Say you just employed a new encryption technology. Would it persist against quantum computing-based attacks? Do you have enough time to master post-quantum cryptography before your data and information are compromised? Of course, you may have nothing to do with information security. But how can this future scenario affect your business or even the industry as a whole?
Or imagine that in the morning you read in the news: “Strong artificial intelligence is already created and is developing a more advanced version of itself”. Is it worth to start worrying? Take any technology potentially capable of turning our world: blockchain, quantum computing, a complete abandonment of fiat money in favor of crypto-currencies, biotechnology, finally the interaction between a strong AI and a person, and mentally speed up their appearance from “sometime in the future” to “before the dinner today”. In the best case, we are in for a complete chaos. In the worst — an incredible disaster awaits.
Where is the equilibrium point? That invisible “Rubicon”, after crossing which such exponential forces should be taken into account by leading organizations when drawing up development strategies? Technological giants already make their moves — Google X and DeepLearning, IBM Watson and other projects with their very existence signal the business. Moreover, they willingly share their experience. This allows starting to experiment, incubate and scale the exponential technology opportunities.
No Time to Explain, it is Time for Incredible Innovations! Or Not?
The emergence of new technologies is an ongoing process, thus modern people seem to be always ready for the introduction of something new. But are they truly? Here is a good quote from the book “Where Good Ideas Come From: A Natural History of Innovation” by popular science author Stephen Johnson:
“If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect”
The sheer desire to innovate is never enough. What kind of strategic decision about the development should be taken? Start with blockchain and machine learning or immediately focus on more ambitious but extremely long-term technologies that constantly “loom” on the horizon between reality and science fiction?
Choosing the answers to these questions is akin to reading the tea leaves. Many of modern organizations lack the required consistency, there are no structures and processes necessary for effective implementation of innovations in conditions of exponential technologic “explosion”. For example, does your company already has a robotics department? In 2014, such a question would evoke a smile. Today, robots successfully replace workers at advanced factories in China. Were the workers ready for this turn of events? Hardly.
Okay, but what is the Correct Way to Deal with Innovations?
Let us turn to research. Sixty seven of companies in the Fortune 100 list have at least one R&D center. The European Deloitte Digital team studied the approach of “innovators” (companies with strong innovative indicators) in the industrial, technological and consumer sectors. Here are the principles of their operation:
- Clear formulation of innovative ambitions and maintenance of a strategically significant portfolio of innovative initiatives;
- Constant attention to innovations that help to optimize existing products for existing customers;
- Development of related innovations that can aid in expanding the existing markets or develop new products using the base assets.
The structure of investments among leading companies is similar and looks as follows: 70% of their innovative resources are channeled to the main innovations for existing customers; 20% percent — to associated efforts for existing assets and only 10% — on transformational initiatives, the search for new markets and needs.
You think this is the formula for success? Not likely. The aggregate return on investment according to the distribution above is strictly inversely proportional: 70% of profits are brought by new opportunities and initiatives, 20% — by related areas and only 10% — by innovations for existing customers.
Most successful innovators have found their ideal formula by balancing core, contiguous and transformational initiatives, constantly introducing tools and opportunities to manage these initiatives as part of the whole.
Choose a Way: Leave Everything as it is or Prepare for the “Unknowable”
Which innovation structure ratios will help you prepare for exponential technologies? It is impossible to know beforehand. Then maybe you should not imitate the horror flicks’ characters and run to meet the unknown that hides in the dark?
Unfortunately, this is the worst possible scenario. Exponential technologies develop at an atypical, non-linear pace and the longer you wait to start researching them, the further your business may fall behind.
Start with observations. Without forming any hypotheses about the impact of a certain technology on your products, manufacturing methods, and competitive environment yet.
Next would be a preliminary stage where it is possible to put forward the most fantastic hypotheses and think about the options for action when implementing them.
The real demonstration is better than statements of intent — take a look at the scenarios, implemented by technology giants. Without a suitable ecosystem, the development of technologies would be at a standstill. Where was the blockchain ten years ago? Building the supporting ecosystem around each exponential force can help you attract external business partners, suppliers and, ultimately, customers and users.
Starting with hypothetical tasks and states, your business should come to a deeper understanding of the prospects of exponential technologies. For example, the success of machine learning in image recognition has become the basis for many improvements — from security to the modernization of social services. In conjunction with existing services, you will be able to recognize the realized opportunities from the client’s point of view. Voice assistants will eventually become the interface of a strong AI; intelligent chat-bots already take place in the sphere of service and technical support, and blockchain changes all the areas it is applied to. We have to be ready.
Adoption and subsequent introduction of innovations is a sequential process, in which there is no place for chance. Of course, maybe your boss is exactly a genius who among a multitude of possibilities can choose the one that will turn the business over but even in this case it is better to ensure your results.
Yes, Exponential Technologies can be a Nightmare
Well, everyone seems to know what to do, right? However, as we go into the prospects of such technological leaps, we are reminded of the first paragraphs of this article.
During the gold rush everyone is eager to sell shovels but what will you trade when the Moon starts falling to the Earth? Would there even be a reason to try earning? Underestimation of risks becomes ubiquitous. Artificial intelligence was learned to beat a man in chess and go, that is an achievement in itself, is it not? We expect that next machines would learn to pass the cognitive tests but never guess further.
Mistrust or even disappointment can play a cruel joke with the most important resource of any company — employees. It is not about technology, it is about us, who use them. It is us who are afraid of the coming changes and therefore we have to find a way to manage this process.
It is difficult for us to imagine the onset of a technological singularity; we are accustomed to thinking linearly. Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant can set the calendar reminders, answer simple questions or control the playback of music. But still, making a leap of thinking from today’s assistants to the sentient AIs, omnipresent in cosmic operas, is hard for the most of us.
Even in this example, the thought linearity exists — why think that AI will continue to play the role of a personal assistant? Virtual workers, virtual scientists, virtual programmers, virtual hackers — how far can our imagination go before we come to fear of unemployment and other risks, up to an open opposition between man and machine?
Be Prepared for Future: Looking Forward
Yes, there is still time. No, a strong AI will not appear tomorrow. Like quantum computers, real cyborgs, UFO visit or a real-life hoverboard — the occurrence of these events can be questionable. In March 2016, the American Association for Artificial Intelligence asked 193 AI researchers to predict the timeframe of the emergence of the super-intelligence capable of surpassing a human mind. A quarter of respondents do not believe that this is possible at all. 67.5% of respondents believe that this may take a quarter of a century or more. Like the symbolic “Judgment Day Clock”, though the arrow is very close to the target, its movement can last for dozens or even hundreds of years.
Are you surprised at how far these figures diverge from “nightmarish” forecasts? This term is your chance not to find yourself in a world you are not ready for, in the end. Start preparing for the future right now, spend a few minutes of your life thinking about how you can change your business today. It does not have to be AI, blockchain, cryptography, AR\VR-technologies — proceed from what you can implement already today to improve your business and to meet the needs of your customers.
Discussing the upcoming exponential technologies in detail (both their risks and opportunities) is a dialectic paradox, which you must employ to integrate the new technologies into your business successfully. And if you are ready to bet on intelligent chat bots and open your own chat-bot service today — we are here to help: Start your own Chatbot Company with a White Label Version of BRAIN.
We can not guarantee that chat-bots will have the same impact on business as the advent of quantum computing or the emergence of a strong AI. However, taking the first step towards innovation in the short term, you are preparing the basis for the early adoption of the next ones. Explore new opportunities today. And if you agree with this — click the “clapping ;)” button.
This will not help to bring the future closer but we will be grateful for your appreciation. See you soon!