Thursday, 31 March 2016

Brain like functionality on an IBM chip

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is much closer than you think.

The following article is a must read for anyone interested in the future, and how significant AI will become. The article describes the new AI chip from IBM:

IBM reveals the 'brain' supercomputer: 'neurosynaptic' chip can replicate 16 million neurons - and will help look after nation's nuclear weapons

In short the chip is wired like a brain with neurons [nodes] and synapses [connections between nodes]. This chip has one million digital neurons and 256 million connections.

It consumes 70 milliwatts of power running in real time and delivers 46 giga [billion] synaptic operations per second – much lower energy consumption than traditional computing technology.

It can solve a wide class of problems including those based around vision, audio, and multi-sensory input. It will probably revolutionize the computer industry by integrating brain-like capability into devices where computation is constrained by power and speed.

It could be used in portable devices: think smart phones, sensor networks, self-driving cars, robots, medical imaging, real-time video analysis, signal processing, and olfactory detection. This gives a whole new meaning to "smart phones".

It will also be used in supercomputers.

The chip can be used in combination with other cognitive computing technologies to create systems that learn, reason and help humans make better decisions.

See other amazing innovations in the Innovation Future Gallery

Laser detects micro-organisms on food: safer food

Pew! How Lasers Could Help Stop Food Poisoning

Robot live insects

Scientists create living ‘insect-computer hybrid’ with user-adjustable speed and gait

Live insects are made to walk by electronics.

Monitoring fluctuations in gravity

Using a refined version of the accelerometers found in smartphones, gravity measurements could become a whole lot more popular and useful...

Smartphone MEMs adapted to create affordable gravimeters

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

AI gets a job, as Creative Director

AI gets a job as Creative Director and it is not the first time either: there's another AI that gets to have its say at board meetings and gets a vote. So, not only are AI entities able to take manual labour jobs, they are able to take [or supplement] top decision making jobs too.

Watch out, next... An AI in human resources that says: "you're fired!"

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Can machines come up with more creative solutions to our problems than we can?

Can machines come up with more creative solutions to our problems than we can?

David Thomasson is the principal research engineer for strategic innovations at Autodesk, the company that creates 3D design software for manufacturing, entertainment, engineering, infrastructure and construction. Thomasson is part of Autodesk’s five-person robotics lab team, which is looking at the future of robotics and design. So far he’s worked on robotic film-making and 3D printing a metal bridge, and has just taught a robot how to draw, paint and tune into his facial expressions.

The article discusses some amazing things that computers, AI and robots will be able to do; and perhaps sooner than you think!

In the future, to make a bridge you will say to the computer that the bridge needs to connect to the ground on this side and on that side and it needs to hold a particular weight, now go and give us a few options that satisfy those requirements.  The computer will then present thousands of different options for suitable bridge designs. You can sort through that in terms of the look that you prefer or various other parameters that satisfy the need. It comes up with something that no human could possibly have imagined in the first place.

The article also describes a project to 3D print a metal bridge, and discusses the future design and construction of cities.

Our future: When there are no jobs

What will it be like in 50 years, when there are no jobs? The debates...

I think there will be three phases to our future technological development, and our attitudes and debate. These phases are: near future; near Singularity; and post Singularity. (The Singularity is the point at which AI is as intelligent as humans.)

The near future phase will continue with the types of debate we often see about the future. Often these are about capitalism versus communism. It’s a shame that most of these debates take radical bi-polar views and see everything just in black and white. There will also be continued suggestions that humans can create new jobs, in areas that AI cannot automate, so we don’t have to worry – after all we survived the industrial revolution, and overall it was beneficial.

Near the Singularity, it will become obvious just what technology and, in particular, AI can do. At this point, if society and governments have not agreed suitable sustainable policies for national and global societies then people could start to become very anxious. Some of the arguments in the earlier above phase suggest that, like the industrial revolution, humans will always be able to create new jobs. However, in this phase it will become apparent that, soon, AI will do nearly all of the jobs we do, and do them much more efficiently! This is the glimmer of a new dawn in society, and it is radically different because for the first time we can see that: our intelligence will no longer be the dominant intelligence on planet Earth! We have to concede that there is a smarter kid arriving…

Post Singularity, our debates might become increasingly irrelevant as AI exponentially accelerates its IQ level. We’ve all seen the sci-fi doom and gloom scenarios so I’ll not dwell on that possibility. Instead, hopefully, at this point governments and global society got its act together and put in place policies that gave every citizen of planet Earth a good equal and sustainable lifestyle. With everyone pushed up to the top of Maslow’s pyramid [hierarchy of needs] we need only pursue things that satisfy our ego. That might be spending more quality time with people, being artistic and creative (just for fun and leisure), and following the amazing discoveries being made in science and technology (by AI of course). There will still be one thing humans can do better than AI and that’s human emotions*. This leaves us free to pursue lives that focus on things that really matter, and to stimulate positive emotions, and have a great quality of life.

Note that I starred human emotions. This assumes that we agree to *not* give autonomous AI entities human emotions, because this might be unwise [given that not all of our emotions lead to positive outcomes]. Yes, it could be very beneficial for AI to *understand* our emotions [to help us become more positive, and less destructive] but it would be unwise [I suggest] for AI to be driven by human emotions.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Self cleaning clothes - no more washing?

Never wash your clothes again! Self-cleaning cotton removes dirt and smells when left by a light bulb for just six minutes

Based on nano-sized copper and silver added to the cotton fabric.

Moon base plans

There are plans to build a base on the moon, and this makes a lot of sense. The idea is to have a base near the moon's (south) pole, and 3D print the buildings using raw materials found on the moon.

Such a base would be useful for learning to live and manufacture in space, for space based research, for launching missions to Mars (and elsewhere), and for building a large radio telescope (protected from radio interference experienced on Earth). Oh, and there is an opportunity for tourism too.

Such a base would represent our first giant leap off the planet and boost space innovation.

In addition, the moon contains Helium3 which would be useful in producing a new generation of fusion reactors for either generating electrical power [although there is plenty of opportunity for harvesting vast amounts of solar energy], or for rocket propulsion to other planets, and beyond.

See more details in the article.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Innovation Future Gallery

Supercomputing speeds up development

Do you, and your organisation, still manually iterate product development? Does it take a long time to get a new product ready for market? Have you thought about using a computer to simulate aspects of your new product, so that you speed up the development process?

Here is an example of how supercomputers are helping to speed up the development of new technologies; in this case for the generation of power. However, the approach is also applied to many other sectors.

With Super-Computing, The Process of Disruptive Innovation In Energy Is Likely To Accelerate

Monday, 21 March 2016

Free Answers

Amazing Innovation Services Special Offer

So you want to be more innovative?

Here is just the ticket...

Benefit now from this Spring 2016 Special Offer.

Learn about innovation
Practice innovation
and Succeed

Quick, free course: What is Innovation? In just 2 to 20 minutes you will know what innovation is and be aware of the fantastic benefits it provides!

See what the future holds and prepare now for success. You can be part of that amazing innovative future.

Experience an innovative learning experience and benefit from a unique service that goes miles further than conventional training: training with impact!

Benefit from the course How to Innovate Effectively. Push your potential to realise your amazing innovations.

If you need week by week support to become an effective innovator then Innovation Coaching is perfect for you.

Do you want specialist advice, focused reports, and custom tools to stimulate the innovative abilities of your organisation? If so then Innovation Consultancy is what you need.

Benefit from innovative creativity and bright ideas. With this support you will benefit from a unique perspective and receive ideas that go way beyond what your own colleagues produced.

Spring Sale

Welcome to spring! Benefit from any of the above services with this 15% discount off all prices shown on the Innovation Future Specialist website.  To claim your discount simply include a reference to this page (bookmark it now), and make your purchase before the end of March 2016. (This discount may not be used with any other discounts or special offers.)

Friday, 18 March 2016

Road intersections without stop traffic lights?

Is this true or false?

A group of boffins has proposed that we could get rid of the red traffic lights at road junctions and instead group cars and control their speed when approaching a junction. This would reduce delay at junctions.

Click the link to see if this innovative idea is true or false?

3D printing for manufacturing in space!

3D printing may be on its way to conquering space, and launching a whole new industry: manufactured in space. This article describes what's happening:

Archinaut, a 3D Printing Robot to Make Big Structures in Space

There is one huge opportunity missing from the article's list: 3D printing massive solar panels, or solar reflectors, in space. This could solve our energy needs, and quickly remove the threat of global warming. That's a great win-win scenario for planet Earth.

Ethics for Future Innovations

Things are changing fast this century, but will the ethics keep up? This article is worth a read:

As Technology Barrels Ahead — Will Ethics Get Left in the Dust?

The Amazing World of 3D Printing

This is well worth reading.  With the factory in a box we can expect to see a huge change in manufacturing, and beyond...

How 3D Printing Is Transforming the Way We Make Things

AI inspiration from a detailed analysis of a brain

US Bets $100 Million on Machines That Think More Like Humans

Developing clever AI systems is not so much about programming these days, it's about copying how a brain works.

A Chip of Live Brain Neurons

This Amazing Computer Chip Is Made of Live Brain Cells.

Science fiction is rapidly becoming reality. The future of computing might be live neurons. It certainly adds a spin to the term "artificial" intelligence. The article shows how many neurons might be required to do some quite clever things, including a robot and a thinking computer with one million neurons.

We humans have about 86 billion neurons. The obvious ethics question is what is the maximum number of neurons that should be allowed? It's similar, in some respects, to the long held debate about what is the maximum age at which an unborn baby should, or should not, be aborted. When does a bunch of brain cells become a human...?

Google shows robot the door

Surprisingly, Google - or rather Alphabet - is showing the robot the door, as it is allegedly getting rid of its advanced robotics company. Is this a sound innovation strategy? Presumably this decision has been brought on by external factors: is there a need for Alphabet to show a profit [aside from Google's profits]?

Boston Dynamics up for sale

Google Lunar X PRIZE

An inspiring set of videos about people following their dreams and building their own moon rovers. The teams in the competition include people from all backgrounds across the world. A lot of them not only dream about sending something to the moon, they also aim to make the world a better place.

Google lunar X PRIZE

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

What is Innovation?

There is a whole lot of confusion out there about what innovation is.  You experience its benefits every day, so you do already know what innovation can achieve.   I still find it surprising though that many people, when asked, say that they do not know what innovation is.  In the 21st century, surely this is a bizarre situation when innovation is all around us.  
So, for the benefit of the public, business and any confused consultants, I have presented a simple, yet accurate, definition of innovation in the following quick free course.  This focuses on the outcome of innovation (not how to innovate).  It also includes some amazing examples of innovation that have benefited most of us: 11 "impossible ideas" that were turned into reality!
Learn what innovation is for free in just 10 minutes: What is Innovation?

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Cancer cure

Another potential cancer cure

AI beats champion

AI wins master of the Go game, which is said to be more complex than chess.

What's wrong with expert predictions about AI?

Unless you're living on Mars, or off the grid, then you should have seen some awesome predictions about artificial intelligence (AI) and what it might, and might not, achieve.  So what do the experts predict about the future of AI?  Let's put them into three camps:

  1. AI won't have much impact
  2. Bad things will happen
  3. Good things will happen

AI won't have much impact

There are a group of people that believe AI will not have much impact, at least not for the next 40 or 50 years.  This prediction is based on some or all of the following:
  • In past decades when AI was predicted to achieve great things it achieved very little
  • Software developers have often struggled to write effective AI systems (using traditional software approaches)
  • Looking back at history while trying to predict the future
  • Using analogies of manual automation to make predictions, instead of considering what happens when automation copies our greatest asset: not our physical abilities, but our intelligence!
  • A lack of knowledge of the big picture, as it is today
  • An inability to grasp the impact of future exponential progress, compared to the more linear progress of the past
  • Overlooking the ability of AI to rapidly self-improve, at a phenomenal rate of progress
So, as far as this group is concerned, they think that there is nothing to worry about.

Bad things will happen

In contrast to the above group, there is a group of experts, innovators and scientists that think AI will become super-intelligent.  They refer to a point called the AI Singularity, at which point computers become as clever as humans, but continue to improve their intelligence at an exponential rate of progress until they become much more intelligent than humans.

This means that once we become aware of their human like intelligence they may have moved on to become much more intelligent than us, before we've completed the debate on whether this is a good or bad thing.  This group expect the AI Singularity to be achieved within this century; some predict within the next 40 or 50 years; but some have been bolder and suggested 2029 [Ray Kurzweil, at Google/Alphabet/X].

Given that most of our infrastructure and our weapons are hooked into computer systems [and the Internet], and that military projects are actively developing robotic systems, there is a potential doomsday scenario where smarter artificial intelligence systems have access to control our infrastructure and our weapons.  What they would do with this power is, as yet, unknown.  It depends on the objectives of the AI, how it interprets what we're doing in the world, and how it evolves. 

Some people, including people at the UN, seriously think that autonomous killer robots should be made illegal across the entire world []. That sounds like a sensible, precautionary, approach; but will be be able to stop an illegal arms race in this area?

Another scenario, is that humans remain the masters of AI but they are controlled by just a handful of powerful billionaires.  Like the currently reported scenario where just 62 billionaires have the same wealth as the bottom half of the entire world's population, the future billionaires could keep all of the benefits of AI and automation for themselves.  And because, robots do all of the work there is no need for marketplaces for the billionaires to sell to the public, and some ruthless billionaires might even say why do we need the poor?  With an army of robots the billionaires would also be protected from the poor.  Such is the stuff of science fiction films; but also a possibility.

Good things will happen

Going along with the above group's predictions about the pace of change we still end up with super-intelligent computers, but this group believes that will be a good thing.  For example, these computers will be able to:
  • Cure all diseases
  • Prevent ageing, and
  • Do all of the work for us.
This utopian scenario means that we would be healthy and free to live a life of leisure, to pursue hobbies and interests, and to explore.

Who's right?

So which group is correct?  Well one of the mistakes that most predictors of AI impact make is that they forget this...  

Throughout history we have developed tools, and technologies, to amplify what a human can do. These have allowed us to have a bigger and bigger impact, and to do things faster and faster. But on planet Earth we have a population with a diverse range of views and objectives, and some use tools for the good of society, while others use tools for bad reasons (or personal advantage).

This means AI will probably be used for all of our human activities: the good and the bad.  The future might be a battle of AIs: the good versus the bad.  Alternatively, we can hope that AI sees beyond our petty violent squabbles and guides us to the above "utopian" scenario.

Innovation Future Specialist
Together we can make a difference!

Monday, 14 March 2016

What is Innovation?

Free course: What is Innovation?
Innovation Future Specialist

Vehicles that drive themselves

We've all seen the Google cars that drive themselves right?

Well cars that drive themselves will be tested in the UK.

True or False?

Lorries that drive themselves will also be tested in the UK, within two years.

Do you think this is true or false?

Click the link to find out if the article was true or false? 

Man planning to live forever

True or False?

A man is planning to live forever and aims to achieve this within the next 30 years!

Do you think that this true or false? (The answer shown below.)

Do you want to live forever?

Forever is a very long time, to put it mildly! So the first question might be... do you want to live forever? Some people have a quick answer to this: "no", or "yes". However, if we reflect on this for a moment then we can see potential pros and cons to both sides.

If you are susceptible to getting bored then it is easy to see how living forever could definitely become a challenge. However, if you live an active adventurous lifestyle with a positive attitude and an enquiring mind then living forever would allow you to explore every opportunity and participate in every adventure.

Perhaps, when it comes to the crunch most of us might opt to live forever. This was best portrayed in a lecture where the speaker turned this question on its head and asked... who wants to die? Not surprisingly there were no volunteers for that option.

How might you live forever?

Stopping ageing and disease

There are a number of research projects that are looking at this, either directly or indirectly. It has been found, in the laboratory, that life expectancy could be increased in a number of ways by: reducing the amount of food that we eat; eating foods that boost our health and protect against some ageing mechanisms; or, perhaps taking some [future] medication. Living forever also requires strategies to deal with all of the diseases that have the potential to be fatal. Clearly, that is a long list of challenges, but we are making progress in many areas, at different rates of progress.

So one way to live forever might be to stay healthy and benefit from future anti-ageing treatments. 

Thinking outside the box, or body

But is there another way of dealing with this? After all even if all of the above solutions stop ageing and offered the prospect of living forever, what happens if you are in a fatal accident? All of that effort might have been for nothing. Well there is also another approach to living forever...

If we could scan the brain in ultimate detail then we could, in theory*, put all of that data into a supercomputer and run that program. It would represent all of the details of that person's mind, including their conscious, subconscious, memories and personality. If the data was an exact copy of the brain then that computer copy would be an exact copy of the person's mind. 

This might sound far fetched but right now there are large projects running to scan human brains in incredible detail. Every neuron and its hundreds or thousands of connections to other neurons is being recorded and stored in a computer. This is a massive challenge as there are trillions of connections in the brain and it will require millions of Gigabytes of computer storage. Nevertheless this approach has already been successful in digitising part of a rodent's brain; and the Blue Brain project aims to have completed their task in just seven years [2023]! That's assuming everything goes to plan, then there's the challenge of learning what all this data means: learning how the brain works.

So once you have a brain in a supercomputer it can either be interfaced to a robot that can roam around the world like a person would, or it could be placed in the skull of a real human body, or it could just stay inside the computer and experience a simulated world [virtual reality]. On that latter point, some people already argue that we may already live inside a computer simulation [e.g. see Professor Nick Bostrom at Oxford University].

* The theory has a lot of scientific validity to it, and if every neuron and connection was exactly duplicated then it should duplicate the mind. Well, there is one area of doubt that we don't know the answer to yet: does the brain make use of quantum mechanics? This is the bizarre world on the molecular scale where strange things happen that defy common sense. It has already been shown that plants make use of quantum mechanics in photosynthesis, and other lifeforms may also make use of it, so this might apply to the brain too. If that were to be the case then a traditional supercomputer would not represent an exact copy of a brain and its mind. (But we have just started the development of quantum computers, which perhaps could make it possible, perhaps...)

True or False?

Click the link to find out if the article was true or false? 

Friday, 11 March 2016

100 Amazing Years of Innovation

Over the last 100 years, or so, we have benefited from the fantastic innovations shown below. Let us consider the achievements the human race has made in just the last 0.05% of its existence. In this relatively short time there has been an explosion of innovation!

Just over one hundred years ago all of the following achievements were thought to be very unlikely or "impossible", and in some cases not even envisioned, by the average person. Even some experts of the time thought that some of these things were impossible.
» Flight and flying faster than the speed of sound
» Landing on moon (over 230,000 miles away) ... and measuring its distance to an accuracy of a few millimetres!
» Space exploration across billions of miles and to the edge of our solar system
» Amazing scientific discoveries: Relativity; Quantum mechanics; Big bang (the start of our universe); The expanding and accelerating universe; and, Identification of the Human Genome (the details of your DNA)
» Computers
» Global multimedia communications and the Internet
» Video communications with a handheld device
» Imaging inside the human body (e.g. real-time video of a beating heart and ... a thinking brain)
» Text and speech language translators
» Robots (that can see, hear, build, walk and talk)
» Self driving cars
There are more examples, but the point is that in just 100 years, scientific discoveries and technological developments have achieved the "impossible".

Imagine what will be achieved this century...!

Impressive innovations, I think you would agree. Yet be prepared to be even more impressed... some experts are seriously predicting that this century will achieve 200 [yes, two hundred] times as much progress as the last century !!

Learn why you should innovate in the free, quick, course: What is Innovation?

If you already know the benefits of innovation then learn how to innovate.