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Category: Disruptive Technology

22 Oct 2020
Disruption Vs. Innovation

Disruption Vs. Innovation

What do you think of when you hear the word disruption? Maybe a start-up with a lofty, if not somewhat unattainable, idea. Perhaps any number of Apple product launches. Or perhaps, in these times, your home internet going out right before a Zoom call.

In the start-up and tech world, the word disrupt is often presented to delineate an innovative idea. Disruption is not synonymous with innovation. Sure, Airbnb completely changed the hospitality industry in undeniably innovative ways, but it also caused negative effects on local neighborhoods and housing markets. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, disruption exits innovation terrority and enters dysfunction territory.

Inventive Innovation or Disruptive Innovation?

But, if you are in the throes of creating something new and innovative, you must decide: do you want to be an inventive innovator or a disruptive innovator?

Despite its ubiquity in its use for products, ideas, and processes that produce fundamental change, disruption in this context does have a full name: disruptive innovation. It was first described by Clayton Christensen in 1995 and thoroughly explained in his groundbreaking 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma

What’s often overlooked is that innovation takes many forms, and it isn’t always disruptive. Just because you don’t break and remake markets doesn’t mean you’re not an innovator. That quest to completely break and rebuild often leads to failure. Oftentimes, innovation doesn’t look like disruption at all – it’s a silent hero giving us new and better ways to do things without us even realizing it. I think of my own community at SailPoint, and how our team has taken a leap into global, widespread remote work without hardly a moment of disruption in innovation, productivity or customer service.

Simply put: there are healthy and unhealthy ways to (try to) create change.

Tech at large has been under the microscope for its boundary-crossing innovations – from increasing privacy concerns to security risks. On the other hand, it has enabled us to operate more globally and efficiently.

What do you want to be known for?

So, as you shape the future of the technology or service you provide, think about the kind of innovation for which you want to be known. Are you aiming for iterative innovation or true disruption? In our case, we want to disrupt, but not leave a path of dysfuntion in our wake. It’s the old, “leave it better than you found it,” idea, which means finding better ways to deliver solutions to our customers, without, ideally, leaving a mess in our wake. After all, we strive to be the kind of parter whose customers constantly look to us to solve their problems before they know it’s even a problem for them.

So choose carefully what kind of innovator you want to be ahead of time, and hopefully, you can create real value for your community without leaving disfunction behind you.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbooksauthors/2020/10/21/disruption-vs-innovation/#73dcf5242e6b

20 Oct 2020
Why disruption is now a springboard for innovation in manufacturing

Why disruption is now a springboard for innovation in manufacturing

Mark Hughes, Regional Vice President, UK & Ireland, Epicor looks at Why disruption is now a springboard for innovation in manufacturing.

The effects of COVID-19 have rippled across every industry, but its impact on manufacturers has brought positive change, as well as disruption. Despite the difficult choices manufacturers have faced over the course of the year, digitisation has accelerated – a process which has long been challenging in the industry.

The reasons behind this vary; those with ageing workforces have sometimes been sceptical about new technology, while others have been uncertain the investment would pay off. However, the onset of lockdown saw restrictions from mandatory remote working to limits on how many people can be in one area at a time. Manufacturers had to adapt to stay in business – and now they’re in the fortunate position of being able to pick and choose the best of those new processes and technologies. So, what should they be focusing on?

People power

Mark Huges, Regional Vice President, UK & Ireland
Mark Huges, Regional Vice President, UK & Ireland

As a result of lockdown, businesses and factory floors had to evolve at speed. To highlight just one example of adapting to this change of pace and reacting with an innovative solution, manufacturers implemented Internet of Things (IoT) sensors on machinery to monitor performance remotely. But can those sensors compete with the good old-fashioned hands of a seasoned engineer on a long-term basis?

Both offer convenience, but the cost of ongoing high-tech maintenance, training and equipment might present a barrier to continued use. Manufacturers need to strike the balance between traditional factory set-ups and the new now, incorporating the benefits of digital acceleration while retaining the perks of having human staff on the floor.

The human vs. machine debate also affects recruitment. It might be more difficult or more expensive to find staff who are well versed in any new implemented technologies. But with remote working enabled, manufacturers are free to choose from a much wider pool of talent – something that’s especially relevant to the industry given its often isolated site locations.

The proposition of a truly flexible role in a field that used to be the very opposite could be a draw. Combined with manufacturing’s relative stability compared to other industries and it’s not difficult to see why the sector is reputationally bouncing back to be considered a solid place to be employed and do business – which, in turn, causes a surge in fresh blood to drive digital change.

Mind over matter

It’s not just those employed in the industry who saw the benefits of recent digitisation. Many factories pivoted almost overnight to produce completely different in-demand products – including Mercedes F1BrewDog and Dyson. While few businesses would have considered swapping from making vacuum cleaners to hospital beds pre-COVID, these organisations have witnessed their own power to pivot – and, with any luck, this inspiration will fuel further change in the near future.

The real silver lining beyond merely accelerating digitisation was a shift in mindset. With the experience of 2020 behind them (and support from recently digitised platforms), manufacturers should all feel more confident in running with new ideas and innovations.

While budgetary and practicality constraints persist, they’re no match for manufacturers having the confidence to follow their ideas and the drive to see them through to completion. As we’ve seen, small developments can have a butterfly effect. Each step towards digitisation attracts more forward-thinking people to continue the trend, as well as inspiring existing team members to think and actively reach outside the box. Change is never easy but, with the right tools in place and attitude in mind, anything is possible.

For almost 50 years, Epicor Software Corporation has specialised in helping customers grow their businesses, expand their capabilities, increase their productivity, and improve efficiencies. A leader in Enterprise Resource Planning for medium-sized businesses, Epicor serves as a trusted partner for thousands of companies worldwide across key industries such as manufacturing, distribution, and retail. 

Source: https://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/disruption-now-springboard-innovation-manufacturing/

14 Oct 2020
Brain-scanning backpack brings neuroscience into the real world

Brain-scanning backpack brings neuroscience into the real world

Call it neuroscience on the go. Scientists have developed a backpack that tracks and stimulates brain activity as people go about their daily lives. The advance could allow researchers to get a sense of how the brain works outside of a laboratory—and how to monitor diseases such as Parkinson’s and post-traumatic stress disorder in real-world settings.

The technology is “an inspiring demonstration of what’s possible” with portable neuroscience equipment, says Timothy Spellman, a neurobiologist at Weill Cornell Medicine who was not involved with the work. The backpack and its vast suite of tools, he says, could broaden the landscape for neuroscience research to study the brain while the body is in motion.

Typically, when scientists want to scan the brain, they need a lot of room—and a lot of money. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanners, which detect activity in various regions of the brain, are about the size of a pickup truck and can cost more than $1 million. And patients must stay still in the machine for about 1 hour to ensure a clear, readable scan.

Approaches like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) that zap the brain—often to treat severe depression—are also not portable; patients must sit still and upright in a lab for about 30 minutes while a large coil delivers magnetic pulses through their scalp to electrically activate neurons.

Searching for a better way, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have developed what they call the mobile deep brain recording and stimulation platform.

Here’s how it works: A wand snakes up out of a 4-kilogram backpack to rest near the top of the patient’s scalp. There, the wand can communicate with a neural implant that lies deep in the brain. Meanwhile, the backpack is filled with monitors—a setup that allows for real-time data collection from the implant. At the same time, depending on the experiment, the participant can wear additional gear for measuring brain and body activities, including a scalp electroencephalography cap with electrodes that monitor surface brain activity, a pair of virtual reality goggles that track eye movement, and other devices that track heart and breathing rates. All of this information can then be synchronized with signals from the implant.

“The beauty of this is that you have many streams of data that are coming in simultaneously,” says study author Zahra Aghajan, a UCLA neurophysicist.

In lab testing, the team was able to show that the backpack records activity and stimulates various brain regions without requiring people to stay still. It was also able to collect the same data as an fMRI machine and stimulate the brain in a way similar to TMS, the team reports this week in Neuron.

Not being tied to a lab setting could enable scientists to study how the brain functions while people are in motion and interacting with others, rather than lying still inside an fMRI machine, the researchers say.

There’s a catch, however: Only patients who have neural implants can use the device. About 150,000 people worldwide have such implants, which doctors use to treat and monitor a wide range of conditions including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The team has released the backpack’s software and blueprints for all scientists to use, says study author Uros Topalovic, a Ph.D. student at UCLA. The hope, he says, is that other researchers can use the technology to study neurological conditions of all kinds without the constraints of a lab or hospital bed.

Source: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/09/brain-scanning-backpack-brings-neuroscience-real-world

11 Oct 2020
Protecting our environment: The role technology can play

Protecting our environment: The role technology can play

There are many different approaches to lead a sustainable lifestyle and simultaneously protect nature with technology.

Extreme poverty, rapid deforestation, melting ice, and an impending novel coronavirus disaster are only a tip of the iceberg when it comes to discussing world’s most pressing problems. While economists and environmentalists are busy understanding the impact of the world’s population; scientists and engineers across the world are busy finding out ways to reduce carbon footprints and the amount of greenhouse gases in the air.

Technological advances have helped several industries recover from recession, reduce disguised unemployment, improve quality of life and what not. If applied in the fight against climatic change, technology can help us help our future generations by:

Artificial Intelligence: AI is having an impact on agricultural practices and will soon transform how farming is done in industrialized nations, reducing our reliance on pesticides and drastically lowering water consumption. AI will make autonomous vehicles more navigate more efficiently, lowering air pollution. AI is being deployed by material scientists to develop biodegradable replacements to plastics and develop strategies to clean our oceans, which receive some eight million metric tons of plastics annually.

Eliminating waste: Today, innovation is helping eliminate food wastage, attempting to keep it out of landfills by monitoring it at all levels, from the farmland to the table. With up to 33% of the world’s food resources depleting, data analysis can significantly diminish to help reduce that figure. Data collection and analysis can assist this noble cause by connecting with supermarkets and cafés to guide surplus food items to individuals who need them the most. Advancements in biofuel digesters are putting food waste to use in producing energy. Inside our homes, smart refrigeration is helping families monitor their food wastage, including reminding them of expiry dates, some even offering ways to utilize food that is going to be expired.

Sensors: Distributed sensors as little as a dime are now observing air and water quality, distinguishing toxins, following fermentation, and catching constant information on things that are vital to our social and economic success. Wearable air quality sensors are on their way, and restricted sensor networks observing energy and water utilization in buildings help in eliminating waste. Further expansion of these sensors will drastically affect the way we live.

If we keep on producing unsustainable foods, expanding land structures and carry on with the way we do presently, our resources will breakdown. Unsustainable farming, fisheries, land projects, mining and energy are prompting remarkable biodiversity misfortune and living space debasement, misuse, contamination and environmental change. From food and water shortage to the nature of the air we inhale, the proof has never been clearer. We are, in many ways, neglecting to make the connection with nature.

There are many different approaches to lead a sustainable lifestyle and simultaneously protect nature with technology. Most of these applications are broadly utilized and have achieved critical results in the past. However, this impact could be deeper and more profitable if more people are aware of its utility, power, and impact.

Source: https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/science/protecting-our-environment-the-role-can-technology-play/2102418/

08 Oct 2020
Future reality: Triad of Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence & Blockchain in action

Future reality: Triad of Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence & Blockchain in action

The big questions that need solutions are with respect to quality, credibility, genuineness, safety, increase in efficiency and warranting correct distribution of revenue.

Blockchain, with promise of immutability, transparency, security, interoperability, etc., allows us to exploit otherwise unused resources, trade the un-tradable, and allow new ecosystems that were not possible before.

Blockchain today is still in its infancy, and its mainstream value is yet to be realised. While, it’s for sure that blockchain will disrupt the existing solutions, not only in industry and commerce but in almost all aspects of our day-to-day lives, it cannot do so just by itself. Same holds true for Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The underlying fact is that to get the real value new-age emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI and IoT have to work in tandem. As we begin to understand the new normal in the midst of the corona pandemic, it will be important to draw value from any digital transformation that firms undertake. Businesses will have to think beyond their domain and scope to provide services which are of actual value to consumers.

How can this happen? IoT has brought new and cheaper ways to communicate with ‘things’ which was not fathomable in the past. Blockchain, with promise of immutability, transparency, security, interoperability, etc., allows us to exploit otherwise unused resources, trade the un-tradable, and allow new ecosystems that were not possible before. The new entrant AI (inclusive of machine/deep learning, vision, NLP, robots or autonomous machines etc.) has already started to deliver great value to many industries, so much so as to reduce or even replace the human element. Further advancement in 5G communication is a positive catalyst to this ecosystem.

However, these technologies, with a disjointed ecosystem or industries’ siloed approach towards them, may not reach their full potential. In the above combination, ‘data’ becomes the common driving factor. While IoT is producing data from new sources and sensors, blockchain is safeguarding and ensuring immutability, and the AI layer on top is helping deliver new business meanings and outcomes in almost real-time. In summary, data value chain comes from new technologies enabling collection, sharing, security, immutability, analysis, and automation of decisions with minimal human involvement.

Let’s run this model on a practical consumer problem of provenance – the classic ‘Farm to Table’ use case. The big questions that need solutions are with respect to quality, credibility, genuineness, safety, increase in efficiency and warranting correct distribution of revenue. IoT takes care of conditions maintained in farms with respect to temperature, humidity, soil nutrients and growth progress, and also conditions at processing centres and logistics. All this information can be stored on blockchain-based smart contracts. AI-based engine on top of this, with feeds from weather systems, etc., can trigger and automatically execute smart contracts and take required action based on pre-agreed rules, including payments, etc. In an adverse event like an outbreak at any stage, the source could be easily traced and isolated. Next, this can be extended to insurance and forward commodity trading using a trade setup, thus bringing real value from agriculture, supply chain, financial services, insurance and other industries combined.

IoT has come a long way in improving the type of sensors, size and cost and even their usage in some industries; the real consumer centric benefits can be manifold. AI faces the challenge of accuracy, trust and confidence over replacement by the human cognitive mind. Building such ecosystems without regulatory pressure, is not easy if not impossible. This is one of the primary factors for blockchain and other similar transformative technologies not gaining mainstream acceptance or adoption.

Let’s also keep an eye on ‘Quantum Computing’ breakthroughs, as this not only threatens the key features of these emerging technologies, but will severely impact best of encryption, security and cryptography that exists today. Which means any industry, digital ecosystems, IT infrastructure will have to evolve at a rapid pace before they get negatively impacted.

Source: https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/technology/future-reality-triad-of-internet-of-things-artificial-intelligence-blockchain-in-action/2100218/

07 Oct 2020
MIT Researchers Say Their Fusion Reactor Is “Very Likely to Work”

MIT Researchers Say Their Fusion Reactor Is “Very Likely to Work”

Is fusion energy finally no longer “decades away?”

A team of researchers at MIT and other institutions say their “SPARC” compact fusion reactor should actually work — at least in theory, as they argue in a series of recently released research papers.

In a total of seven papers penned by 47 researchers from 12 institutions, the team argues that no unexpected impediments or surprises have shown up during the planning stages.

In other words, the research “confirms that the design we’re working on is very likely to work,” Martin Greenwald, deputy director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center and project lead, told The New York Times.

Fusion power remains elusive, but the tech promises to one day become a safe and clean way of producing energy by fusing atomic nuclei together like the Sun. Despite almost a century of research, though, nobody has managed to pull it off yet.

SPARC, one of the largest privately funded project of its kind in the field, would be a first of its kind: a “burning plasma” reactor that fuses hydrogen isotopes to form helium, with no other input of energy needed.

Thanks to progress in the field of superconducting magnets, the team hopes to achieve the same performance as far larger reactors, such as the gigantic ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) reactor, which started assembly in July.

The magnets are used to contain the extremely hot and high pressure reactions going on inside the reactor, one of fusion’s greatest challenges.

According to the team’s calculations, SPARC should be able to produce twice as much fusion energy compared to the amount needed to generate the reaction. That would be a massive jump, since no researchers have managed to break even yet.

In fact, in the papers, the researchers note it could be theoretically possible to generate ten times the amount — though there’s plenty of work ahead before they could say that for sure.

The MIT team is hoping to construct its compact reactor over the next three to four years, with the eventual goal of generating electricity starting in 2035, the Times reports.

“What we’re trying to do is put the project on the firmest possible physics basis, so that we’re confident about how it’s going to perform, and then to provide guidance and answer questions for the engineering design as it proceeds,” Greenwald said in an official statement.

Source: https://futurism.com/strange-research-paper-black-hole-center-earth

05 Oct 2020
DRIVING INNOVATION IN STARTUPS WITH DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES

DRIVING INNOVATION IN STARTUPS WITH DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES

Thriving and sustaining in today’s digital age requires a startup to focus on business values of both customers’ and employees’ along with their expectations. Large, successful companies already realize their core competencies and services, establishing themselves as the go-to-market place for a particular outcome. But the startup ecosystem across the world is in its infancy, requiring to be more agile and nimble in the modern competitive business landscape. With that being said, disruptive technologies can be a key enabler for companies seeking to drive innovation and efficiency.

Not every technology may revolutionize the business functions but some truly do have the potential to disrupt the status quo and pave the way for new revenue streams. Though more and more organizations look to deliver innovative products and services to their customers and thrive in the complex and changing environment, they must explore disruptive technologies that are continuously advancing at a rapid pace and set to transform life, business, as well as the global economy.

Reconceptualizing Your Business with Disruptive Technologies

It is no wonder that technology is rapidly becoming an inextricable part of human life and business alike. Indeed, reports show that technology will have a significant prominence over the next coming years, and this is where startups must embrace it to become innovative and productive. Let’s go through some disruptive technologies that are already impacting the business world and how startups can leverage it for their betterment.

Artificial Intelligence

AI has the potential to process troves of data and come up with actionable insights in order to assist in the decision-making process within an organization. It can enhance decision-makers’ forecasting ability to improve business operations. AI can also be used to transform marketing from the roots. Leveraging AI-driven tools to improve different aspects of marketing, manage digital campaigns and automate other business processes can be advantageous for startups. Business leaders can also use AI as a reliable alternative to traditional data security solutions, and identify distrustful behavior on their company websites.

Robotic Process Automation

Moving great ideas from blueprint to reality in today’s business arena can be a daunting task. But once prepared to drive that level of innovation, companies require much effort and a shift towards advanced technologies. That is where RPA can help. It simply automates menial tasks, without any need for human intervention. While businesses have to deal with a voluminous amount of data but don’t have the means to fully capitalize on it, RPA can help them through understanding all the data mining processes and provide meaningful insight to reap much value.

Big Data and Analytics

Large enterprises have long been taking advantage of data analytics. However, for startups and SMEs, it is a whole different story. Small companies need to whetstone in on data streams that will help them reach their goals and meet their business objectives. Already, big data and analytics has had a deep impact on organizations’ ability to better advance their decision making, identifying areas to cut costs and allowing for massive economic gains. Startups can use this technology to unearth concealed opportunities, recognize trends and patterns, problem areas and strengths.

The potential benefits of such and other technologies are incredible, but they also draw a set of challenges that businesses need to be prepared for their impact. If business leaders think and move strategically in the face of continually evolving technology landscape, they can get the most out of their technology implementations and respond effectively to uncertain consequences.

Technology Can Move Startups Beyond Conventional Tactics

Today, the rate at which businesses are adopting new technologies is tremendous. Moreover, the time it takes for a new technology to reach mainstream business is expediting exponentially. The time has changed now when one would have to quote oneself as an innovator. With the evolution of new-age technologies, companies just need to realize their potentials along with business objectives and move ahead by integrating them accordingly. They must determine which technology is best suited for their business requirements and help propel business excellence.

If implemented appropriately, disruptive technologies can introduce an entirely new business model and a new growth market. They can also bring new opportunities for startups and help address unrealized needs. Embracing such technologies can also help in bolstering businesses’ visibility, their reach to the target audience, and offering a highly personalized approach.

Source: https://www.analyticsinsight.net/driving-innovation-in-startups-with-disruptive-technologies/

03 Oct 2020
How to Innovate Securely with Emerging IT

How to Innovate Securely with Emerging IT

Future growth depends on continuous innovation with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, quantum computing and extended reality (XR). But how can organizations adopt these technologies securely and reduce risk?

Accenture’s Security Technology Vision 2020, “Innovating at Speed and Scale with Implicit Security,” provides important answers. The cybersecurity study spanned 500 business and security executives at companies across multiple industries with $5 billion+ in revenues.

Based on Accenture’s pioneering cyber research, the report identifies an elite set of global enterprises—what we call the “alpha innovators”—and the differentiating actions they’re taking to achieve continuous innovation securely.

How the alpha innovators differentiate
First and foremost, the report provides data-driven insights into how these alpha innovators are differentiating for competitive advantage. Their approach and security acumen to do innovation in a risk-managed way takes deep preparation, bold action and ongoing commitment.

Specifically, we looked at how the alpha innovators:

Bring innovation into their lifecycle to drive business growth and scale their approaches
Engage across the organization to innovate and behave collaboratively
Demonstrate agility and apply Security practices to de-risk adoption
Build trust in the process with customers, employees, ecosystem partners and governments.
Two overarching data points resonate loud and clear:

1) Alpha innovators are investing heavily and simultaneously in three or more emerging technologies—AI, 5G, Quantum and XR.

2) At the same time, they are collaborating with security executives from Day 1 and throughout the journey for secure innovation.

In fact, this theme of collaboration runs through many of the data results.

Not only are the alpha innovators integrating multiple emerging technologies across the enterprise, but they also have more maturity and a better understanding of how to secure these technologies. This is not a fluke. It takes regular engagement and collaboration between business and security executives to achieve their innovation objectives.

To help users better understand the alpha innovators’ differentiating actions, we condensed them into five power plays—multi-pronged strategy, risk mindset, borderless collaboration, culture of innovation and defense in depth. You can learn more about how to apply these traits into your organization by downloading the report.

Why it’s critical to secure emerging tech now

There is a second core theme revealed by the data that is concerning: underestimation. It’s no secret that AI, 5G, quantum and XR pose a major paradigm shift in security challenges. Even though most C-suite executives are assessing the security risk of these new technologies, they are underestimating the challenges they pose.

The data shows that as companies get further along in the adoption journey, CISOs have a better risk IQ around what it takes to protect the organization; for example, across the expanded attack surface introduced by AI. In time, we would expect this better understanding of the risks to continue across 5G, quantum and XR.

But continuous innovation does not wait for bystanders. Underestimating what it takes to secure these technologies could have profound effects on both the initiative’s success and business growth potential.

That is why you are encouraged to jumpstart your understanding now of the power plays and of the emerging technologies, themselves. To help make sure your security approach is future-ready, we dedicated four sections of the report to Accenture viewpoints on the challenges to securing these technologies. Highlights include:

  • AI: Learn how to defend the new attack surface that AI presents, including expanded approaches for making machine learning models resilient to attacks.
  • 5G: Security challenges are escalated by 5G features such as virtualization, hyper-accurate location tracking and increased volume and speed of the network.
  • Quantum: This new computing paradigm presents numerous threats to organizations and data. Discover ways to safeguard against novel attack vectors, secure “transpilers” and prepare now for post-quantum cryptography.
  • XR: A variety of XR modalities present related vulnerabilities, especially when XR content is transferred over the cloud and AI recognition capabilities are on the cloud-as-a-service as well.

These emerging technology viewpoints are based on the combined knowledge and experience of our Security R&D group at Accenture Labs and experts across Accenture.

Source: https://www.eweek.com/innovation/how-to-innovate-securely-with-emerging-it

01 Oct 2020
Are You Ready for Tech That Connects to Your Brain?

Are You Ready for Tech That Connects to Your Brain?

People are investing more time and money in personal technology, such as smart speakers, smart watches, wearables, and VR headsets. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated our adoption of new technology and increased our reliance on it for social connection, entertainment, and educational experiences. As we spend more time at home, many of us are turning to technology to augment our reality. Wearables — such as smart earbuds, lenses, watches, rings, bracelets, and even fabrics — layer biometric data, audio interaction, and visual information over our lived experiences. As wearable technology becomes commonplace in our daily lives, there’s an even more intimate connection on the horizon with the rise of the brain-computer interface (BCI).

BCIs can connect to a human’s brain either internally or externally. They read the brain activity and process the activity into information, and can also communicate information back to the brain. BCIs have the potential to amplify human intelligence to superhuman levels, which is exciting for technologists and entrepreneurs, but begs the question: Are we, our businesses, and our technological systems ready for this change?

How do BCIs benefit us?

BCIs fall into two categories: invasive and non-invasive. Invasive BCIs are implanted into the brain and connect tiny electrodes to neurons to measure their activity. Invasive BCIs, like Neuralink, require brain surgery — doctors drilling into the skull to implant the device and high-precision surgery robots to correctly attach the microscopic electrodes to neurons. Invasive BCIs capture better data and can be implanted in various regions of the brain. Invasive BCIs have been effective in treating spinal cord injuries, controlling prosthetic limbs, and treating depression. Non-invasive BCIs require no surgery, but depend on noisier signals from electroencephalogram (EEG) and infrared devices worn on the head. AI is used to isolate the brain signals that the BCI devices capture, as well as synthesize signals back into the brain.

Examining the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

BCIs have brought about incredible advancements in the medical field, and have been largely funded by the Department of Defense through DARPA. DARPA’s Brain Initiative is working on an impressive breadth of BCI projects that aim to help the body heal itself, restore sensory deficits caused by injury, and augment military service members by allowing them to operate drones, silently communicate, and integrate into defense systems. Companies like Kernel, Qneuro, NeuroSky and EMOTIV are rapidly moving toward widely-available devices and less-invasive BCI methods. These companies are working to measure and assess brain activity for a variety of uses, from playing games and stress reduction to typing out words by thinking them. Muse is a commercially available device that uses EEG to record and display brain data as a meditation aid. Even Facebook has been developing a BCI implant that reads brain activity, and is able to decipher a basic set of words.

Recently, there’s been a lot of hype around Neuralink, Elon Musk’s BCI startup. Neuralink demonstrated their implanted brain device reading and writing information to pigs’ brains in late August. Many neurologists downplayed the company’s demonstration in the context of advancing neuroscience. While the electrode technology displayed was advanced, there was little discussion of how the company would make sense of brain activity. One of the main goals of the demonstration was to attract talent to Neuralink and increase interest in BCIs to advance neurology and hardware. Musk has promised that Neuralink would start human trials by the end of 2020 with the aim of treating people who have severe neurological disorders.

How might BCIs evolve?

In the distant future, if BCIs are successful at reading and writing information to the brain, and if humans adapt to the technology, we could experience some pretty amazing scenarios. Imagine having telepathic conversations with loved ones, instantaneously accessing superhuman computational power, playing back memories and dreams, or immersing yourself and every sense you possess into a virtual entertainment experience. These scenarios are currently influencing the work of researchers, technologists, and futurists. In her book Artificial You, researcher and futurist Susan Schneider imagines a “Center for Mind Design” as follows:

“Hive Mind” is a brain chip allowing you to experience the innermost thoughts of your loved ones. “Zen Garden” is a microchip for Zen master-level meditative states. “Human Calculator” gives you savant-level mathematical abilities. What would you select, if anything? Enhanced attention? Mozart-level musical abilities? You can order a single enhancement, or a bundle of several.”

In a recent episode of The Artificial Podcast, futurist and technologist Brian Rommele described his vision for “The Intelligence Amplifier”:

“Let’s call it a holographic crystal memory that can hold petabytes of data, meaning maybe three lifetimes worth of video. That’s what petabytes of data means — live video of your entire life. Not so somebody can see it, but so it can be interpreted by your intelligence amplifier. So, it can build context so that you can now be a stronger you, a smarter you, from the moment you’re born.“

These are optimistic visions of the future of BCIs where users are in control of their BCIs and any applications installed on them. But, there are many outstanding questions for how we could ensure a bright future: Who will own the data generated by our brains? Will brain data be bought and sold by data brokers like other personal information today? Will people be forced to use certain BCIs that surveil their brain activity (for example, to make sure you’re paying attention at work and school)? Will BCIs put peoples’ brains at risk of being hacked? As with all new technology, more of these philosophical questions will need to be investigated and answered before there is widespread adoption and use of BCIs in the future.

How can we prepare for the future of BCIs?

It’s impossible to predict what will happen in the future. As is the case today with modern technology, we can be sure we’ll continue to grapple with philosophical questions as BCIs and humanity evolve. Those currently working in the space already have discussions about BCIs’ impact and how they can help and hinder humans. The more intimate the technology becomes, the more magnified unresolved issues like privacy, security, and closed ecosystems become.

Reduce AI Bias

Wearables and BCIs provide users access to a wealth of information, but simultaneously gather an abundance of biometric and personal data about those users. The same artificial intelligence (AI) these devices use to amplify human intelligence is being leveraged by companies to make sense of all of the data captured. AI bias will become an even bigger problem as companies use this technology to automate more decision-making.

Companies developing AI strategies should seek talent from marginalized groups to develop data management processes and attempt to remove AI bias. For companies not currently developing an AI strategy, it’s important to begin thinking about how AI impacts your industry. Today, most AI is fairly invisible and many people are surprised to learn the extent to which AI is used for things like choosing mortgage borrowers, regulating traffic flow, and trading stocks. Imagine a future where we are aware of and have control of the decisions AI makes for us so we can understand why those decisions are made.

Promote Digital Security and Privacy

If our personal technology continues to require an internet connection, we’ll face significant security tradeoffs as any networked device poses a vulnerability for hackers to exploit. Companies need to radically rethink their approach to digital security as an exploited BCI could cost someone their life. Users want more transparency and control — personal AIs can be employed to help users monitor and manage their own security.

The large corporations that create and operate AI platforms and devices already gather, analyze, and sell our personal data. Will these corporations continue to have unfettered access to our data and how will we be further exploited if BCIs are realized and the data captured is increasingly more intimate? Our society is becoming increasingly aware of and vigilant about privacy overreach.

Companies should develop stringent digital security measures and evaluate their privacy practices with the future in mind. We all should push for stricter privacy regulations — especially since technology giants are already brokering our personal data for advertising and profit. It is up to us to imagine a future in which widespread use of BCIs is a reality and put practices in place now that ensure the security and privacy of our minds.

Look to the Humanities

There is an increasing technological wealth gap that divides the haves and the have-nots. As wearables and BCIs become more common in the workforce, schools, and our daily lives, they could widen the gap further by creating large technologically poor populations. As Stanford’s Sebastian Thrun has said: “Nobody phrases it this way, but I think that artificial intelligence is almost a humanities discipline. It’s really an attempt to understand human intelligence and human cognition.”

We need to take a deeper look at the future of personal computing to imagine how humans and machines will merge and the effects it will have on society. Companies should focus more on the so-called “soft skills” of psychology, sociology, and anthropology to understand the impact technology has on users. Technologists must move from the “move fast and break things” mentality towards a more thoughtful approach, researching how the technology created impacts users and society. It is up to us to shape a future in which humanity is a priority and not an afterthought.

We are on the precipice of major societal changes fueled by issues like the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, and a stressed global economy. Many people are looking to technology like wearables and BCIs as a beacon of hope in these uncertain times. While it’s nice to imagine a future where a lot of society’s current problems are resolved using advancements in technology, it is up to us to ensure that we’re prepared. Let’s approach our future and new technology with both hope and thoughtfulness.

Source: https://hbr.org/2020/09/are-you-ready-for-tech-that-connects-to-your-brain

30 Sep 2020
Elon Musk: Neuralink brain implant will improve 'bandwidth' of human communication

Elon Musk: Neuralink brain implant will improve ‘bandwidth’ of human communication

We’re “already part electronic” due to our dependence on tech, the SpaceX and Tesla boss says in an interview with The New York Times.

Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain implant is currently being tested in pigs, but the SpaceX and Tesla CEO wants the brain-computer link device to supercharge human communication, he said in an interview with The New York Times published Monday. 

“We’re a 300 baud modem. Very slowly outputting information into our phone or maybe a little bit faster into a computer if you’re using 10 fingers,” he said on the Times’ Sway podcast. “And it’s just very hard to communicate. AI will diverge from us just because it can’t talk to us.”

Since we’re already so attached to our phones, computers and social media accounts, he reasons, putting a Neuralink chip in our brains wouldn’t be a huge change for humanity.

“It’s like you’re already part electronic, if you think about it. When somebody dies they still have their — these days, their electronic ghost is left around,” he said. “You know, their Instagram, Twitter or whatever. Facebook, their emails, their website — it’s all still there.”

Before it can improve the “bandwidth of our communication,” the device’s initial value will be in treating brain injuries, Musk said. But he noted that the project is still at “a very, very primitive stage.” Before it gets FDA approval, it’ll require intense examination to make sure it doesn’t have any adverse effects and is removable, he said.

During an event in August, Musk showed off Neuralink’s technology, which aims to build a digital link between brains and computers. A wireless link from the Neuralink computing device, which was surgically implanted into the skull of a pig named Gertrude, showed the animal’s brain activity as it snuffled around a pen. Neuralink has a medical focus for now, like helping people deal with brain and spinal cord injuries, but Musk’s long-term vision is more radical. He’s suggested Neuralink could be used for things like “conceptual telepathy” or people connecting to their own digital AI incarnations.

Source: https://www.cnet.com/news/elon-musk-neuralink-brain-implant-will-improve-bandwidth-of-human-communication/