Becoming next-level humans

Becoming next-level humans

Welcome to this week’s LEAP:IN newsletter. Each week, we unpack leader’s powerful quotes and decipher the tech landscape. With exclusive content from some of the world’s leading experts in AI, robotics, space, edutech, climate tech and more, read on to discover this week’s insights and subscribe to receive weekly updates direct to your inbox.

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Dr. Andrew Sutherland (Senior Vice President of Systems and Technology Business EMEA, Oracle) 

What Sutherland said:

“I don’t need top technology to give me more physical strength. I now need technology to help expand my mind and my brain.”

AI is doing exactly that 

In the not too distant future, AI will surpass human brain capacity. 

Human-brain scale AI is under development by the I4DI consortium, supported by the Slovakian government with EU-allocated funds. The initiative aims to build a 64 AI exaflop machine – with 64 billion, billion AI operations taking place per second. It’s an AI supercomputer

But even now in 2022 AI is expanding the power of the human brain by taking on repetitive, formulaic tasks and completing them in a fraction of the time – giving humans more time to focus on imaginative, innovative uses of our cognition. 

AI flies planes

You know that feeling when you get on a flight and the pilot starts speaking? Sometimes the sound of their voice is really calming and reassuring and you feel great because you know you’re in good hands while you’re in the air; but sometimes the pilot’s voice is a bit shaky, a little unsure, and you feel like they’re probably going to lose control of the plane and you’re going to plunge to your doom in a flying metal can.

Well, you don’t really need to have those feelings at all anymore. Because as noted in The New York Times, Boeing 777 pilots only spend about seven minutes per flight actually doing any manual flying. The rest of the time, the plane is controlled by AI – the pilots keep an eye on everything but don’t intervene unless something unexpected happens. 

In effect, AI is allowing pilots to become more like flight consultants that support the machine processes. 

In 2021, Boeing also started to test flights with uncrewed aircraft, operated only by AI. These tests were part of the company’s defence aircraft arm, but the tech has the potential to autonomously operate passenger aircraft in the future.

Human memory could be supported by machines

With global life expectancy higher than ever before at 72.6 years, human memory is increasingly an area of interest in life sciences. Can technology enhance memory and/or reduce memory loss?

Yes. First, assistive AI can help to fill in care gaps for those with memory loss so it’s just a bit easier to cope. Existing AI tech can support memory loss patients with day-to-day life management, increase their engagement in activities and social life, and support professionals and family members with patient care. 

But now AI is beginning to take memory support to a new level. Suman Kanuganti is the Founder and CEO at Personal.ai, and previously founded Aira – an app that provides visual experiences to people with sight impairments. Kanuganti’s business philosophy is all about leveraging tech to empower human beings; not replacing their skills, but enhancing and supporting them. 

Personal.ai blends AI with neuro-linguistic tools to create an AI model that is based on the individual user, that represents that user as authentically as possible, and that can then act as an extension of that individual’s mind. 

Limitless, not lazy

Some critics argue that AI is making people lazy

But we think AI tech is creating more possibilities, expanding our potential, and bringing us closer to our loftiest goals. 

And…

Osama Al Zoubi (Chief Technology Officer at CISCO MEA) 

What Al Zoubi said:

“We believe the biggest task we have at hand is to bridge the digital divide, through the creation and the expansion of the internet.” 

Agreed.

AI is expanding human capacity for growth and change, and extending the limits of our own intelligence. Tech is making the impossible possible. 

But none of this will mean much if not everyone’s included – and as of right now, it’s estimated that 2.9 billion people in the world have never used the internet in their lives, while 3.8 billion don’t have consistent access. 

What’s the solution?

Here’s the thing: there isn’t just one solution. Because the reasons that different demographics, communities, and individuals don’t have internet access are varied. 

If there was one solution to cover all of the unconnected people in the world, it’d be research. Find out why they don’t have access. Because only when tech companies and governments understand the causes of being unconnected can they begin to address the problem. 

Reasons people aren’t connected might include…

Existing research has identified a number of common barriers to connectivity in different regions of the world. They include:

  • Infrastructure. This isn’t just about mobile data and wifi infrastructure – 770 million people currently live without electricity, the majority of them on the continents of Africa and Asia.
  • Affordability. This is a growing problem as relative prices of fixed broadband services rose to 3.5% of gross national income per capita globally in 2021, up from 2.9% the previous year. Mobile data costs have also increased.
  • Awareness, skills, and cultural acceptance. According to Unesco’s Global Education Monitoring Report 2022, approximately 771 million adults globally lack basic literacy skills, and 98 million of those are aged 15 to 24. Women account for 63% of all illiterate adults. Without literacy, using the internet is very, very difficult – and it’s marginalised groups and poor communities/countries that struggle most. 
  • Local adoption. Estimates suggest that about 80% of online content is available in only 10 languages. But there are over 7,000 languages in the world. 

Research aside – what solutions has tech come up with? 

Let’s not really put the research aside. Because research is everything.

But tech innovators have been developing some exciting ways to get more of the global population online. 

Like Project Loon’s internet balloons that float at the edge of space. An Earth-based telecoms company would transmit internet connection to these solar-powered balloons, which would then bounce that connection back to users on Earth. And Facebook’s unmanned aircraft, Aquila, powered by efficient motors and solar cells. The idea is that it’ll float 60k miles above Earth for about three months at a time, transmitting data at fibre-optic speeds via laser beams. 

Why does it matter?

Because, as the World Wide Web Foundation put it, internet access in 2022 isn’t luxury – it’s a basic right. 

More and more, those who are not connected will be left out, and left behind. Digital services and the economic opportunities that exist in digital spaces can’t only be available to people in certain countries, of certain cultures, or mainly to people of one gender. 

Inclusive access is essential to a sustainable future for everyone in the world.  

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