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Digital gives us time to think

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Just as mechanical muscle lowered the demand for physical labour, today’s technology is reducing the demand for human intervention, and opening up more opportunities for people to think, writes LENORE KERRIGAN, Country Manager, OpenText Africa.

The pace of technological change today is being called the “fourth industrial revolution.” New solutions powered by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and machine learning are enabling machines to handle processes that once required human decision-making.  Just as mechanical muscle lowered the demand for physical labour in the first industrial revolution, today cutting-edge technology is reducing the demand for human intervention.

The “migration” of tasks from humans to software and machines has been evident for quite some time. From ATMs to automated check-in at airports, technology has been replacing humans across multiple, relatively simple and repetitive tasks. Today, this transformation is allowing much more complex and nuanced tasks to move from human speed to machine speed, and taking place across industries that, historically, have remained largely untouched by machine intervention.

Most recently, we are seeing AI and cognitive systems used in legal discovery, insurance applications, underwriting and claims processing, and the delivery of financial investment advice. In healthcare, telemedicine can allow diagnosis and monitoring without the need to physically see a clinician, and even enable a surgeon to operate from another hospital or country. And while human involvement is not entirely removed, it is clear that some jobs that we have long understood as “human” are being displaced by technology.

The automation option

New opportunities for automation will continue to appear, as we see more and more mechanization, automation, AI, and robotics move in to replace human workers. But it’s not all doom and gloom. As technology develops to enable a whole raft of “traditional” roles to be replaced, new jobs will be created in the transition. Jobs that play to the heart of what make us human—creativity, innovation and strategic thought.

A key benefit of digital transformation is that it releases humans from the confines of mundane work and opens up more opportunity for people to spend time thinking—to conceive of technology that can add more value to everyday life. The time gained through automation can be used to innovate, germinate ideas, and conceive new processes fueled by the kind of thinking that only happens when our minds have time to wander.

The beginning of a sweeping societal change?

The World Economic Forum, as well as economists, analysts, and labour organizations predict a wave of job losses coming from the surge in AI, robotics, and other technologies. Though timing is not certain, one projection says we could expect a net loss of 7.1 million jobs over the next five years in 15 leading countries—the countries that make up approximately 65 percent of the world’s total workforce. Two million of the jobs lost will be offset by the creation of new positions. These will be the roles that support and foster the new wave of innovation beyond what we see as credible or possible today.

The endurance of creative and leadership roles  

As digital technologies take hold, there will be a greater need for individuals who can build, develop and make sense of these changes. Developers, programmers, scientists, and technologists will—more than ever—be required to drive forward the accelerating pace of change. This disruption requires deep, creative thinking by economists, lawyers, and policy makers who can interpret how governance, intellectual property, and society at large will have to adapt.

Going forward, there will be more roles for people who are creative, those who have really honed their ability to think and consider a complete landscape of facts to come up with the right path. Today’s biggest ideas are not just the result of organizing data or understanding a spreadsheet; it’s the culmination of someone’s life experience: what they hear, what they read, who they converse with, and how they process that information within their very human brain to come up with the next big thing.

While algorithms may automate decision-making, it won’t be easy to replace leaders who can navigate fast-paced, intense change.

At the end of the day, you may wonder if a machine could do your job. And the answer is that it could probably do some of it. And that’s okay, because automation will free us up to do more of the thinking required to come up with what’s next, perhaps with the help of a new robot friend or two.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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