Preparing for the future, with TEDx and technology

One month ago, I had the opportunity to give my first TEDx talk, titled ‘Are we ready for the future of technology’. My goal? To provoke questions surrounding Artificial Intelligence (A.I), Quantum Computing, and Biohacking, ending on the idea that perhaps humanity today, will be one that changes fundamentally in the near future. I think this is something that could certainly happen within my lifetime, albeit towards the end of it. The reasoning behind this, comes down to the three emerging technologies mentioned, that are beginning to blur the lines between technology and humanity. The talk itself, was shaped around my own personal experiences, as well as KOMPAS, and some scientific theory. Olivia, Doug and Kurt have all been instrumental not only to the business, but also the development of my own personal views, ideas and understanding of technology.

Google’s Driverless Car

The big question behind my talk asks an overarching question, which I believe we need to ask ourselves both individually, and as a wider society. Are we, as humans today, ready for the very real, and likely future of technology? We’ve seen a rise in driverless cars, and the benefits but also dangers associated with the technology. Not only this, but we’ve seen the questions surrounding moral hazard, and lack of control also arising as a direct result. Trying to work out ways to incorporate the technology into public policy and insurance, is one that is proving difficult, as the blame shifts from the driver, to the technology behind it. Powered by a combination of complex algorithms, artificial intelligence, and huge amounts of data, it’s already beginning to change the way that we move around cities.

That said, it’s not just driverless cars that are quickly providing opportunities for emerging technologies. We’re seeing similar advances in medicine and robotics, with one recent application in the form of a robot-run hotel in Japan. Although an exciting proposition, and one that will reduce the costs of hotels around the world, the result inevitably leads to a reduction in the jobs available for people around the world, assuming that these novelties become the norm. The long-term impact that this may have on economies around the world, is an increasing wage gap between the working and middle class, but perhaps more worryingly, a decrease in the number of jobs available in the industries that are manual labour heavy. As we place a heavier reliance on robots carrying out tasks at lower costs, we run the risk of increased unemployment. That said, in order for this to happen, three major assumptions must be met. The first, that robots and computers are able to effectively and accurately carry out tasks at a lower rate than a human. The second? That these technologies become mainstream, with people favouring these technologies over human interaction. And finally, we assume that although these jobs are fulfilled, there would be no jobs to replace the ones that machines are filling. Perhaps more likely, is that society takes time to adapt, and where we do, new jobs are created at a speed similar, or equal to, the rate at which machines fill the jobs assigned to them.

What has been driving all this technology to date? Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the advancement in technology, be that in the form of artificial intelligence, or increased computing capability, that has allowed computers to solve specific tasks within a set of parameters. With A.I being broadly defined as a machine able to perceive its environment and maximise success at solving a problem, the technology is being applied around the world, in a multitude of industries and environments. We’re already training robots to walk by themselves within a set of parameters, and teach themselves how to follow self-generated instructions or patterns. Although we’re not yet at the point of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), where computers have the ability to act, behave and develop like humans, it’s fair to say that the time until this may become a reality is approaching. And what happens when we do get to this point? Will we really get to a point where computers are able to successfully pass a widely-accepted Turing test, with a large enough number of people being convinced? These are the questions that I posed to the audience, and I called upon a few different test-cases as I aimed to solve these broader questions. After using real-life scenarios to effectively demonstrate just how quickly we are advancing when looking at technology, I drew on the conclusion that with humans becoming so heavily influenced by technology, and placing an increasing reliance on it; how will we find our formative moment in technology, and what will we do, to prepare the next generation for the future that is on its way?

The talk itself is one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had, and combined stress, nerves and adrenaline all into one complete package. I’m sure that many would agree with me when saying that the walk off of the stage, having thread your views, research and understanding in an area you’re passionate about, will fill you with one of the best feelings you can possibly have. The audience I spoke to, came from all walks of life, but most had a keen interest in what I spoke about, which made giving the talk that bit more enjoyable. After reflection, the one thing that struck me, is just how much I’ve learnt since working on KOMPAS, which goes to show, that if you want to learn about something, one of the best things you can do is dive head-first into it and gain practical experience from what you’re passionate about (if that’s possible). Perhaps most importantly from a self-development perspective, is that it has allowed me to conclude on my view of technology to date, and the questions we need to ask and inevitably solve in the field of artificial intelligence in particular, are now clear to me. Would I consider giving a TEDx talk or similar in the future? I can confidently say that I certainly would, and I’ve already continued to help shape views for those interested in AI, by giving talks at Universities in London, as well as becoming a mentor for Startup Weekend. I’m looking forward to talking about further advances in technology during future opportunities.

To round everything off, I wanted to once again say a big thank you again to the team behind KOMPAS, and my co-founders in particular for helping develop my understanding of artificial intelligence. I also want to say a big thank you to Duncan, who helped me make my piece on the day sound a little more human. He gave me a wider understanding of best how to prepare when speaking to an audience of thinks, creators and innovators. Those that I had the opportunity to share the stage with today were of exceptional calibre, and I’m honoured to have had the chance to share my vision, alongside visionaries from different walks of life. Good luck to everyone in the future, and lets now make sure that we build a future that we all believe in, and one that can benefit us in the best way possible, through the use of exciting, innovative and groundbreaking technologies. To everyone reading, what will your formative moment in technology be?