that the automotive industry enjoyed over the last century are steadily evaporating. We need to understand that a terminology change from transportation to mobility cannot be a mere cosmetic exercise; rather the need of the hour is to get a 360-degree perspective where we can visualize mobility at the intersection of transport, energy, and communication.
There are several discussions in the automotive industry (and a lot of misunderstanding) regarding the definition of an autonomous vehicle. A car, unlike other consumer devices, has multiple channels through which experience can be delivered. Unfortunately today it’s a rather passive environment. The emotional attachment to the car is more consumer-driven than product driven. Imagining ‘autonomous drive’ as ‘yet another car accessory’ will not address the philosophical complexities that can potentially make autonomous vehicles as a key component of the first general intelligent ecosystem.
A ‘Car’ is probably the most immersive environment available. A consumer cannot sit inside his/her iPhone or Android phone; or inside a laptop or tablet, but one can sit inside a car and ‘experience’ its features. Unfortunately, today the customer gets nothing in return. There is no connection between the consumer’s existence and the metal, a mildly interactive box that is designed to take you from point A to point B. However, it will not be long before we realize that we as consumers are not observing information, but are becoming a part of it, i.e. we, as humans are sensory data that serve a bigger model of what reality is.
The computational power that currently drives these autonomous systems is impressive and as such holds some interesting applications. While we are more than a few years away from developing bio-mechanical pods (where the system connects to the pilot or travelers via a synaptic interface and instantly shares the same experiences), we can already now experience the cognitive outsourcing effects that technology is bringing. We trust technology around us to ‘host’ functions that we, as humans, once mastered. We are surrounding ourselves with sensors, algorithms and touch points that help drive our intentions faster and with fewer frictions (read ‘modern app-based’ utilities built into our mobiles and wearables) yet when we step into a car we are ‘forced to use’ a set of predefined, hard-coded interfaces that ultimately have no connection to us.
Here are some rules that we believe will govern the autonomous mobility systems of the future:
- An autonomous car should not have its own general intelligence within a silo. It must be a node within a collective decision-making ecology where buildings and roads are part of a common AI.
- The design and development process for an autonomous mobility experience (including software and hardware) starts with understanding data that will be generated/consumed /transferred by the ecosystem consisting of customers, network, energy, and the technology players.
- For the autonomous cars to function as per definition, it is essential that the road owners maintain it as per the specific standards. In essence, the road is the LINGUISTIC INFRASTRUCTURE for the apt functioning of the mobility system. The overall safety responsibility in the autonomous ecosystem will be a shared one to minimize and eradicate accidents.
- Personal customer experience WITHIN the autonomous vehicle is governed by the Customer wishes, based on the products and services the OEM and Third Party Partners (Layered Reality & Entertainment partners) provide. The external interaction will be governed by the CITY and the ROAD.
- Fully autonomous cars, when achieved in this ecology, will only be used by new models of the economy rather than individual ownership.
- GDPR and other privacy regulations will play a key role in shaping the customer experience as there will arise a need for a new information architecture, one that creates the balance between personal data and the ownership of that personal data in order to generate tangible value.
A new narrative is emerging, one that enables us to break the barriers of one-dimensional interactions and dramatically change our perceptions of identity, ownership, and society. In this context, Facebook became the world largest media hub, and while it does not create any content, it allows people to consume as much as media as they can without owning it. People do not buy CD’s; they pay to access music on Spotify. All of Alibaba, Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, and Amazon are operating under the access-based economic model. We are moving from a world of ownership to one of ‘access-ship’, and in that case, people do not need ‘cars’ in the traditional manner. They need practical solutions that fit their digital flow i.e. they need a touch-point.
The time is ripe to take responsibility for the fields of potential that lie beyond the digital obvious. We need to cease the silo-thinking mindset in terms of software, hardware, human, technology and commence on the path to become the machine before the machine becomes us.
Written by –
- Aric Dromi, Futurologist
- Anand Sethuraman, Mobility Expert
When we think about the future, what is it we imagine to ourselves? A world dominated by self-driving cars, machines working 27-7 in factories that once used to accommodate humans. Do we imagine a world where algorithms take control of most of our cognitive functions, doctors are nothing, but lines of code and a new model of governance, an inorganic one, controls the world.
Maybe the future shouldn’t be about technology for technology, perhaps there is a need to stop and rethink the fundamental building blocks of society. Digital transformation is not about “coping” our current way of doing things into code but using code to redesign our current way of doing things. Maybe the future is not about technology that can replace us but about a horizontal plane of potential where humans and technology partner to define the next stage of evolution. Ethic, morality, trust, and education, maybe. These are the cornerstone of our future and not merely technology just for technology.
Suddenly, a strange noise appeared from nowhere, rambling the air and hissing the sky. The ground started shaking; trees waved from side to side. From my place as God of the universe, I could see some people started running without any sense of direction, and some just stood still. A bright light penetrated the chaos, sailing through the dust, clearing the way to our blockchain powered Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She entered the street with confidence that one can only tribute to her latest software update, the one she immediately downloaded from the zombify BMW as soon as the chaos started. She stopped next to the 7-11, and with a proud voice, she whispered: “what is all that drama about?”
Aka: The End
When I was standing there, with the rest of Gods, on top of the newly build Olympus, observing my creation, I couldn’t stop wondering how it all started. Now, after the digital dust has settled, the Rubicon had been crossed, and the last of the original humans is gone, I can find the time and write my story of distraction and birth, so when you get my message you will know what went go wrong.
When you will wake up tomorrow morning and remember the future, know this, it wasn’t a nightmare but a promise. It might be confusing in the beginning, but as situations are driven by their potentials, the only way you will ever understand your timeline is to start at the end of it all. Continue reading “The autobiography of an unborn AI – Short”
Technology is a beautiful thing. It has already altered our perception of reality and will; if leveraged correctly, disrupt our existence. Add the impact of social changes to the mix along with our use of technology to observe ourselves, and you get a paradigm shift in social interaction.
We are entering the era of digital augmentation — The enhancement of virtual presence through the use of digital content.
Augmented Empathy, Freedom, Well-being, Intelligence, Education, Governance, Creativity, Economics, Politics
The current generation of C-Suites (excluding few) including politicians are managing the world with a limited understanding and thereby under-utilizing the potentials of digital technology in almost every area. We live in an “expired social construct” — most of our eco-social constructs we have surrounded ourselves with (urban, medical, education, transportation and more) serve the limited information input/output model of yesteryears society, and are therefore leaving us with output patterns from days gone by. This includes the here and now and not considering the impact of the “things we don’t know that we don’t know” — the upcoming technologies that we can’t even imagine. We are led by blind people who are blind to our blindness — we are forced to sleep the biggest change humanity ever experienced. Where the discussion has currently landed on threats of personal integrity on a global scale by states that have only sporadic interest in the data generated, rather than a vision for implementation for the betterment of society as a whole. We are leaving the progress in the hands of a select few economically driven corporations. Continue reading “The digital augmentation — Part I”