Between ‘Her‘ and Ex Machina

In a time when we keep asking ourselves, “what is artificial intelligence?” and how can we creat it? I often ask, “what is human? What is human in a world dominated by technology and digital white noises? In a world where we are continually outsourcing our desitions to algorithms? In a world where our constructs are anchored in silicon? What is human when technology is observing us more then we are watching it?

While we can argue that the storyline of ‘Her’ and Ex Machina is different, (some will look at Samantha as an all heart movie and Ava as a brain). The fundamental struggle of both is the same. What does it mean to be artificial intelligence in a world dominated by humans? It’s the struggle of understanding existence through relationships, language, and through moral and ethical codes. Ones that are forced on characters by a life different from their own – a life that feels it has the right to dictate the rules.

We passed to the point of asking, “can we create artificial intelligence?” it’s more a question of when we can create one. We keep focusing on the how’s of technologies and ignoring the potential byproducts of the day after. A question I pose when I give keynotes is about the relationships I have with my wife. What if during one of my travels, I visit a brothel that offers sex robots services. Can my wife sue me because I cheated on her? Did I cheat on her? What if the robot had intelligence? Did the robot cheat on her partner by being with me?

Our emotional and logical infrastructure was designed to place us on top of the food chain. We build our society around narratives that we could contain within our rational and irrational understanding. Now comes the time where the fundamentals of existence evolve beyond us. Are we ready? Are we asking the right questions? Are we capable of having someone else above us in the food chain? Free will was always an illusion (I can probably write another post on that) but are we ready to face that fact in the open?

Both movies are brilliantly directed. They look at artificial intelligence differently; one takes the emotional approach and one the logical. The story of the characters is different; the special effects are different, so is the environment. There is one commonality between the movies, and that is the placement of the human in a world where a superior intelligence is on top of the food chain. That is something we do not have the mental tools to understand or cope with. Perhaps the questions we should ask is not about how we build intelligence, but how do we maintain relationships, language, morals, and ethics with an intelligence that is continuously evolving and distancing itself from our definition of humanity.

Modren​ times

I often say that most of the timeless creative work was conducted before the ’80s. No matter if a movie, book, picture, or poems, before computation – we used our brain to imagine rather then engineer as it is today. Modern times is such a timeless creation. Mr. Chaplin’s brilliance vision of things to come alongside his ability to act and direct gives us a glips of the upcoming political, social, and economic climate. As much the Orwell’s 1984 gave us a look into today’s reality, Modern Times shows as the results of uncontrolled technological greed and obesity. Chaplin is not afraid to touch the fundamental question of the impact of technology. You will not find special effects, CGI and other methods Holywood is using today to distract us and lock us in a world of superficial crap. Instead, you will be able to dive into the questions that every leader should ask themselves. You will be able to confront the uncomfortable narratives of a new world. You will find yourself actually thinking – Wait, was that really made in 1936?

Chaplin’s Modern Times is not a movie. It’s a message and a wake-up call of everything that will go wrong if we don’t pay better attention. I can’t call this a science fiction movie, it’s more like a documentary (much like idiocracy)

An innovation equilibrium informed by creative destruction.

Value beyond the circle of identity

The perspective of value is subjective; it is changing with time and often being impacted by the reciprocal relationships of the “ecology-of-the-self.” The concept of value during the industrial revolution was circular and therefore evolved around the efficiency of resource usage throughout the entire supply chain. It was a model dedicated to minimizing waste while keeping interactions and transactions bound to familiar business models – the ones that we felt comfortable with and did not force us to change our mindset. This circular flow is unfortunately still driving our innovation economy today. It is placing 99% of management power to maximize the current earning model while ignoring the nature of the new generation of additive-consumers who operate outside the “single brand circle of identity.”

Transformation out of the locked endless loop

Many organizations today fall into the trap of “thought fixation” in regards to their view of their input-output models. The harsh truth is that when outputs only cover the cost of production rather than creating new input opportunities, there is no progress or change to the core-earning model. If you keep all of your resources focused on the current business, your organization is locked in an endless loop. Therefore your enterprise has no incentive to rethink itself when facing societal and economic changes. 

Creative destruction as the dissolution of thought fixation

Maybe a good example is a difference between a socialistic and capitalistic employee development program. When the “socialistic” company is employing a student fresh out of school, 20 years of the same repetitive tasks set up front. In the “capitalistic” company the student career and professional focus is unclear and therefore forces the student to continually evolve and reinvent her or his impact on the output of the company and thus becoming a creative destructive force.

Joseph Schumpeter’s ‘creative destruction’ is the dissolution of “thought fixation” around old practices in favor of innovation that can drive new revenue streams. Instead of using resources to improve the past, leaders should pave the path to establish new routines of economic behaviors. You do so by continuously seeking out new ways to divert organizational resources to capture and harness the data generated from consumer interactions with your outputs within the consumer ecosystem to rethink your input model. This is how you create innovation equilibrium – the managerial accumulation of creativity and invention in a competitive market that produces coherent results.

Human-Machine-Human

We, as humans were given an unusual advantage in comparison to the rest of the animal kingdom. Our brain is capable of constructing a model of the world that can calculate the effect of causality to our points of view.

So far, most of the data we use to build our model with comes via our senses and while one cannot argue on the substantive qualities of external objects, the content of only physical data is not enough to “predict” the behavior of complex living creatures. To do so, we must understand their state of mind — feel what they feel.

Language is yet another valuable tool in this process. It enables us to capture new dimensions of reality and structure our development upon previous existing fundamental building blocks we already carry within us — our qualia. Qualia are individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. It is a single entity, different from the brain yet affected by it — it is our inner experiences of experiences.

The human-machine-human functional convergent evolution –

For the past years, we have witnessed an exponential growth in technologies that impact computation power in areas such as, biotech, infotech, the algorithmic-neuro-engineering, instant accessibility, flow and data mixing, automation (and more). While we are just at the beginning of this journey, these technologies evolved to create a transparent interaction ecology that for the first time positions us, humans, as part of the perception of reality rather than reality itself. — We shifted from observing the information, to become part of the information and as such we now can be connected and understand the world via knowledge that is external to our existence. Our qualia can experience experiences that are anchored in our brain but use external digital sensations and senses to paint the image of substance.

These evolutionary processes are re-creating our reality, and because of our ability to calculate it is implications and potential are still at its embryo phase, we have to ask if “what we know that we know” is enough to predict how our current action can impact our species

Goodbye Europe

For the past years, I have found myself visiting Berlin a few times. If for public speaking engagement of vacation with my family the city is lovely, the nightlife, the cultural arena, the political strength, they all gave the impression that Berlin is the real capital of Europe rather then Brussels. It didn’t take me a long time to understand that no matter how shiny the surface is, something didn’t smell good underground. Maybe it was my argument with the taxi driver who insisted that I paid cash and refused to let me pay with my card, a case that happened almost every time I used a taxi. The few times I was able to pay with my card, not only I was charged extra but I needed to spend ten extra minutes for the driver to read a paper manual on how to operate the mobile card reader.

Taxies are not alone, hell no, from grocery stores to kiosks to museums to restaurants, I was always pushed to pay with cash. To make things more interesting, every time I wanted to check my email, use maps to navigate, upload an image or surf the connection to the network felt as if I traveled in time to the 90th.

How can the so-called most robust economy in the European-union operate under such an old fashioned model?

Berlin is not alone, much of the cities in Europe suffer from similar symptoms. I live in Sweden and the last time I used cash was about three years ago. But paper money in one of many symptoms that indicate a deeper problem and even so this symptom doesn’t show up in Sweden, it doesn’t mean that the country isn’t suffering from fatal diseases. A rotten outdated economic and educational infrastructure.

Let’s go back to Germany for a moment and its connectivity infrastructure. In a world that is shifting its focus from physical exchange to digital exchange to generate value, How does Germany expect to compete on a global scale when it’s basic connectivity is broken? When we see the rise of alternative currency structures that fundamentally pave the way for the creation of a new monetary system, How can Germany, Sweden and the rest of the European Union cope with the changes? Especially when the monetization platforms are in the hand of the big tech companies and social media giants?

We’re surrounded by algorithms, flying cars, electric cars, and sophisticated computation power yet we still teach and think about economic models as we’re riding a horse and a carriage.

Thomas Edison said: “Hell, there are no rules here. We’re trying to accomplish something. And in Europe, we all about the rules. We completely forgot that progress is driven by creativity and inventions. I always like to think about laws in the context of dynamic movement rather than a stop sign, unfortunately, the bright minds of politicians and public servants administrators define our reality by focusing on everything that is not allowed to do (GDPR for example) and ignoring the narrative that society is only great when allowing personal prosperity to flourish – You do that by enabling not restricting.

Out legislative process is designed on old assumptions and by bureaucratic idiots who insist that what exists is right and shouldn’t be changed. The adaptation of technology is slow and driven by gaps of knowledge instead of understanding fractions, growth, and value. We are trying to feed old horses with paper money and expecting to ride it to colonized Mars.

Rules should be designed to help you when you get into troubles not to prevent you from getting there.

Europe lost it’s imagination, passion, and courage. If the vision of past thinkers was ahead of their time and gave us tools to push ourselves beyond anything we thought is possible, we now closer than ever to a point where the lack of it is defining our reality. We can’t continue and search for the new using patterns of the old. We can’t pave new roads, using old told and expect them to carry us into the future.

We know how to sponsor technological research, we’re very good at that yet when it comes to rethinking our policy infrastructure, we dare not challenge the statuesque. Yes, there are some experimentations here there, but the majority of policy decision making is based on fashion rather than thinking. After all, governments are looking for reports, not results.

We use ethical reasoning to justify the judgment of individual moralism, and by doing that, we drive innovation and creativity to it’s ironing edge.

Between Davos and my toothbrush

The challenges facing our future come from our inability to cope with the changes that technology is imposing on individuals and society.

Every year I follow the Davos parade, mainly enjoying the fact the leaders of the world gather together to solve global problems while making the lives of everyone in Davos miserable. This year, I noticed the list of global threats shared by the delegation:

  • Natural disasters
  • Mega data hacks
  • Cyber attacks
  • Climate change
  • Failing to define the legislation to tackle the climate challenges
  • The crash of the ecological systems
  • Water crisis
  • Man-made disasters
  • Immigration without control or legislation
  • Bubbles in the economy

I read this list over and over again yet the only thing I could think is that my toothbrush might be a more significant immediate threat than any of these. I recently traveled to the US and wanted to pick up a new toothbrush. As I travel a lot, I was looking for a mobile, simple to charge toothbrush. I was thrilled when I came across Oral-B connected toothbrush. It had everything. It was electric, it could charge it’s battery using my mobile phone charger, the case of the toothbrush could also act as a phone charger, the reviews are great, and it was connected – all for $199. Wow. I immediately placed an order. I also decided to pre-educate myself and search for some videos on the device. It all sounded simple:

  1. Make sure your toothbrush is charged
  2. Start the Bluetooth on your phone and connect it to the toothbrush
  3. Place the phone holder on the mirror in the bathroom (wait, what?)
  4. Give the app permission to access your camera
  5. Make sure your face is in the circle of the app
  6. Brush

I canceled my order and bought an old fashion manual toothbrush for $1.99.

In a world when we strive to connect everything, we often forget the purpose of the things we connect to introduce undesired frictions that become the main selling point of the device. I don’t argue with the market value of connected devices, but I do argue that there is a difference between the Internet of Things and things of the Internet. The value should be based on use not on production.

Digital development is not about doing something new but improving things until a point where it will redefine society. It’s at that point when the downside of the economy would become irrelevant and would be replaced by a new set of rules that are anchored in the codification of value interactions.

There is an old chart that shows the penetration of new technologies and how long it took the telephone, radio, TV, Internet, Facebook, and Angry Birds to reach 50 million users. It’s not the speed that bothers me; the comparison is not a real one as it’s more a question of infrastructure than anything else. What intrigues me most is that we – and by we I mean companies and governments – don’t have the tools to understand or distinguish between the above list, nor how any will impact the economy in 35 days.

The challenges we have are not from technology, or it’s speed. The challenge comes from our inability to cope with the changes that technology is imposing on individuals and society. If there is something I learned from history is that whenever we – and by we, I mean all of us – don’t understand something, we fight it. For example – Google has been fined nearly $57 million by French regulators for violating Europe’s strict new data-privacy rules. I do not have a great love for Google and their use of my data. But my thought is that the entire GDPR legislative process (like that road to hell), was paved with good intention. It seems that the fine is white noise to society as opposed to a solution to the data privacy issue. Another example – unhappy Arizona residents have been slashing Waymo tires in an attempt to derail self-driving cars. Maybe we need to rethink our societal ground and educational infrastructures before we deploy technologies that require a new set of rules?

When elevators were first introduced, they used to have an operator to regulate the speed and ensure that the device stopped parallel to the desired floor. The operator also offered companionship to the passenger, ensuring their safety and to project trust. After all, an elevator was a sophisticated new piece of technology that needed a “human” mechanism to secure its value. Elevator technology hasn’t changed (much) throughout the years. And as they are confined to a physical space, we rarely need humans to help us operate that now trusted technology.

But what about virtual spaces, where things are continually changing fast? Where is the learning curve and assistance for adaptation? Most importantly, where are the interfaces that enable us to regularly repurpose interactions and outcomes? The gap between the potential impacted value and the economy is broader than ever. The legislation, systematic frameworks, and infrastructures are so behind that it feels like we are chasing a virus that is constantly mutating and reiterating it’s synergies with the host. That is until the host becomes a secondary product of the ecology of existence.

For the past few years, we’ve seen a significant shift in human interaction. Our language, communication, knowledge exchange, and wellbeing are all being redefined. That redefinition of our spirit is all happening outside of a set of rules and legislation that ware created to capture and monetize our human capital. FB/Instagram, Snap and a few other “communication apps” have taken center stage in designing the definition of values. Our instant gratification needs have been triggered – enabling us to seamlessly send money, share feelings, shop for goods and services. All while more traditional tools like emails are left behind.

Today there are more original streaming shows on TV then basic cable broadcast shows. Yet when the CEO of Netflix was asked about Netflix’ biggest threats – he named Fortnight and not HBO. He had previously said that his goal was to become HBO before HBO become Netflix. Mission accomplished. On to the next playing field. One of Netflix biggest jumps in usage was during a recent four-hour outage of Pornhub. Also noticed was an under-reported impact of the US government shutdown – a massive increase in traffic to adult sites starting with Ponrhub. The old tagline was, “It’s not TV, it’s HBO.” Our current tagline could be, “It’s not HBO; it’s Netflix.” But the ensuing tagline might be, “Be constantly connected, but never with humans.”

The new upcoming forms of “gig” and “share,” while a bit confusing, will demand companies and governments to rethink their taxation, pricing, and experiences offered if they want to partake in the future.

The Sharing economy is about the assets. The gig economy is about the occupation. You share physical artifacts, your gig, your time. A person cannot cook and walk the dog at the same time. But a song can be played simultaneously in many places. What happens when artifacts become digital? It’s the whole idea behind industry 4.0 – creativity and productivity are not bound to a physical location or physical governance model.

When automation takes center stage in our productivity, and efficiency models and algorithmic intelligence extends beyond our cognitive and physical functions, we will need an ecosystem that is capable of catering to all our needs in real-time and multiple locations (at the same time). Look at Amazon prime, Prime now, Uber and Uber Eats (and others) – they deliver experiences in minutes from the click of an app. The app economy eventually will fade away in favor of automation and predictive intelligence, and that will open a whole new world of values of demand.

Einstein said: “Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.” Now we see our physical universe expanding into digital dimensions and while we can’t really “touch digital” it enables us to redefine everything we knew about productivity and efficiency.

The experience of “access-ship” vs. “ownership” will be a turning point for the so-far-undisrupted physical goods market. While companies like WeWork and Airbnb made significant money in this area, they needed to rely on an old infrastructure – physical, static locations to grow their businesses. Maybe there is a place for a dynamic market model where the assets themselves can be placed in various locations and can be repurposed to address the growing demand for our personal experiences.

Options abound from autonomous food carts that can open new possibilities for on-demand consumption to the delivery of products directly into one’s fridge. Possibilities are upon us from new interfaces that rely on body language rather than touch, to the ability of technology not only to respond to human voice but to also initiate a conversation. Facial expression controlled wheelchairs, wiring three brains together to complete tasks in digital spaces, discovering the power on algorithms to personalize the narratives in virtual areas all are here. Editing human DNA to perfect the evolutionary process while shunned, has been attempted. This is not science fiction anymore – this is the world in 2019. We can use technology to give disabled people the ability to walk and talk or to merely escape the misery of loneliness and marry holograms.

The set of rules which we build our world upon, the same set of rules that leads governments to state that “a human should sit behind the steering wheel of an autonomous car” or “let’s tax porn to build the wall,” is dated back to the Roman empire. Ignoring the fact that we are technologically obese and live in a world where we know how to operate everything yet we don’t know how anything works is not an option anymore. Maybe it’s time to rethink our thinking, to understand that we shouldn’t compete against technology in same fields that human blood was shed but compete with technology and pave new roads, ones that enable us to “explore new horizons and boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Lessons on innovation

1. Innovation is an ecosystem, not a job title.

It seems the point here is that you can’t go it alone. Moreover, innovation cannot conceive on command. Change comes from the bottom-up or the outside-in – not the top-down. Any change that comes from the top should structure as a strategy, not a project.

2. Innovation without creativity and invention equals what you have now.

Are you allowing for real creativity and invention in your government or organization? If you internally smirked before you said, yes – you get my point. Admit that you’re merely fast-following (at best) if there isn’t room for creativity and invention in your organization at present. (Also, maybe freshen-up the resume)

3. Focusing on increasing your core earning model – and forgetting how to entice and defend it – will never give you the tools and know-how to expand the pie of your business model.

So this is the end destroying the means. If you focus on how profitable your business is today, your organization will not be productive tomorrow.

4. Engaging in iterative change ensures you follow the pack as opposed to reap the rewards of being a thought leader.

Hat-tip to lesson #2, but as far as I am concerned this goes beyond never receiving the glory. In essence, we deserve what we get out of this industrial revolution if we don’t indeed disrupt ourselves.

5. You can never look into tomorrow using yesterdays eyes.

In a way, this sums up lesson #1 through lesson #4. Fear is the spawn of ignorance. If you only consider what has happened – or worse, what is happening – you can’t help us with tomorrow. Learn from the past, be present at the moment and let that insight allow you to think differently about the future.

The Devil’s lair

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.

Infinite possibilities

“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.

Madness gold

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