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25.11.20

[Q&A part 1] Humanity 5.0

On 3 November, 2020, Shivvy Jervis - Innovation futurist and expert in human potential - talked about some of the most extraordinary innovations, the ones that are going to move humanity forward and change how we do business - as illustrated in her ‘Humanity 5.0’ concept.

During this live talk, which was followed by nearly 500 people, many of you had questions to ask. Shivvy answers the questions still awaiting an answer in a two-part article.
In this first part, she looks at issues like the ecological impact of emerging technologies, worldwide disparities and the dangers as well as the benefits of these new technologies.

 

What are your thoughts on the ecological impact of the internet and the development of those new technologies?

The internet, and its associated technologies such as machine learning and IoE, does have an ecological impact that some aren’t aware of. These technologies rely on servers and drives that are housed in large sites that draw huge amounts of power in order to crunch numbers and transmit data.

Just how much power is a shock to many people. New estimates published in 2019 suggest that training a single AI can produce as much as 284 tonnes of carbon dioxide. For reference, it was stated that this was equivalent to the entire lifetime emissions of five cars. 

I think we need to begin to tackle this new source of environmental damage before it gets out of control. Luckily, we are now in a position to begin doing this. New environmentally-friendly algorithms are being developed which make better use of power, and major cloud providers such as Amazon and Google are investing lots of money and research into powering their cloud services with renewable energy. 

We must continue down this path to offset the potential environmental damage of new technologies. 

 

It seems that IoT is oriented at a business improval process. What about much bigger problems that humanity is facing? How can IoT technology help us live better together, be better connected to others, to our environment, live and act in a more sustainable way?  

The Internet of Things (IoT) is something I have termed IoE – the internet of everything. For the purposes of this answer, I’ll use IoT as it’s the term the majority of people still use. This is about objects ‘speaking’ to each other – a car to traffic lights, a doorbell or kettle to your phone, a car to its owner’s devices and in industrial settings vast interconnected machines all ‘speaking’ to each other about their health! It can help us pre-empt issues before they become a serious problem (for instance being alerted that devices or machines are developing a fault or malfunctioning). 

IoT is often touted in a business setting but it does have more obvious effects to our day to day lives. IoT fundamentally relies on sensors embedded into an object – your boiler, car, kitchen appliances for instance - and via connectivity, produce relevant information about that item. This data is then made sense of and triggers different options to the user and there plenty of examples of IoT being used for the greater good of humanity. Here are a 4-6: 

1// Food supply chains: A good one is the use of IoE and drones to monitor plant health, which helps farmers to lose far fewer crops to pests, disease, and even theft. In much of the wealthier west this means an increased profit margin, but for much of the world where a single bad harvest can have devastating consequences for the local community, this technology can make the difference between putting food on their table and famine.

2// Energy consumption and environmental gains: IoE is also frequently being used to reduce consumption of energy by mechanical tools or vehicles, as well as reducing wasteful processes in industry, transport, and monitoring air pollution. Cities account for a whopping 70% of the world’s harmful greenhouse gas emissions and each year more than 3 million people die from air pollution. 

Connected sensors can track air pollution and toxic gases to identify which streets in a city are the unhealthiest for its citizens, and help governments and city councils to mitigate this. 

3// Biodiversity: The IoE is currently being used in industrial settings to measure dozens of variables such as weather conditions, animal behaviour patterns, biodiversity, and more. This helps us keep track of the effect we are having on our environment on a scale never before envisioned. It can therefore help us realise the impact we are having whilst also helping us to maximise yields and prevent pollution. 

4// Personal health: Cyrcadia Health are developing a bra chock full of safe sensors that aims to spot abnormal patterns associated with early stage breast cancer. These wearable patches identify circadian temperature changes over time within breast tissue. 

In 2018, trials with cancer patients undergoing treatment found that those treated with the help of aftercare IoT wearables suffered fewer side effects from both the cancer and its treatment due to a much more personalised treatment regime. In 2017, IoT sensors were developed that when worn would detect an asthma attack before it even commenced, meaning that preventative measures could be taken to prevent a severe attack and make it mild instead. 

5// Safety: Connected technologies are being used to help human rescuers be alerted to and arrive at accidents or emergencies faster. Their use in emergency services and in rescue vehicles is a great example of how IoT can translate to true on-the-ground impact. 

Then you’ve got IoT and advanced AI working in sync. Examples include automated or semi automated vehicles – where cars can sync up with traffic lights, coordinate braking with othercars and predict when another vehicle may be about to veer into your lane; or in energy consumption via connected home devices such as thermostats. 

 

Is there a risk that with connected technologies of losing human contact? Is there a risk that man could become a slave to the machine? 

I constantly champion that technological progress is only valuable when it grows at the same pace as humanity. Innovation must augment human efforts, not displace it. 

The IoT and associated technologies have a lot of benefits to health, from prevention to diagnostics to treatment. However, there is always the chance that individual humans can become addicted to technology. This isn’t so much a fault of the technology as it is the circumstances and predisposition of the individual. There are many who we might know that spend an unhealthy amount of time on social media or on gambling websites that negatively impact their lives. 

The key is to teach people how to use technology responsibly, and perhaps even design future systems to make it more difficult to use it in an unhealthy manner. Instead of being the cause, connected technologies could help to be the cure for many ‘slave to the machine’ -esque fears. In the workplace, it could help make sure employees are not being overworked, that stress levels remain low, and that safety procedures are being followed. It could enable accountability and ensure that workers’ health is being looked after. 

In our personal lives, as long as connected tech remains a human tool and not a replacement for human interaction, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. 

 

Does emotionally aware AI work the same way in different parts of the world? For instance, some cultures are reluctant to show their emotions – could that cause an issue with the technology? 

Emotionally aware AI as I have been calling it for the past five years is where the system can perceive, interpret and respond to human emotion. It’s a form of emotion analytics that uses this information safely to provide the user with an interaction in a fully contextualised way, factoring in the state of mind or mood of the human into the way it answers. This is of particularly use in systems that have a back-and-forth dialogue with us such as our smart home assistants, ecommerce bots and even road safety software. 

The key thing many people forget about AI is that it is only a reflection of the data that it is fed. This has long been a fault not of AI, but of the people designing it. Fortunately, thanks to several high-profile discrimination examples in HR (Amazon’s discriminatory recruiting tool) and Law Enforcement (Detroit Police’s unintentionally racist facial recognition software), much more thought is being put into what kind of social data we use in AI - and this is now being reflected in AIs that are designed to be used with a regional or local focus. 

Training AI on data generated by the community it is meant to serve means that emotional AI can exhibit the local language, customs, and nuance that it needs to be effective. It could even learn regional accents - though this would limit the AI’s usefulness to a specific sector. Many Americans would struggle with a Geordie Alexa, for example! 

A historical focus on the Queen’s English and training on commercial data made much technology famously difficult for people with strong accents (think Scottish, Indian, Geordie, or Cornish) to use. Luckily, this is being addressed and modern systems are far better at this.

In future, it is probable that major international corporations will develop emotional AIs for each region, rather than a catch-all, due to the vastly increased user-friendliness and subsequent quality. This would be vital for cultures with radically different cultural rules to one another, to avoid causing offense.

Innovation must augment human efforts, not displace it.

Shivvy Jervis, Innovation futurist and keynote speaker

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