Digital Foresight: How Does Digitization Radically Change the World?

//Digital Foresight: How Does Digitization Radically Change the World?

Digital Foresight: How Does Digitization Radically Change the World?

By | 2019-07-12T16:14:47+00:00 July 12th, 2019|

The Digital Transformation Forum 2019 is a collaboration between TMA and DEPA and aims to address the issue of digital transformation among organizations maneuvering the waves of the Digital Transformation Era. The Forum serves as a stage for the exchanges of knowledge around the topic of digitization, future trends, and business models among thought leaders and organizations demonstrating successes in Digital Transformation.

Digital Foresight: How Does Digitization Radically Change the World?

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The first keynote speaker was Bradley Kreit, Director, Future 50 Research, at the Institute for the Future (IFTF) on the topic of how digitization could change the world. Bradley first started by defining his reference of ‘the future’ as looking 10 years ahead from the present, which is a far enough distance from the present, and yet close enough to be relevant. Bradley described how the IFTF look at the future with all the possibilities and potentials of what could be a day-to-day basis 10 years in the future. In the next 10 years, we might be witnessing Hologram protesting on the streets, or Billboard taking in the environment and adjusting to their environment in real time. Concerning the future, Bradley presented three high level value propositions: to ask better questions, to discover better answers to those questions, and to drive better decision making.

According to Bradley, IFTF uses the “Foresight to Insight to Action Model” as one of the methodologies to drive their research, where ‘foresight’ is looking into possibilities of what could be 10 years from now, ‘insight’ is uncovering relevant opportunities and understanding what those opportunities could mean for the current business and operations. And eventually, those foresights and insights uncovered could be used to drive actions, which Bradley stressed as the most important reason behind conducting researches about the future.

Back to the key questions of this session, “How does Digitization Radically Change the World?”, we first need to remind ourselves how fast digitization has emerged. Looking back 20 to 30 years ago, we could see how incredibly fast the digital world has changed to the point where shopping on your phone is now too mundane and ubiquitous to be considered interesting. So, looking out 10 years ahead, one thing we need to remind ourselves is that change could happen so quickly that we should be prepared for change.

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The first change we should consider is the shift towards the Internet of Action. Today, the internet is essentially where we go to retrieve information. Being connected to the internet is essentially being connected to being served information as a service, and while this access to information will not change, we would start to see the growing importance of all things connected to the internet through their ability to take and shape actions. On this thought, we would then need to consider all digitally connected things such as robots and networked machines as they are taking actions in our business, social and civic spears, and their values, which stems from their ability to orchestrate actions in our world.

Comparing the simple task of pressing a button on a Smoothie Blender to that of pressing the ‘Shopping’ button on amazon. On a blender, when you press the smoothie button, you would get a simple smoothie. However, when pressing the ‘shopping’ button on amazon, all of the different actions that need to be orchestrated to deliver your intention to you would be the action of moving money, delivering your product, and all kinds of complexity involved with numerous backend actions. This demonstrates the ability to shrink down complexity of running a business with the internet.

Bradley then described the shift towards the Internet of Action in three different cascading s-curves:

Starting off where we currently are with the short-term development of ‘Connected Things’ like connecting devices onto the internet, and then moving on towards intelligent things, and eventually autonomous machine actors in the long run. To demonstrate where we are on a practical level, Bradley described a Smart Pill Bottle with built-in sensing and time capabilities to remind patients to take their pills. There are several similar devices available that are functioning on a primarily information-driven technology. To demonstrate where we are headed, Bradley presented an example of a smart speaker with certain machine intelligence that are responsive to the user, yet still primarily information-driven tools.

However, there are several emerging questions around connected things. The first example Bradley gave is the case where the police asked amazon to help solve a murder case based on data and information gathered on its smart device. The questions that emerged from this case is how much of this information belongs to amazon, how much of this information is private, or how much of this information is stored on amazon’s cloud storage? Even with this one case, it is evident that a lot of other questions could potentially emerge concerning how information and data should be managed in this technological progression. And finally, where we are headed is towards Autonomous Machine Actors, where we may expect intelligent machines coordinating and acting together on our behalf. Bradley gave an example of a bot in the US used for monitoring cable bills and contracts on an ongoing basis, where if the bot detects the possibilities to purchase a lower-priced package, the bot will make the purchase on our behalf. The business model of this bot is to take 25% of our savings to fund their operations.

There are currently 5 to 10 companies in the world that really have the chance of being a leader in digital assistant; companies like amazon, Facebook, Apple, Huawei, etc. This is only in digital assistant alone, where there are rooms for more possibilities such as negotiation bot, shopper, nurse, tutor, etc.  This serves as an overview of the digitization landscape.

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However, Bradley stressed on one important question that we should consider – What values do we want our technology to be optimized for? Asking ourselves this question opens a lot more innovation opportunities. Take navigating a city when we travel for example, when we have a clear purpose of where we are heading, we may want to navigate through the shortest and fastest route. When we are exploring a new city, however, we may want to explore around the city. We may be seeking for a new way to maneuver ourselves through the city, such as using photos on Flickr to determine where would be the most beautiful area. Or if we are seeking for the opportunity to meet new people, we might want to walk through the most crowded area. Similarly, when seeking innovation opportunity, the important question to ask is what are the different values that we want to achieve in order to open ourselves up for more opportunities.

Bradley highlighted four different spaces of innovation strategies for actions:

1.Altering Human Perception, which is a combination of looking at how technology is interacting in the world and looking at the social science space to understand how people think in the world. The question here is to understand how people is taking technologies in their reality and how do they take these technologies and interact with the world on default. An example of this is the hologram protest in Madrid, where to overcome the law passed out by the Spanish Government preventing protests near government buildings, the people of Madrid virtually joined a hologram protest for their cause. This raises some questions on what we can do with information in various scenarios and in the face of various authorities.

Take for example, projecting your presence in the world. How much of the digital information can you manipulate in order to project a certain version of yourself on to the digital world. The challenge here is how can we do this in ways that are beneficial to the world, in ways that are responsible, and in ways that add values. An example of this is based on a research about how our digital avatar could shape our behavior. If we want to live a healthier life, our digital avatar could depict an image of what we could potentially look like with leaner and healthier looking body, and this would eventually shape our habits and behavior in order to achieve the image depicted by our digital avatar.

2.Animated Augmented Environment, how can we enhance the existing environment through digital connectivity. One example Bradley gives is a project conducted in the MIT Media Lab, starting from the question of ‘what will you do if your wallet is connected to the internet?’, where three ideas were generated. The first idea, the Bumblebee Wallet, is where a buzz is sent out every time there is a digital transaction. The second idea, the Peacock Wallet, is where the peacock feathers would grow according to the amount of money you have in your wallet. The third, is where if you exceed your spending limit, they would make it harder to open up your wallet.
Another question to consider with animated augmented environment is what are the ways we can draw people into a space by designing environments. To tackle this question, we would need to consider how we could take our attention to the design of space and apply it into the world in unprecedented innovative ways. One example Bradley mentioned is the Happy Fork, a product created to tackle obesity by sending out vibrations to impede you from taking in too much food. This is an example of the kinds of innovation opportunities that could emerge from simple day-to-day objects through animated augmentation. Moving forward, we would then have to think about how can we design and animate different objects in the world. For example, we may want to imagine what autonomous cars would look like in the future. One possibility is to have a hologram driver that is able to make eye contact with you while you are crossing the streets.

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3.Encoding Human Activity, taking all the things we do in the world and convert them into machinery. Here, we would have to consider both the legal and social limits. Take for example the speed limits. The legal speed limit may be 30 miles per hour, while the social speed limit is at 40 miles per hour. If you are driving at a speed limit above 30 miles, but are within the 40 miles social limit, then you are not breaking the law. The subject of legal and social speed limit has come up in Tesla’s case for autonomous driving cars, where Tesla first set their cars to drive at the legal speed limit. Soon, there were complaints from the car owners, because by having their cars driven at the legal speed limit, they feel endangered as all the other cars are driving above the speed limit. This is an example of how, if we are going to be moving into the world where more of our activities are operated by machines, we then should be very explicit about what the rules are that we are going to obey.

4.Manipulating Matters, how do we build machines that will be interacting with us in the real world. Bradley shared a case where he was having a video call with his two years old daughter, which was quite challenging with the limited vocabulary of his daughter and the technical difficulty of trying to engage her in a physical interaction. But today, there are all kinds of possibilities when you can connect more devices in your house on to the internet. Yet there are also challenges and risks involved as this would mean that there are also possibilities that your connected devices could face cyber security attacks. So the question we should be considering, according to Bradley is how do we coordinate these machines well enough to overcome these challenges. The next question that follows would be, what are the limits to making these machines coordinate and collaborate.

Ending his session, Bradley concluded with a couple of insights on the research around the Internet of Actions. The first insight is that we should be considering not just one single technology, but how a combination of different technologies could come together to inform long range strategies. We should also be exploring innovation opportunities by thinking about different value systems that are relevant to the end consumers. And lastly, we should be able to identify an optimal balance between machine learning and human capabilities.

Source : TMA_ Digital Transformation Forum 2019

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