Leveraging Crowd Intuition in the Future of Innovation
Presenter: Jacob Friis Sherson, Director, ScienceAtHome.org Project, Aarhaus University
As we approach a hypothetical singularity—which is the idea that computer algorithms with general computing capabilities will be able to surpass human capabilities in the near future—questions about humanity and our existence as a species have come into play. Jacob Friis Sherson, director of the ScienceAtHome project, believes that rather than a bleak future in which robots surpass humans in all areas, increases in artificial intelligence capabilities will actually provide a unique opportunity for us to reexamine what it means to be human—and we will therefore be able to reconsider human psychology with the help of sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms.
The ideal future is characterized by technology operating in a partnership with humans.
While we already work closely with technology in virtually every industry, humans still tend to use technology as a tool. However, advances in the ability of artificial intelligence to understand human behavior and psychology is set to disrupt the workforce in mere decades, and if handled correctly, could potentially steer humans towards new insights while also fueling the development of algorithms that could combine both the efficiency of technology with the power of human intuition.
Human psychology still contains unknowns. In an experiment dealing with connected gears, children were asked to figure out which direction the last gear in a connected series would turn if the first one was turned clockwise. While most children initially used their finger to trace the path, many quickly discovered a simple algorithm: the direction of the last gear could be determined by whether or not there were an even or odd amount of gears. Once they discovered this algorithm, their bodies gave a physiological response to their generating of a new idea—which points to a connectedness between physiology and psychology that has yet to be understood.
Human intuition is our greatest strength. In a game created by Sherson and his team that was designed to study human psychology and behavior in comparison to the behavior of algorithms, Sherson found that when tasked with challenges involving quantum mechanics, humans tackled the landscape of the game much differently than algorithms. In fact, the thousand-dimensional landscape was created in such a way that rendered it extremely difficult for algorithms to efficiently search for any correct solutions, yet human players were able to use something akin to intuition to pinpoint a small region where most of the good solutions could be found almost instantly. Therefore, the game was able to reveal how human players could be used to precondition the large search space into something much smaller and more navigable, unlike algorithms.
Games can create a path towards understanding what hybrid intelligence means.
By posing high-dimensional and complex natural science in the forms of games for thousands of people of different backgrounds to play, insights into individual cognition and collective social interactions in humans can be found, and learning scientists can use this data to determine how humans can best work in partnership with technology to create new forms of hybrid intelligence.
The ScienceAtHome social science supercollider can be used to study hybrid intelligence. ScienceAtHome, which is an infrastructure social scientists can use to create large-scale investigations across different platforms to generate new kinds of data, has gamified several experiments in an effort to gather the cognitive profile of millions of people and create benchmarks of normality. In addition to studying different aspects of human psychology—such as the detection of mental diseases and how to best form teams effectively—the supercollider also aims to create empirical knowledge on topics that many studies have not covered before, such as macro economic policies.
ScienceAtHome reveals insights into human psychology. Quantum Minds, a game created by ScienceActHome to investigate human learning, is a game that asks users to participate in challenges related to quantum mechanics in which they are required to perform certain tasks well three times in a row to pass in an effort to show how they have mastered a specific task. Through the data gathered, learning scientists are able to split data from those who have succeeded and those who have failed and use both sets of statistics to find patterns that could reveal new insights into the way we discover the path to discovery.
“Understanding the conditions in which we make decisions based on intuition will be the key to understanding our role in the future where we have human and artificial intelligence interacting much more strongly.” –Jacob Friis Sherson
How to Fix the Future
Presenter: Andrew Keen, Best-Selling Author, Entrepreneur and Broadcaster
Andrew Keen, author of “How to Fix the Future,” argues that it is our inability as a species to keep up with our accelerating technological environment that is the biggest challenge faced by humans in the modern age. In order to fix the future, therefore, humans will not only need to figure out how to catch up with and control current and emerging technologies, but also refigure what it means to be human in a future characterized by human-like machines that may very well render the human species irrelevant.
Technology has already created many issues in the modern world.
While undoubtedly beneficial, technology has also spawned the creation of many pressing issues that threaten today’s world.
Technology has led to increasing economic inequality. Many of the wealthiest companies—such as Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook—in the world today are tech companies. Similarly, the nine wealthiest people in Silicon Valley are worth an estimated $1.5 billion, which is more than a majority of the world population combined. Therefore, it can be said that economically, culturally and politically, there is increasing inequality between tech and the rest of the world.
Technology is undermining our traditional roles in the economy. Reports from several credible economists reveal that 47% of jobs will be eliminated by 2020. Indeed, much of what we do—such as tasks associated with low-skilled jobs like working in fast food restaurants and driving cars, as well as more high-skilled tasks such as medicine, university lecturing and even writing and thinking—are being made essentially unnecessary by emerging technologies.
The technological economy promotes surveillance capitalism. In today’s big data economy where individuals have become productized, tech companies have managed to turn a profit on consumer data and online behavior and issues of privacy have consequently become a hot topic.
The technological revolution has spurred cultural chaos. In addition to greatly altering the economy, the particularly disorienting nature of the cultural world has been made even more perplexing, leading to increasing divisiveness and a general undermining of truth on a global scale.
The technological revolution is not unique.
While many live with the notion that we are experiencing truly unique times, cultural and economic revolutions are not anything new, and the Industrial Revolution boasts many similarities to the current Technological Revolution—which is an insight that could actually prove helpful in solving many of today’s problems.
Both the Industrial Revolution and the Technological Revolution created similar issues. The Industrial Revolution, just like today, created instability around the world and led to issues such as economic inequality, a changing of traditional roles and the revitalization of cultural chaos, as well as a general discomfort over the speed at which technology was advancing. Therefore, if we spend enough time studying the historical outcomes of the Industrial Revolution, we may be able to generate insights into how to tackle problems of the modern age.
Being human in today’s age means shaping our own history.
Rather than giving in to the inevitable logic of a singularity where we will have no control over technology or ourselves, it is crucial to fight back with our humanity and remind ourselves that machines can’t do everything—and that it is human agency that will ultimately prevail.
Moore’s Law vs. Moore’s Law. While the modern world tends to focus on Gordon Moore’s Law—which argues for an inevitable singularity—it is important to remember Thomas Moore, 16th century English philosopher, and his law that discussed what it means to be human. While both Moore’s Laws are important, a structured refocus on Thomas Moore’s Law is needed to help us rediscover our humanity.
We need to be taught about our humanity. While a large focus of today’s education system is to acquire programming and data skills, it is perhaps more important to teach students about the things that make us human—such as having agency, being creative, demonstrating empathy and being able to think apart from computers.
There will always be jobs that require humans. While the job landscape is going through an undeniable transformation due to the Technological Revolution, jobs that require human elements such as creativity and empathy will always exist, albeit in different forms. Therefore, it is imperative that we profoundly rethink education in order to emphasize the humanities and help students gain a better understanding of history and how it can inform us about the present, the future and ourselves.
“What it means to be human is showing, demonstrating and articulating human agency. Our ability to be human is to master ourselves—to make our own narratives.” –Andrew Keen
Putting the Fun into Work with Robots
Presenter: Andra Keay, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Robotics
While there are several forms of technology set to transform the world, there are none quite so inevitable as robotics. In the past five years alone, many robotics-focused companies have gone from zero funding to a net worth of millions of dollars, and the industry continues to accelerate at a staggering pace. In fact, mega investment funds such as the Softbank Vision Fund, which has an estimated $250 billion committed to investing in robotics and artificial intelligence, are set to fuel the growth of robotics dramatically in upcoming years—and unsurprisingly, many robotics companies are already disrupting industries around the world today.
Robotics will change the world in positive ways.
Automation will make our jobs easier and our lives better. Contrary to popular belief, robots are not taking jobs that people currently have. Instead, many robots are beginning to be deployed in order to fill unwanted jobs that are too dangerous, monotonous or low-paying for human workers, such as those in the fields of transportation, mining, outdoor agriculture and construction—all industries in which robots have already been at work for decades. In agriculture, for example, issues with an aging work population and a need for increased food production can be solved using robotics, which can deliver precision agriculture at a much more efficient rate and encourage higher local production.
Disney’s Big Hero 6 is a case study in the power of robots. Based upon up-and-coming robotic technologies, Disney’s animated movie Big Hero 6 has been able to reveal exciting new forms of robotics—such as soft and inflatable robotics—to the general public. For example, Baymax’s inflatable form can also be found in real-world disaster recovery robots that have the ability to slide into small crevices in collapsed buildings and provide support by inflating their strong exoskeleton in order to help people escape from disaster situations. Similarly, SRI International is in the process of creating microbots capable of operating on curved surfaces and zero gravity, and more importantly, when put together, also capable of building extremely strong carbon rod structures—much like the technology found in Big Hero 6.
Robots are making the economy more effective. In terms of e-commerce, new forms of robotics pose promising avenues. Mothership Aeronautics, for example, recently developed a solar-powered blimp that can generate enough power to fly forever—a technology that could potentially create supermarkets in the sky for large retailers. Similarly, company Kindred.AI is currently working on teaching more complex physical maneuvers to delivery robots in order to allow them to more effectively manipulate items of different shapes and sizes—an exercise that could eventually spawn the creation of successful household robots.
“The ideal rollout for robots is to follow the things that people don’t do [but] that we need to have happen.” –Andra Keay