Archive: Science & Tech

February 27th, 2014 | By Contributing Writer | Posted in Art & Society, Business & Economy, Innovation, Media, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Google Search’s Amit Singhal – Constructing the Conversational Computer

The Galactic Public Archives are videos that feature past and present visionaries on their explorations of the future and how it could be embraced with optimism.

Introduction to Amit Singhal (at Google) from Galactic Public Archives on Vimeo.

Meet Amit Singhal. During Amit Singhal’s 13 years at Google, the company has been evolving the iconic search bar into a voice-controlled search engine that allows for a more natural, conversational search – à la Star Trek’s LCARS computer. They aren’t there yet. If you ask Google – using voice – who Bill Clinton is, and then ask who his (using the pronoun instead of his name) daughter is – Google can tell you. You can even follow that up by asking what her job is, and again, Google understands. If however, you follow up your question about Bill Clinton with, “Who was the next president?” Google is stumped. Its ability to hold context means that it can only hold a conversation as long as you stick within some narrow parameters. Clearly search has not reached Her status – as envisioned by Spike Jonze. Most people are not in danger of mistaking Google for a love interest. Still, the system’s current competence is quite a feat considering it happens to be ‘conversing’ and interfacing with millions of people at once.

Amit Singhal, however, believes that the current situation is just a stepping-stone, and that natural, ‘frictionless’ conversation with a computer is an attainable goal.

We interviewed Amit Singhal at Google HQ in 2013. He’s a personable guy with a positive outlook on the future, as well as a staunch belief that information science & search can allow humanity to be, essentially, more human.

Amit Singhal (at Google): Constructing the Conversational Computer from Galactic Public Archives on Vimeo.

During our conversation Amit said that the challenge is finding the missing “intelligent connections” that humans can make and computers can’t – the missing links between today’s search and a true conversational machine. Amit and his team are working on algorithms to allow computers to build those connections.

These videos, and others in the Galactic Public Archives are compiled from our conversations with inventors, scientists, visionaries and thinkers who have compelling visions of the future, in conjunction with 2030, an upcoming film about the future. Discover more GPA videos at Vimeo.com/GalacticPublicArchives.

*Guest Author: Ellen Boss at The Galactic Public Archives

2030

 

 

Continue Reading & Comment »

January 16th, 2014 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Science & Tech | Comments Off

The Quantified Self is Here and It’s Going Mainstream

quantified self

In case you missed it, Glen was recently interviewed by James Temple at Re/code. The result is an exciting article called Robots, Regenerative Medicine and More: Futurists Gaze Into 2014. In it, Glen mentions the coming year seeing the true mainstreaming of the ‘quantified self.’ He also talks about other things you want to know about, so be sure to read Re/code right now!

Continue Reading & Comment »

December 31st, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Environment & Energy, Innovation, Science & Tech | 1 Comment

To 2014 and Beyond

Happy New Year to all our Futurist.com visitors and fans.

Looking ahead, here are some thoughts to add to the endless lists of 2014 anticipations – if you like these things see Mark Anderson’s top ten for 2014, or Thomas Fry’s 33 for 2030, or David Brin’s speculations on the year ahead. Brin is an exception but most of these kinds of articles are lists of technologies and anticipated developments. I know these lists ‘sell papers’ as we used to say, and provide a certain kind of infotainment. But I don’t take them too seriously except as brain teasers. Check them out if you want.

Me? I expect the big stories of 2014 will include…

…a shift in politics to debating how and how much to increase Social Security in the United States. This meme broke through in 2013, and moved the Overton Window over by a surprising margin, away from “how to cut Social Security” and at least to ‘how to maintain it.” This shift in the political winds cannot come too soon as we face an impending retirement crisis and looming wave of elder poverty.

…a dawning realization that fracking, however successful in the next decade or two at tapping previously hard to get oil and gas, has not fundamentally changed the longer term (21st Century) energy picture in which conventional (and thus cheaper) oil has peaked, and thus we face a mostly more expensive future in energy. Cheap gas is the exception but the energy picture still demands that civilization prepare for the fossil fuel phase out to come. Negotiating this passage will literally determine whether modern civilization is maintained.

…a continuation in the downward curve in solar energy cost per watt generated, meaning that it becomes more likely that solar will become a dominant supplier of electricity sooner than later. The electrification of the transportation fleet will gain momentum in 2014.

…space exploration and exploitation will proceed more aggressively in 2014. The success of China on the moon, and the amazing drive of SpaceX and other private companies in space will make the next half-decade a likely dawn of the next era in space, the era that leads to truly occupying space.

…it is hard to know when or if a weather event will tip the balance of public concern toward a crash effort to mitigate, slow down, and prepare for global warming. The latest, and most dire, predictions suggest that this had better happen soon.

Photo Credit: Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and Mother Jones

Photo Credit: Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance and Mother Jones

…finally, a global struggle with and about the deep issues of privacy versus security, continued drift to richer and poorer society, and the future of employment and work, will likely heighten in 2014. There is a reason, which is more than artistic or admiration of the actors, that the Hunger Games series has already placed its first two films in the top 20 grossing films of all time and is a world-wide phenomenon. There is a hunger for change that is rumbling. The fact that life imitates art in way that reeks of parody but is all too real just adds to the pressure. (In this case activists hanging a banner to protest a proposed pipeline were charged under an absurd terrorism statute – thus precisely proving the point of the banner.)

2014 will be a year of great opportunity and great challenges – not all that different than 2013 or, I suspect, 2015.

Let’s have a great year!

Continue Reading & Comment »

November 16th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Innovation, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Future of Work, Talent Management, Knowledge Value

[This recent blog that I wrote originally appeared in the Cornerstone OnDemand "Future of Work" blog section, as I responded to a recent study by Cornerstone on the future of the American Workplace. Re-printed here by permission.]

The Future of Work: How Talent Management is Powering the Knowledge Value Revolution

The cultural, technology and generational shifts taking place in today’s workplace highlight how critically important it is that traditional human resources management continue to move not only toward integrating talent management processes, but also the notion of making these processes – and the technology that facilitates them – more employee-centric. These are not necessarily new developments, as smart human resource operations have been redefining themselves in terms of talent management and talent development quite a bit over the past five years. But the future of work itself makes the identification, management and development of talent ever more primary to the success of companies and organizations.

Helping People Work Smarter

The Japanese writer Taichi Sakaiya was perhaps the first to name the economic era into which we have moved the “knowledge value revolution.” His thesis was simple, and is evident all around us now, every day. He proposed that the traditional elements that gave products and services value – the value of the materials and labor that went into the product or service – were shifting toward a single dominant element. That element is the value of the knowledge contained in a product or service. The best way to understand the idea is to consider the smartphone in your pocket or purse. You chose that phone most likely because you believed that it was made by smarter people using smarter processes, and that the particular smartphone enables you to access knowledge more easily thus making you smarter. You may even believe that just owning that specific phone makes you look smarter when you use it. All of this adds up to “knowledge value.”

What does this mean for human resources? The ability of a company, organization or employee to succeed depends on their ability to acquire new knowledge on a continuous basis and apply that knowledge in an effective way. This insight demands that we think differently about talent management and talent management software. MTV’s “No Collar Worker” survey reveals, for example, that 89 percent of Millennial employees – who will comprise 75 percent of all employees by 2025 – think that it is important to be constantly learning at their job. Some of this learning may look rather traditional, involving classroom training and education. But I expect this style of company education to continue to become a declining percentage of organizational learning as talent management software and tools enable learning to become more social, collaborative and on-demand. Embedding collaboration into corporate learning so that employees seamlessly learn while working and work while learning is as fundamental to the future than ever before, and now possible in ways that were not available until recently.

Beyond a Separate Class of Employees

The concepts of continuous or on-demand learning are critical to the future of work, and obviously the smart application of talent management software can make the difference in meeting this need. We often refer to “knowledge workers” as though they are a separate class of employees, but what I am saying is that all work is becoming knowledge intensive. Thus future tools must provide real-time communication, quick and easy access to information on multiple devices from anywhere anytime, better collaboration through knowledge of who is available and where they are, and access to instant learning in small bites as the need arises.

Let’s play with some possibilities. The Cornerstone’s “The State of Workplace Productivity Report” notes that 58 percent of employees would be willing to use wearable technology if it helps them do their job. Imagine a bartender wearing augmented reality glasses, needing to learn a new drink recipe as an order is placed, and being able to do that simply by repeating the customer’s order out loud. Or imagine a repair technician in an auto shop or on the factory floor needing instant training on a new problem they have not faced personally before. Or imagine a lawyer wanting to brush up on case law or negotiation technique as they walk to a meeting. These kinds of scenarios are applicable to just about any job we can think of. Companies that combine access to learning software tools, cloud databases and access to the wider Internet – and that develop a culture of continuous learning – will gain an advantage in the development of their human talent.

The MTV survey also reveals that 80 percent of Millennials want regular feedback from their supervisors, 89 percent want their workplace to be social and fun, 50 percent would rather have no job than a job they hate, and that 50 percent also believe that “switching jobs helps you climb the corporate ladder faster.” Once again, smart talent management programs and software can contribute to meeting these needs of the future workforce. Providing a way to receive more regular feedback is a no-brainer. Using gamification to make the workplace more social, and also as a means of speeding up learning, should be a priority. As for creating jobs that people do not hate, enabling people to move between jobs (also referred to as talent mobility) is one proven strategy for helping with that. Continuous and on-demand learning systems will enable people to switch jobs more seamlessly without a massive drop off in knowledge and skills.

We live in a time when talent management tools, the nature of work, and the needs and desires of the future workforce are all converging in a way that enable us to reimagine the ways we hire, train, manage and engage employees. Those that take advantage of this convergence will win the future.

Continue Reading & Comment »

November 15th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Business & Economy, Innovation, Science & Tech | Comments Off

The future of Work and BYOD and BYOM

[Last month I had the opportunity to help with the creation of a video for Cisco, in which Cisco futurist David Evans, futurist Stowe Boyd, and I talked about the future of the workplace as the availability of personal communication devices becomes more pervasive, their power greater, and their use more natural and integrated into every day life. The recent workplace phenomenon of a desire to "bring your own device" is a key indicator of this trend. At the same time that I was shooting that video (we hope to post it before too long from now), I was producing a guest blog for Cornerstone OnDemand, the human resources support company, commenting on their recent study on the future of the workplace and the workforce. Here is the blog I wrote for them, re-posted here by permission, which captures some observations where BYOD is going in the future.]

BYOD, BYOM, and the future of work
The other day I was with a team from a large multinational company. The team was preparing a presentation for the executive committee, and one of the team members proposed using a presentation tool he liked and was good with. But the other team members pointed out that the tool was an online application, and not formally approved by IT, and so it would be unwise to use it for the executive briefing.

This incident is something seemingly normal that occurs every day in the workplace – yet it is the perfect example of employees’ desires to bring their own device (BYOD), bring their own applications (BYOA) and bring their own tech (BYOT) to work to help with their productivity. The willingness of employees to do this was confirmed in the recent study of American workers conducted by Cornerstone OnDemand. The survey found that 37 percent of employees who currently use apps for work would be likely to spend their own money on work-related apps in the next twelve months if they felt the app would help them with their job. Even among employees who do not currently use apps for work, 20 percent expected to spend their own money for apps to increase their productivity.

In a world with thousands and thousands of apps available and new ones appearing each day, it is important for organizations to develop a policy on the use of apps and devices by individual employees. Generally, the advice is to make this policy one of openness to employee devices and apps. But the Cornerstone study reveals that many companies have yet to address this pressing issue.

When asked if their employers had policies on using applications for work purposes that are not provided by the employer, 43 percent said no, and 21 percent said they did not know.

When asked about company policies regarding the use of personal devices (smartphones, tablets and the like) for work purposes, 45 percent said their companies had no policies, and 15 percent said they did not know whether any policies were in place.

What kinds of applications are employees interested in? Here are the numbers:

ease-of-use

Now, an IT department could try to provide all of this, but they will never keep up with the flood of apps developed by entrepreneurs. So what is an IT department to do? I’d suggest that they begin the difficult process of redefining their role to providing a basic information access infrastructure, security standards and applications, and then, like the maestro of an orchestra, letting the individual artists show their stuff.

There are, in fact, companies who are allotting each employee a budget to buying technology and then not dictating what the specific tech should be. This is radical I know, but consider the dominant trends shaping the future of work.

BYOD + BYOA + BYOT = BYOM
Internet anthropologist and futurist Stowe Boyd, for example, suggests that first, every job is digital, second that every company is digital, and third that more and more functions can be performed by third parties. But the most important trend that Boyd cites is this: what is really happening with BYOD, BYOA and BYOT is that people want to bring their own mind to work. He calls it BYOM. Think about this. Our personal devices and the apps we favor have become a part of how we live, how we produce, how we think. Perhaps your essential app is one that keeps track of your travel, or tracks your exercise and diet in concert with your wristband, or enables you to conduct your banking anywhere, anytime. And this is not to mention the obvious apps that keep you in touch with your network and up to date, all the time. What the Cornerstone OnDemand study is saying, I believe, is that people want to bring not just their tech to work, but themselves.

On the Horizon
What is next? On the horizon and just coming into the marketplace are wearable devices. Google Glass is perhaps best known, as an example of augmented reality in which you wear a device that keeps you constantly imbedded in the virtual world even as you interact with the physical world. Joining Glass will be smartwatches that connect you to the Web, clothing, and, before long, smart jewelry and buttons that enable you to live in a world where the virtual and the physical are fully merged. The recent hiring of Burberry’s CEO by Apple is further demonstration of the intersection of fashion and tech. Why would you use such things? To see company information on demand, to access repair manuals, to connect to team members, to do things we do now with the devices we carry. The Cornerstone OnDemand study found that 66 percent of Millennial workers and 58 percent of all employees would use wearable technology if it enabled them to do their job better. If they saw a co-worker using wearable technology, 67 percent would feel curious and 12 percent would feel at a disadvantage.

I remember being at a conference this year of companies in a service-providing industry. A member of the Millennial generation gave a short presentation showing how he imagined their service professionals would use wearable technology in the near future, and he challenged the more traditional thinkers to open their minds to a new way of working. He was living proof of someone who wanted to BYOM to work. Smart companies will be moving in this direction.

Continue Reading & Comment »

Page 3 of 2512345...1020...Last »