Tag Archives: star trek

I Already Live in the Future; so Should You

I live in the future.

I drive a Tesla electric vehicle, which controls the steering wheel on highways. My house in Menlo Park, CA, is a “passive” home that expends minimal energy on heating or cooling. With the solar panels on my roof, my energy bills are close to zero — and that includes charging the car. My iPhone is encased in a cradle laced with electronic sensors that I can place against my chest to generate a detailed electrocardiogram. Because I have a history of heart trouble, including a life-threatening heart attack, knowing I can communicate with my doctors in seconds is a comfort.

I spend much of my time talking to entrepreneurs and researchers about breakthrough technologies, such as artificial intelligence and robotics. These entrepreneurs are building a better future, often at a breakneck pace. One team built in three weeks a surgical-glove prototype that delivers tactile guidance to doctors during examinations. Another built visualization software that tells farmers about the health of their crops using images taken by off-the-shelf video cameras flown on drones. That technology took four weeks to develop. You get the idea.

I do, in fact, live in the future as it is forming. It is forming far faster than most people realize, and far faster than the human mind can comfortably perceive.

See also: AI’s Promise Is Finally Upon Us  

In short, the distant future is no longer distant.  The pace of technological change is rapidly accelerating, and those changes are coming to you very soon, whether you like it or not.

Of course, such rapid, ubiquitous change has a dark side. Many jobs as we know them will disappear. Our privacy will be further compromised. Future generations may never drive a car or ride in one driven by a human being. We have to worry about biological terrorism and killer drones. Someone you know — maybe you — will have his or her DNA sequence and fingerprints stolen. Man and machine will begin to merge into a single entity. You will have as much food as you can possibly eat, for better or for worse.

The ugly state of politics in the U.S. and the U.K. illustrates the impact of income inequality and the widening technological divide. More and more people are being left behind by innovation, and they are protesting in every way they can. Technologies such as social media are being used to fan the flames and to exploit ignorance and bias. The situation will get only worse — unless we find ways to share the prosperity we are creating.

We have a choice: build an amazing future, such as we saw on the TV series “Star Trek” or head into the dystopia of “Mad Max.” It really is up to us; we must tell our policymakers what choices we want them to make. The key is to ensure the technologies we are building have the potential to benefit everyone equally; balance the risks and the rewards; and minimize the dependence that technologies create. But first, we must learn about these advances ourselves and be part of the future they are creating. That future cannot be ignored.

You could say that I live in a “technobubble,” a world that is not representative of the lives of the majority of the people in the U.S. or in the world. That’s true. I live a comfortable life in Silicon Valley, and I am fortunate to sit near the top of the technology and innovation food chain. As a result, I see the future sooner than most people. The noted science fiction writer William Gibson, a favorite of hackers and techies, once wrote: “The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.” But from my vantage point at its apex, I am watching that distribution curve flatten — and quickly. Simply put, the future is happening faster and faster, and it is happening everywhere. Technology is the great leveler, the great unifier, the great creator of new and destroyer of old.

See also: Technology and the Economic Divide  

We are only just commencing the greatest shift society has seen since the dawn of humankind. And as in all other manifest shifts — from the use of fire for shelter and for cooking to the rise of agriculture and the development of sailing vessels, internal-combustion engines and computing — this one will arise from breathtaking advances in technology. This shift, however, is both broader and deeper, and it is happening far more quickly than the previous tectonic shift.

This column is based on Wadhwa’s coming book, “Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future,” which will be released this winter.

Cars That Self-Assess Accidents

“Star Trek” fans love to point out that, over the last five decades, many of the show’s futuristic technologies have gone from science fiction to fact. Mobile communicators (cell phones), non-invasive surgery (focused ultrasound surgery), food replicators (3D printers) and phasers (now being tested by the U.S. military) are but a few examples.

But in its own way, a show in the 1980s was just as prescient: “Knight Rider”– a show about the exploits of Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) and his car KITT, a talking, thinking and feeling car is nearly spot on.

In the show, this highly autonomous vehicle could map locations, conduct video calls and talk much like Apple’s Siri system. In reality that’s headed our way, automobiles that feel and virtually think will be made possible by technologies that include augmented reality, microscopic sensors and mini-microprocessors. These technologies will enable vehicles to perform a variety of tasks now done by humans – from assessing the damage caused by accidents and ordering replacement parts to booking rental cars and assessing liability.

Tomorrow’s vehicles will, in part, assume the roles of insurance adjusters, collision-repair technicians and drivers. And “tomorrow” may not be too far off.

“Smart Skin”

Already, engineers at the British defense, security and aerospace company BAE are developing a “smart skin” – a thin surface that could be embedded with thousands of micro-sensors (aka “motes”). The company says that when this layer is applied to an aircraft, it will gain the ability to sense wind speed, temperature, physical strain and movement with a high degree of accuracy.

According to several articles, the micro-sensors could be as small as dust particles and could be sprayed on the surface of the aircraft (and on a car or truck). The motes would have their own power source and, when paired with the right software, communicate in much the same way that human skin communicates with the brain.

Once sensory and virtual-reality technologies have evolved to the point where our vehicles can genuinely “feel” and evaluate changes to themselves and their environment, the main thing needed to complete this automotive Internet of  Things will be data – lots of real-time data that is freely exchanged between car owners, insurance companies, auto repair shops and auto manufacturers. Achieving a consensus among consumers and corporations about when, what and how much data should be exchanged may be a sticking point, but, once that agreement is reached, it will be just a matter of time before self-diagnosing cars start hitting the roads.

The Car of Tomorrow

Imagine a future in which your car is covered with an intelligent “skin” that monitors every component and function – from the engine to the exterior sheet metal.

Now imagine the moment your car gets into an accident. The car will instantly calculate how much damage has been done, where it was done and what needs to be repaired or replaced. This information will be quickly ascertained and collected by the vehicle’s computer. From there, it will be transmitted to the cloud, where it can be downloaded by a repair facility or insurance company. By viewing a three-dimensional virtual-reality image of the automobile, the repair technician and insurance adjuster could literally “see” – and almost feel and touch – the damage.

Imagine a time when all that damage is self-assessed by the vehicle. It diagnoses itself, feeds the information into estimating software and tells the collision-repair shop what needs to be done. The vehicle also determines how long repairs should take and even orders parts by automatically sourcing suppliers. All this ensures that your vehicle is fixed ASAP. In addition, your hyper-smart car can order a rental, so you’ll have alternative transportation while the claim is being processed.

All the information regarding your accident – the speed at which you were traveling, location, direction of travel, etc. – will be instantly transmitted to your insurer, enabling the adjuster to make more educated decisions. Think of all that information being fed to a predictive, cognitive claims system that can make intelligent recommendations, helping consumers receive the best possible outcome on every claim.

This is the future – an era when data, sensor and cognitive computing technology are meshed to create a seamless auto claims process that speeds repairs, handles claims more efficiently and provides an amazing customer experience.

How Vulnerability Can Make Us Stronger

Trust is a key to accomplishment through relationships.

Trust lubricates relationships. It lets people work as a team. Trust provides room to move and enables everyone to perform at their best. Trust isn’t the only key to successful teams, but very few succeed without trust.

One of the key ingredients of trust is vulnerability.

We trust people if we believe they spend their energy for our mutual benefit. We all operate for our own benefit, but we trust people who have some energy for us.

We all manage our appearance. We work out, brush our teeth, comb our hair (if we still have hair). We try to make ourselves presentable. But we also have radar for how much energy people spend on us. If our teammates spend all their energy on themselves, we become skeptical when they tell us they’re for us. We get skeptical if people spend all their time promoting themselves, making themselves look good.

When we perceive others to only be “in it for themselves,” we withhold trust. Remember the old (and new and new and new. . . ) Star Trek series? On the Starship Enterprise, energy was used to support life systems, propel the ship through space, fire the weapons and support the shields. If the shields were up and active, the ship consumed more energy and was less able to maneuver.

Vulnerability is operating with your shields down.

If your shields are up, we don’t trust you. When your shields are down, you’re free to use all of your energy in service to others.

As leaders, operating with our shields down means we’re free to do what’s best for everyone around us. We can spend our best energy to make others successful. We bring our best self and our best energy to serve our team, our customers or our friends. We become a peer, an encourager and someone who is free to truly empathize with our team. We make our team better, and that makes us the best leader we can be.

So, this week, resist the temptation to protect yourself by managing your presentation, trying to look like the boss or always being right. Be as vulnerable and transparent as you can. Your best energy will make you much more beneficial and helpful to others. They’ll grow more and succeed better with your help.

This article was previously published at the Lead Change Group.