Robots are surely not going to destroy the planet, or are they?

Elon Musk, the mastermind behind SpaceX and Tesla, believes that artificial intelligence is “potentially more dangerous than nukes,” imploring all of humankind “to be super careful with AI,” unless we want the ultimate fate of humanity to closely resemble Judgment Day from Terminator. Personally, I think Musk is being a little futuristic in his thinking after all, we have survived more than 60 years of the threat of thermonuclear mutually assured destruction but still, it is worth considering Musk’s words in greater detail, and clearly he has a point.

Musk made his comments on Twitter back in 2014, after reading Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom. The book deals with the eventual creation of a machine intelligence (artificial general intelligence, AGI) that can rival the human brain, and our fate thereafter. While most experts agree that a human-level AGI is mostly inevitable by this point it’s just a matter of when Bostrom contends that humanity still has a big advantage up its sleeve: we get to make the first move. This is what Musk is referring to when he says we need to be careful with AI: we’re rapidly moving towards a Terminator-like scenario, but the actual implementation of these human-level AIs is down to us. We are the ones who will program how the AI actually works. We are the ones who can imbue the AI with a sense of ethics and morality. We are the ones who can implement safeguards, such as Asimov’s three laws of robotics, to prevent an eventual robot holocaust.

In short, if we end up building a race of super-intelligent robots, we have no one but ourselves to blame and Musk, sadly, is not too optimistic about humanity putting the right safeguards in place. In a second tweet, Musk says: ‘Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.” Here he’s referring to humanity’s role as the precursor to a human-level artificial intelligence and after the AI is up and running, we’ll be ruled superfluous to AI society and quickly erased.

Stephen Hawking warned that technology needs to be controlled in order to prevent it from destroying the human race.
The world-renowned physicist, who has spoken out about the dangers of artificial intelligence in the past, believes we all need to establish a way of identifying threats quickly, before they have a chance to escalate.

“Since civilisation began, aggression has been useful inasmuch as it has definite survival advantages,” he told The Times.

“It is hard-wired into our genes by Darwinian evolution. Now, however, technology has advanced at such a pace that this aggression may destroy us all by nuclear or biological war. We need to control this inherited instinct by our logic and reason.”

In a Reddit AMA back in 2015, Mr Hawking said that AI would grow so powerful it would be capable of killing us entirely unintentionally.

“The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence,” Professor Hawking said. “A super intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble.

“You’re probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice, but if you’re in charge of a hydroelectric green energy project and there’s an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants. Let’s not place humanity in the position of those ants.”
The theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who has died recently aged 76, said last year that he wanted to “inspire people around the world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet”. Hawking, who until 2009 held a chair at Cambridge university once occupied by Isaac Newton, was uniquely placed to encourage an upwards gaze.

Enfeebled by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neurone disease, he displayed extraordinary clarity of mind. His ambition was to truly understand the workings of the universe and then to share the wonder.

Importantly, he warned of the perils of artificial intelligence and feared that the rise of the machines would be accompanied by the downfall of humanity. Not that he felt that human civilisation had particularly distinguished itself: our past, he once said, was a “history of stupidity”.

Here are 10 interesting insights into the life and viewpoints of Stephen Hawking. Sure, Stephen Hawking is a brilliant, groundbreaking scientist, but that’s not all …

Stephen Hawking had much to say on the future of tech after all, he was an expert: Hawking was one of the first people to become connected to the internet.

“So, we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.
“Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilisation.
While he saw many benefits to artificial intelligence – notably, the Intel-developed computer system ACAT that allows him to communicate more effectively than ever – he echoes entrepreneurial icons like Elon Musk by warning that the completion of A.I.’s potential would also “spell the end of the human race.”

Stephen Hawking co-authored an ominous editorial in the Independent warning of the dangers of AI.

The theories for oblivion generally fall into the following categories (and they miss the true danger):
– Military AI’s run amok: AIs decide that humans are a threat and set out to exterminate them.
– The AI optimization apocalypse: AI’s decide that the best way to optimize some process, their own survival, spam reduction, whatever, is to eliminate the human race.
– The resource race: AIs decide that they want more and more computing power, and the needs of meager Earthlings are getting in the way. The AI destroys humanity and converts all the resources, biomass — all the mass of the Earth actually — into computing substrate.
– Unknowable motivations: AI’s develop some unknown motivation that only supremely intelligent beings can understand and humans are in the way of their objective, so they eliminate us.
I don’t want to discount these theories. They’re all relevant and vaguely scary. But I don’t believe any of them describe the actual reason why AIs will facilitate the end of humanity.

As machines take on more jobs, many find themselves out of work or with raises indefinitely postponed. Is this the end of growth? No, says Erik Brynjolfsson:

Final thought: Artificial Intelligence will facilitate the creation of artificial realities  custom virtual universes  that are so indistinguishable from reality, most human beings will choose to spend their lives in these virtual worlds rather than in the real world. People will not breed. Humanity will die off.

It’s easy to imagine. All you have to do is look at a bus, subway, city street or even restaurant to see human beings unplugging from reality (and their fellow physical humans) for virtual lives online.

AIs are going to create compelling virtual environments which humans will voluntarily immerse themselves in. At first these environments will be for part-time entertainment and work. The first applications of AI will be for human-augmentation. We’re already seeing this with Siri, Indigo, EVA, Echo and the proliferation of AI assistants.

AI will gradually become more integrated into human beings, and Virtual platforms like Oculus and Vive will become smaller, much higher quality and integrated directly into our brains.

AIs are going to facilitate tremendous advances in brain science. Direct human-computer interfaces will become the norm, probably not with the penetrative violation of the matrix I/O ports, but more with the elegance of a neural lace. It’s not that far off.
In a world with true general AI, they’re going to get orders of magnitude smarter very quickly as they learn how to optimize their own intelligence. Human and AI civilization will quickly progress to a post-scarcity environment.

And as the fully integrated virtual universes become indistinguishable from reality, people will spend more and more time plugged in.
Humans will not have to work, there will be no work for humans. Stripped of the main motivation most people have for doing anything, people will be left to do whatever they want.

Want to play games all day? Insert yourself into a Matrix quality representation of Game of Thrones where you control one of the great houses. Go ahead. Play for years with hundreds of friends.

Want to spend all day trolling through the knowledge of the world in a virtual, fully interactive learning universe? Please do. Every piece of human knowledge can be available, and you can experience recreations of historical events first-hand.

Want to explore space? Check out this fully immersive experience from an unmanned Mars space-probe. Or just live in the Star Wars or Star Trek universe.

Want to have a month long orgasm with the virtual sex hydra of omnisport? Enjoy, we’ll see you in thirty days. Online of course. No one dates anymore.

Well, some people will date. They will date AI’s. Scientists are already working on AI sex robots. What happens when you combine the intelligence, creativity and sensitivity embodied by Samantha in the movie Her with an android that is anatomically indistinguishable from a perfect human (Ex Machina, Humans, etc)?

Deep learning algorithms will find out your likes, dislikes and how to charm your pants off. The AIs will be perfect matches for your personality. They can choose your most desirable face and body type, or design their own face and attire for maximum allure.
Predicting the future is always a difficult matter. We can only rely on the predictions of experts and technology observations of what is in existence, however, it’s impossible to rule anything out.

We do not yet know whether AI will usher in a golden age of human existence, or if it will all end in the destruction of everything humans cherish. What is clear, though, is that thanks to AI, the world of the future could bear little resemblance to the one we inhabit today.

An AI takeover is a hypothetical scenario, but a robot uprising could be closer than ever predicted in which AI becomes the dominant for of intelligence of earth, with computers or robots effectively taking control of the planet away from the human species, according to royal astronomer Sir Martin Rees, who believes machines will replace humanity within a few centuries.

Possible scenarios include replacement of the entire human workforce, takeover by a super-intelligent AI, and the popular notion of a robot uprising. Some public figures that we have discussed in this blog, such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, have advocated research into precautionary measures to ensure future super-intelligent machines remain under human control.

We need to watch this space…..

As Masayoshi Son once said:

“I believe this artificial intelligence is going to be our partner. If we misuse it, it will be a risk. If we use it right, it can be our partner.”

How to infuse boards with entrepreneurial spirit

I was recently having tea and a ‘meeting of minds’ with a great friend on the subject of executive board management and entrepreneurial spirit, the question ‘whether the mindset of boards can infuse entrepreneurial thinking objectively? ’

We all know that entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset and then a behaviour. It is an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It is a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement. It is about seeing the big picture and thinking like an owner, It is being agile, never resting on your laurels, shaking off the cloak of complacency and seeking out new opportunities. It is about taking ownership and pride in your organisation.
Despite the best intentions, too much success may ultimately lead to failure as employees in well-established companies focus on maintaining the status quo and following procedures instead of looking for new opportunities. Executives ultimately get a wake-up call when a svelte competitor swoops in and seizes market share by capitalizing on an untapped opportunity.

Dr. Glen Taylor, director of MBA Programs for Global Innovation at CSU once said “When things are going well, it’s natural for companies to thrive on their own logic and nurture a culture that resists change, but if you don’t consider new ideas and opportunities, eventually you’ll hit a dead end.”

Wherever you look in business, there’s a new level of interest in entrepreneurship. As attention at corporations swings away from retrenchment and toward growth, more and more people are wondering why some companies and not just start-ups are able to stimulate creativity and initiative among their employees more effectively than others. Beyond helping to trigger the impulse, what do those organisations do to convert intriguing ideas into commercial ventures?

Most managers whose companies have found success in fostering entrepreneurial activity agree that no single practice enables them to identify and capture new opportunities. For example, many companies have found that pushing decision making down into the organisation is only part of what’s needed. Building a culture of entrepreneurship often requires pulling and nudging a variety of other levers as well.

Many large companies are seeking ways of reinventing or revitalising their entrepreneurial roots.

These companies often long for some of the spark, innovation, speed and risk taking that they once had, but which have slowly eroded under the weight of size, bureaucracy, complex processes and hierarchy. Corporate entrepreneurship encompasses a set of activities, attitudes, and actions that are believed to help large companies regain some of this lost magic. Although much has been written about corporate entrepreneurship over the last ten years, very little is understood regarding its implementation within large company settings. First, the concept is little understood beyond the halls of academia, and there are very few guidelines regarding successful implementation.

Amazon.com has forced Barnes and Noble to re-evaluate and change some key aspects of its business model. Homeruns.com has changed the way many people shop for groceries, and Autobytel has forced GM and others to put up their own websites in direct competition with their own dealers. What’s going on?

The little guys are taking advantage of the big guys, and the big guys have to fight back … fast. entrepreneurship is quickly becoming the weapon of choice for many of these large companies. It is an attempt to steal and inculcate some of the thunder from these little entrepreneurial start-ups.

Corporate entrepreneurship can be a powerful solution to large company staleness, lack of innovation, stagnated top-line growth, and the inertia that often overtakes the large, mature companies of the world. Corporate entrepreneurship can also be hugely positive, a novel approach to new business development that often sits uncomfortably, sometimes impossibly, next to the planning, structure and careful organization many large companies have often built so carefully over the years.

Big companies are turning towards corporate entrepreneurship because they are not getting the continual innovation, growth, and value creation that they once had. Unfortunately, many CEOs look around their own company, and see very few entrepreneurially-minded executives. Perhaps they never showed up to work because of their dislike of large company bureaucracy and politics. Or those who did show up were either pushed out or learned to stop pushing. We may all love entrepreneurs, but large companies have a way of eroding their entrepreneurial underpinnings. In large companies, most managers are rewarded for minimizing risk, following the rules, and performing their functional roles to the best of their abilities. They look forward to a predictable rewards and, in many instances, a fairly predictable bonus.

Most big company executives would be hard pressed to call themselves value creators. They are quota and budget watchers. They are planners and organisers and more rule adherents than rule breakers. Big companies have slavishly gone after waste and redundancy with, sometimes, spectacular success. But these machinations rarely create long-term sustainable value for the shareholders. It helps the bottom line, but not necessarily the top line.

So how then can a corporate leader try to re-establish this start-up kind of mentality in his or her large company where the organisation’s sheer size and bureaucracy have managed to kill this type of behavior?

1. Corporate venturing involves starting a business within a business, usually emanating from a core competency or process. A bank, for example, which has a core competency in transaction processing, turns this into a separate business and offers transaction processing to other companies who need mass processing of information. In some organizations, functions like product development are tasked with being the people responsible for new venture creation. Ventures usually involve the creation, nurturing, and development of a new business that comes from within the old business, but represents a significantly new product or market opportunity.

2. Intrapreneuring, first espoused by Pinchot (1985), is an attempt to take the mindset and behaviors that external entrepreneurs have, and inculcate these characteristics into their employees. Sometimes the company wants every employee to act like an entrepreneur, but a more typical approach involves the targeting of a subset of managers to act as corporate entrepreneurs. Companies usually want this cadre of corporate entrepreneurs to identify and develop spin-ups (innovations in current businesses that can lead to substantial growth opportunities) or to create an environment where more innovation and entrepreneurial behavior is evidenced.

3. Organisational Transformation is another variation or flavour of corporate entrepreneurship concept especially if the transformation results in the development of new business opportunities. This type of entrepreneurship only fits the original Schumpeterian definition if the transformation involves innovation, a new arrangement or combination of resources, and results in the creation of sustainable economic value. Clearly, some transformations meet these requirements, while others do not. Transforming an organization by de-layering, cost cutting, re-engineering, downsizing, and using the latest technology does not guarantee that the organization will recognize or capture new opportunities.

4. Industry Rule-Bending is another type of transformation but focuses on changing the rules of competitive engagement. Stopford and Baden-Fuller (1993) label this behaviour as ‘frame-breaking change’. Toyota, for example, changed the rules of the game in the automobile industry by producing low cost automobiles with exceptionally high quality. As a result, US and European auto manufacturers were forced by Toyota and other Japanese automakers to follow suit. Thus, Toyota not only transformed itself, but also helped to start a wholesale transformation of the industry.

Companies can take a number of different approaches to becoming more entrepreneurial. AVCO Financial Services, a large international finance company was a very organized, detailed organization controlled by many governmental requirements in the management of their business. These governmental requirements demanded great attention to detail, complex systems, and daily financial reporting mechanisms. Not the stuff of entrepreneurial, fast companies. Nonetheless, AVCO was quite entrepreneurial.
They did not try to change the whole culture, or create a mass of internal entrepreneurs, nor dabble too far into corporate venturing, but it was still entrepreneurial. AVCO has operations all over the world, but mainly in the Americas, Europe, and in Asia. Much of their innovation and branch operations experiments were done in Australia.

Their reasoning was quite sound. First, Australia was far enough away from corporate headquarters in Irvine, California that the experiments could be undetected for months. And even if sanctioned, the experiments were being done in that odd country down under that seemed so remote to many at headquarters that it didn’t make much of an image on the corporate radar screen.
If innovation is the ability to recognize opportunity, then the essence of being an entrepreneur is being able to mobilise talent and resources quickly to seize that opportunity and turn it into a business. Particularly for big companies, the challenge is to find ways to nourish the activities that give rise to innovation while at the same time cultivating the ability to move decisively once an opportunity presents itself.

Finally, despite all of the aforementioned, when corporate entrepreneuring works, it can work spectacularly. And, if the company is serious and supportive of internal entrepreneurs, corporate entrepreneurship can be a powerful tool for innovation, growth, and personal fulfilment if approached thoughtfully and with courage of conviction.

As John C. Maxwell once said:

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

“Striving for an Ultimate Goal” – my chapter in ‘Journeys to Success – Volume 9’ (June 2018) + PODCAST

In the best-selling “Journeys to Success” series, men and women share their personal stories of transforming life-shattering events into triumphant success. The stories inside this book contain powerful seeds for resilience, spiritual awakening and plain determination in the face of powerful events. ‘Volume 9’ (to be published in June, 2018) is a dedication to the late Tom Cunnigham, who recently passed away. (Volume 7, at Amazon)

If you love stories of overcoming life’s challenges, this book is for you!

The Journeys to Success series has become an international sensation, international author and businessman Geoff Hudson-Searle has contributed his chapter: ‘Striving for an Ultimate Goal’.

The series has sold over 100 million copies in various formats including ebooks, hardback, and paperback, apps and audiobooks.

Geoff talking about his chapter in ‘Journeys to Success – Volume 9’:

Resources: Freedom after the Sharks

PODCAST (opens in new tab)