For years if not for decades, the buzzword in the worlds of innovation and enterprise, echoing through the lecture theatres of business schools and splattered across white boards in investment fund and marketing companies across the globe, has been disruption. Given the evolving world of exponential growth in computing power, artificial intelligence and deep learning, it may well be that the status of has-been is what this awful word “disruption” will soon occupy. Of course it will still exist, but as a by-product of unprecedented advances rather than a reverently regarded target of some small-minded zero-sum game.
Consider an article that appeared a few days ago on the Forbes website, asking rhetorically if the world-shifting changes that humanity requires, and to a large extent can reasonably expect to see, are likely to be achieved with a mind-set that is calibrated to “disrupting” existing markets. For each of the described challenges – climate change, energy storage, chronic diseases like cancer, and the vast horizons of potential in genomics, biosciences, and immunotherapies – collaboration rather than competition is emerging as the default setting for humanity’s operating system.
Mental models based upon cooperative networks will begin replacing the competitive hierarchies that only just managed to keep the wheels on the capitalist engine as it clattered at quickening speeds through our Industrial age, lurching from financial crisis to military conflict and back again, enshrining inequalities as it went and promoting degradations of Earth’s eco-system along the way. And why will things change?
Of course it would be nice to think that our species is at last articulating a more sustaining moral sense, but it won’t be that. It will simply be that the explosion of data, insatiable demands upon our attention, and the febrile anxieties of dealing with the bright white noise of modern life will render our individual primate brains incapable of disrupting anything remarkable to anything like useful effect.
The Forbes article concludes with admiration for what the digital age has been able to achieve, at least as long as the efficacy of Moore’s Law endured. It is soon to be superseded, however, by the emerging powers of quantum and Neuromorphic computing, with the consequent explosion of processing efficiency that will take our collective capabilities for learning and for thinking far beyond the imaginings of our ancient grassland ancestors.
Working together we will dream bigger, and disrupt far less than we create.
Lively Stuff from Planet BAM!
- New map of the brain is an early hit at Singularity University's Global Summit
Energetic innovations and entrepreneurial excitement are jostling for space at this first-ever convocation of its sort, as the Singularity University hosts a global summit in San Francisco. One of the early headlines was this “most intricate map yet” of the human cortex, created by researchers at Washington University. Unsurprisingly, they are developing and adapting algorithms to assist in the distinguishing of specific functions as correlating to particular areas of the brain.
- Must AI be limited to intelligence that is specifically human?
TheLong+Short, a “magazine of innovation, new ideas, and how the world is changing” poses a worthwhile question. It recognises that there are cognitive processes and sensory phenomena associated with non-human animals that may be useful foundations for AI to build upon, and we should be careful about adhering to an AI/human equivalence that restricts either one from achieving its potential.
- Greasing the wheels of collaboration at The Francis Crick
Underlining the vital importance of collaboration as highlighted in today’s blog, the Imperial College London website publishes an interview with one of the key executives at the new interdisciplinary medical research institute in London. Along with Imperial, the other founding partners include the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, University College London and King’s College London. We fervently hope that their reliance upon collaboration survives the challenges and perils of Brexit.
- AI is feeling the burn better than the burn doctors themselves
These stories are no less exciting as they appear more and more frequently, promoting higher degrees of excellence in diagnosing medical problems. In this case, the focus is on tissue damage suffered by burns victims; we see similar instances in brain and heart scans, and in spotting tumours and cancers: indeed any area in which machine learning enables computers to spot patterns in scanned images that may be invisible to doctors.