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Kaila Colbin on the Nature of Technological Innovation and the Implications for Society

| Podcast with Kaila Colbin Follow 0 Followers by Shane Hastie Follow 11 Followers on Mar 27, 2017 |

This is the Engineering Culture Podcast, from the people behind InfoQ.com and the QCon conferences.

In this podcast, recorded at the Agile New Zealand conference, Shane Hastie, InfoQ Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Kaila Colbin from the Ministry of Awesome and Singularity University.

Key Takeaways

  • The nature of technological innovation and the implications for society
  • The doubling curve which shows how innovations advance (eg Moore’s Law)
  • The doubling in price-performance trend applies to any technology once it becomes information enabled
  • The convergence of multiple technologies which are on a doubling curve
  • Technology advances because of usefulness – the more useful something becomes the more we invest in it 
  • These technologies need a more robust conversation than what we are currently having in society
  • The ethical obligations of programmers – consciously exploring the implications of the work that we do; will the code we write have a net contribution to humanityEven if your job is safe – what is the implication of living in a society with massive inequality, political and social unrest and economic instability? 

Show Notes

0m:30s Introductions

0m:50s Overview of Singularity University

1m:25s Three insights which define the thinking:

1m:35s (1) Ray Kurzweil’s take on Moore’s Law – the price performance of computing is doubling approximately every 18 months, irrespective of the underlying technology

2m:35s (2) This doubling in price-performance trend applies to any technology once it becomes information enabled

3m:50s (3) There are a whole range of technologies which are reaching an inflection point, and starting to converge. This convergence opens up endless new possibilities

4m:30s An example – taking gene sequencing pairing it with machine learning to extract knowledge from the gene sequencing which would not otherwise be discoverable

5m:05s Moore’s law coming to an end IRO transistors

5m:50s Understanding the implication of doubling steps  - 30 linear steps takes you 30m in a direction, 20 doubling steps will take you 26 time around the earth, yet at step 29 you will only be half way to the end

6m:45s How this impacted the human genome project, originally estimated to take 15 years and cost $3BN.  After 7 years they had only sequenced 1% of the genome and spent approx. 50% of the budget.  Kurzweil saw this as “half way there” because of the doubling curve and this turned out to be correct

8m:10s As technologists we need to change the way we forecast to take these phenomena into account, advances are not linear

8m:30s The impact of machine learning – the example of AlphaGo and why it is not about a computer beating a human but it is a catalyst for more accelerated progress

9m:30s Technology advances because of usefulness – the more useful something becomes the more we invest in it 

10m:05s How using machine learning with gene sequencing allowed the discovery of genetic markers for depression

11m:40s Using machine learning and artificial intelligence to turn massive quantities of data into useful information and that information into wisdom

12m:10s There are pros and cons – for example dealing with privacy issues and exposing historical information

13m:25s The Internet of Things contributing to connectivity and big data

14m:35s Risks and caveats with IOT and connected devices

15m:45s An example of a connected blood sugar monitor which allows parents to know the state of a child’s insulin & glucose levels remotely

16m:35s These technologies need a more robust conversation than what we are currently having in society

16m:50s Bringing a SingularityU summit to New Zealand – a broad overview of a collection of exponential technologies and their potential impact

18m:35s Every person in the world will be effected by the progress of these technologies

18m:45s Hard questions about the implications in areas such as ethics, culture and society need to be explored

19m:40s The future of work for the technologists who contribute to these technologies

19m:50s The ethical obligations of programmers – consciously exploring the implications of the work that we do; will the code we write have a net contribution to humanity?

20m:55s The future of work – 47-81% of jobs as we currently understand them under threat from technology

21m:30s There is greater polarisation and greater inequality in the workplace as technologies are adopted.  Many of the new jobs are lower value than those which are being lost

4m:50s The implication of jobs shifting in location – what will happen to the communities which are dependent on the current jobs.  New jobs are more concentrated in cities and are impacting the survival of rural communities

23m:30s Even if your job is safe – what is the implication of living in a society with massive inequality, political and social unrest and economic instability? 

24m:00s The need for and discussion about Universal Basic Income

25m:10s The duties of citizens – our commitments and obligations as members of a society

25m:40s Universal Basic Income is only one tool and problem is much bigger than a single tool – humans need meaning and dignity as well as income

26m:40s We need to come up with a completely new framework for defining and measuring our sense of worth as society changes

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