There are creatives, there are designers, there are engineers, there are entrepreneurs, there are artists and there could be someone with really big imagination.
But in the next 20 years, there will be more change around the way we do our work than has happened in the last 2000 years.
If we get into some history lessons, there were three major historical eras
1. The Hunter-Gatherer age which lasted several million years
2. Agricultural Age that lasted several thousand years
3. Industrial age that lasted just a few decades
We are on the cusp of the next era as a species - The Augmented Era.
The age where natural human capabilities are going to be augmented by computational systems that help you think, robotic systems also known as cobots that help you make, and a digital intelligence system that connects you to a world far beyond your natural senses. If you are wondering when this era would start, I would say were are already in the beginning stages of it.
Imagine you're completely in a new city, and you might want to find a way to the best authentic local cuisine and you don't know the answer to it. If you are "augmented" with a mobile phone, in a few seconds, you can know the answer. But, this is just a primitive beginning. Even Google Assistant is purely a passive tool. As a matter of fact, for the last three-and-a-half million years, every tool we've had have been completely passive. You tell them something and they exactly do that - nothing more. The very first tool made by early man out of a stone only cuts where we stuck it.
The improvised tool called as knife made of aerospace grade metal still does the same thing. And even our most advanced tools does nothing without our explicit direction. A computer is still not an exception where we literally need to use our hands to get things done.
Augmented Intelligence is much different - The computer will understand that I would like to taste a local authentic cuisine, asks me if I would fancy an option as such and plans everything around it to make that happen. Which includes - finding the best restaurant possible, booking a table, finding the best route possible depending on traffic conditions and finally booking a ride.
In industrial applications, I just want to say, "Computer, let's design a house," and the computer shows me a house. And I say, "No, more modern, and less Roman," and bang, the computer shows me another option. All of this happens by understanding my tastes and preferences.A significant amount of research is already happening in this direction. Several tools are making this leap from being passive to being generative. Generative design tools like knowledge based engineering clubbed with neural net algorithms to synthesise geometry can come up with new designs with zero human intervention. All that augmented intelligence needs are your goals and your constraints.
Augmented intelligence will have the capability of finding millions of solutions that match your criteria. It can come back to us with solutions that we, by ourselves, never could've imagined. These algorithms should be designed to work the same way evolution does.
Airbus already experimented with the concept of generative design with their new line of A320 program. It's a 3D-printed cabin partition that's been completely designed by an algorithm. It's stronger than the original yet half the weight. The most interesting part is the way that it's output resembles the dream of every Finite Element analyst - combine FEM, metallurgy and design principles to produce things that are stronger and lighter.
The current state of augmented intelligence is they can come up with their own solutions to our well-defined problems. But, they still have to start from scratch every single time. And that's because they never learn and they are not connected.
In 1952, an algorithm could play Tic-Tac-Toe
45 years later in 1997, Deep Blue beats Kasparov at chess - A historic moment
14 years later in 2011, Watson beats two humans at Jeopardy - Another historic moment
5 years later in 2016, AlphaGo beats Go master Lee Sedol - Yet another historic moment. In fact, in Go, there are more possible moves than there are atoms in the entire universe.
Algorithms are getting smarter and yes, there will also be loss of jobs that are repetitive kind. But, there will be even more created as humans would eventually become collaborators with Augmented Intelligence. When the car was first invented, many horse carriage drivers lost their jobs. But, a new type of job called car driver was created. The rest is a history which transformed the world into a connected logistics hub.
Intuition is something that Augmented Intelligence will be able to develop. You've composed a nice music track and you will be able make a computer listen to it. It might say, "Sorry buddy, that's an awful track and you might want to try a new one". Much more importantly, you will be able to work with a computer to solve a problem that you've never faced before. Climate change, global warming, cancer research, new vaccine generation and a lot more. Technology will amplify our cognitive ability enabling us humans to see corners that we would've missed out in plain sight - as un-augmented humans.
But how will technology augment us ? In virtual world with it's intuition and in the physical world - robotic systems (no... I am not talking about Terminator or Dooms Day).
I am much more interested in the idea of "Cobots" also called Collaborative Robots. Humans and robots working together are going to compliment each other, and start solving new problems that are humanely impossible to solve. Yeah - something like Iron Man.
Tasks like riveting in manufacturing shop floor or cutting out holes for light switches in drywall are repetitive tasks. These are the places where collaborative robots would come into a picture. We tell the cobot to do what we wanted it to do and it just does some stuff for us.
A nice example of such experiment is robotically printing the world's first autonomously manufactured bridge.
Computers are going to augment our mental ability to imagine new solutions, robotics are going to help us build and make things that we've never imagined before. But what about our ability to sense and control these things ? The human nervous system tells us everything that's going on around us. For instance, a truck doesn't inform the city's administration that it just hit a pothole at the corner of Rue du Gorp. A clothing outfit doesn't tell its designers whether or not the user is comfortable in it. Engineers, designers or any other product developers would like to have as much insight as possible to just make stuff that people want in the first place. Internet of Things is the beginning of it but including the collected data into the design and manufacturing process is altogether a different thing. What I am talking about is a digital intelligence system that connects us to things to build better things.
We will see a world where we move from things that are fabricated to things that are farmed, things that are constructed to things that are grown, from being isolated to being connected. We will eventually move away from extraction to embrace aggregation. We will stop craving obedience from our things and will start valuing autonomy.
With augmented intelligence, our world will change dramatically. There will be more variety and connectedness, more dynamism and complexity.