Peter Schwartz is SVP for Strategic Planning at Salesforce and is a futurist. Today he spoke about a profound change in our world he expects to see, where every object we make is about to come alive with intelligence and speech. This is not specifically about Salesforce, but more about general future trends.
Peter showed a chart of big computing events from mainframes to PCs to the web to Cloud and mobile, to big data and analytics. Now we are on cusp of IoT, Smart Machines and Artificial Intelligence. There are a lot of myths about artificial intelligence. Big AI – simulating the human brain – is still science fiction. It will probably take at least 10 years to map a mouse’s brain onto a chip and many more decades for the human brain. Little AI is a little bit of intelligence embedded in a business process to take the friction out of our lives. Amazon 1 click is a little bit of AI.
There are key drivers for envisioning this future (5-10 years) and all are uncertain. There are data factors, including data integration, standards & APIs, and identity & sharing. There are user experiences that need to be human-centric, seamless and omni-channel. Finally there is intelligence in the form of AI , commoditization and democratization.
Intelligence is the next wave of computing.
Billions of connections are now becoming the norm, with trillions of connections coming soon.
Smart phones will change with an enormous amount of processing and storage. They will be flexible in form factor. Mostly though the phone will be a hub of many services, which will help run your life and business. One driver for the phone is that health insurance companies are going to request access to fitness data. Car insurance will want to read how well are you driving. Home insurance will want to see what your Nest and security system has to say.
For the smartphone to work it has to be connected. There needs to be many more channels of connectivity so that our phones are always connected. You can have the phone disconnected anywhere in the world.
In addition, we will have more omni-channel experiences such as augmented reality, haptic/tactile and then brain controlled channels. Anything that we need will be displayed in our field of vision, ala google glasses. Ultimately Peter thinks that a content lens will provide augmented reality.
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Haptic/tactic means that signals can be converted to vibratory information so you can feel information. In one test, a doctor was able to convert music to tactile vibrations so you can “hear” music through your body. Brain controlled devices can be things like limbs that react to your brain thinking of a movement. After that we can start to control other devices – cars, computers, etc. We are at the early stages of brain control.
All of this leads to a proliferation of sensors in all aspects of life. We start to see this today with connected homes, connected cars, connected workplaces and phones/fitness devices that track our movements.
A day in the life when all these sensors get connected, looks like this:
- You tell Amazon Alexa to wake you up in the morning
- Alexa gives you your schedule, news, weather, etc.
- You call your self-driving car to take you to work. Alexa brings up your meeting and the slides display in the car.
- At the office, Alexa is embedded into the workplace and listens for your commands.
- Alexa responds to your needs and carries out the required actions
- At the end of the day, you want to take a run. While you run, the augmented reality glasses show you an image of a runner you are virtually running with.
- The sensor on your body tracks all the fitness data, route, etc and feeds that back to Alexa.
As a business, you need to uncover or understand personalized 1:1 journeys so interactions can be supported in the journeys. Data is now the big problem. We are generating vast amounts of data that is not analyzed and not connected.
We are moving from personal computing to intimate computing. PC is when you know the computer and IC is when the computer knows you. A personal assistant will use this knowledge to prioritize and optimize for you, prompt as well as respond, span your personal and professional lives and continuously learns.
Right now we have multiple ecosystems that are disconnected. There is the Apple ecosystem, the Google ecosystem, the Amazon ecosystem, etc. For the near future we have to make a choice about which ecosystem we want to live in. In the future, we will have standards to connect each of those ecosystems.
Blockchain could become a key piece of the ecosystem. Blockchain could be a new form of disintermediation and trust. We see it today with Bitcoin.
Intimate computing requires Machine Intelligence advances. Salesforce has been acquiring companies that have been advancing machine intelligence in the Salesforce ecosystem. With Salesforce Einstein, they are heading toward real AI. Other companies are also working on these technologies, including Microsoft, IBM, Google, Amazon and others, including small startups. BlueRiver has a LettuceBot that assists the farmer in managing their lettuce crops. The machine examines the plants, the soil, the weather, etc and provides recommendations to the farmer.
We are starting to see Human-Machine symbiosis. Machines are not replacing humans, but augmenting them to provide added intelligence and improved skillsets.
What does all this mean for work? There has been a tremendous rise in the number of independent workers (think Uber drivers). According to MBO Partners, 48% of Americans will have been an independent worker by 2021. Platforms and new business models are enabling this rise of independent workers. There is an excess capacity of sensors, vehicles, labor, etc. There are diverse users such as artists, developers, etc. In between are platforms that match up excess capacity with available workers. Again think of Uber as a form of this business model.
Crowdsourcing also driving this. There is peer-to-peer lending, GoFundMe, etc. Image processing applications help find new planets and catalog stars and galaxies.
What about technology eliminating jobs? In the past, technology innovation has never eliminated jobs in the long run. Jobs have shifted, skills have shifted and new industries get created. The employment/population ratio has roughly stayed the same or risen over the past hundred years.