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Star Trek vs Mad Max: Which future do you choose?

Photo source: Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s not just you. If the world seems to be changing at a mind-blowing pace, that’s because it is. Right now, businesses, governments, and economies alike are facing disruption from no less than 12 emerging technologies. To put that into perspective, the first industrial revolution saw only two.

These technologies—which include everything from mobile Internet, automation of knowledge and work, Internet of Things, cloud technology, advanced robotics, autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles, next-generation genomics, energy storage, 3D printing, advanced materials, advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery, and renewable energy—are expected to completely redefine how we live, conduct business, and organize our societies. Whether it’s for better or worse, however, remains to be seen.

As we navigate this brave new world, we have two options, in my opinion: we can adapt swiftly and, in the process, increase our chances of a utopian, Star Trek-esque future; or we can continue to do things the way they’ve always been done, which could potentially result in a Mad Max-style societal collapse. The choice is ours.

That said, this choice won’t be made overnight. Each step in this journey will require careful deliberation. Individuals, societies, governments, and businesses will have to weigh the implications of new technological advancements, look beyond the status quo, and shift their views and actions to reflect the type of future they’d like to see.

For instance, it’s a commonly-held belief that the democratization and commoditization of AI will lead to the replacement of human labour. New technologies are already better equipped than humans to pull from millions of input points to form opinions. But while the Mad Max type of thinking sees this as a threat to humans—with many pundits saying it will lead to the disappearance of 40 to 60 percent of existing jobs—I find this needlessly alarmist.

What if, instead, we saw this inevitable change through a Star Trek lens—a future where we continue to need human intelligence? If, instead of humans being replaced, left to live on the streets and struggle for survival, AI was used as a tool to reduce costs by 40 percent and redeploy humans to better leverage their unique skills? This would require us to shift our focus toward reinventing jobs and creating a more augmented workforce.

As your business moves into the future, we hope this LinkedIn series will make your choices a little easier by shedding light on some of the most disruptive technologies impacting Canadian businesses. By diving deep into the risk-related implications of RPA, cognitive technology, and deep learning, our goal is to get you thinking about the far-reaching effects of technology adoption and uncover new ways to seize its unlimited potential.