Assisted evolution

Natural selection is Charles Darwin’s most celebrated theory.  It depends on the fact that in each generation there will be mutation. This mutation creates variation in a species affording some with an advantage to survive in a changing world.

Today we are seeing a new world emerging.  A world of rapid change, iteration and re-invention, even within a single lifespan.  This is the digital world.  As we observe the rise of the digital world we are also seeing the evolution of a new ‘breed’ of human, the Digital Human.  In place of favourable genetic mutations the Digital Human augments his or herself in a shroud of technology which is constantly mutating, iterating and updating, and bolting on modular upgrades as and when they see fit to suit their individual needs and desires.

The Digital Human feeds off data, and demands a highly personalised experience from the applications that they use and the services that they interact with.

The evolution of the Digital Human can be seen through the lens of the three technological topics in Aurora, our Horizon Scanning Programme: Intelligent Insight & Automation, Ubiquitous Interaction and Distributed Disruption.

Intelligent Insight & Automation explores the future of data beyond predictive analytics, through to prescriptive analytics and full robotics. Critically this technology is adaptive and able, like the most successful creatures in evolution, to respond to changes in its environment.  For the Digital Human analytics and automation platforms help them to understand the changing world around them and automate responses quickly to survive through, or take advantage of these changes.

The Digital Human feeds its desire for data through a ‘Device Mesh’, a shroud of devices and sensors connected to each other via the cloud.  These devices may manifest in many different forms from manual entry on a PC, to obvious collection on our smartphone and wearable devices to almost invisible gathering and transmission.  All of this data however is nothing without intelligent use of analytics to provide insight back to the user, automating changes, evolving with the world around them seamlessly.

The way that technology is able to play back its insights to us is critical to our digital evolution.  In order for us to interpret an all pervasive layer of information interactions must be subtle but clear.  Technologies like augmented reality offer a platform for information to be layered on top of the world around us, allowing us to draw on the crowd sourced knowledge of the internet to obtain a ‘perfect knowledge’ of any given subject without having the need to learn or memorise any details.  This trend is set to continue with the ‘interfaceless interface’ silently helping us about our daily lives. The ambient or embedded nature of these interactions enhances the sense that we are ‘evolving’ as digital humans.

The way that we interact with services is also shifting from centralised control to distributed mediums.  Services like Airbnb and Uber have been a great expression of this change, connecting consumers directly with individual suppliers of services, but even systems like this still depend on centralised validation for their financial transactions.  A technology taking this world by storm is the blockchain, the fundamental technology behind bitcoins distributed validation of transactions, which has the potential to change not only the way that we carry out payment, but how do we as individuals play a part in the collective validation process, forming a part of a crowd sourced consensus of validity and building up a quantified self, a digitised self through a history of transactions and validations?

It makes you wonder, is it our digitised self that is evolving
or is it us?

What do you think? Leave a reply below, or contact me by email.

Learn more about Aurora, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team, and the topics that we are researching.

Blockchain – survival of the fittest

Recently, I took part in a discussion on blockchain broadcast by Digital Leader’s DLTV team. Guided superbly by the BBC’s Kate Russell, myself and three others (Maja Zehavi, Anish Mohammed and John Bertrand) wandered through the latest thinking and future possibilities of the world of distributed ledgers.

And it left me with something really quite striking.

Blockchain is complicated – we know that. It relies on a vocabulary that includes sophisticated cryptographic terminology and brain-aching concepts around decentralised consensus models. And yet, the principles are beguilingly simple. Aside from the complexity of the solution, the concept of everyone involved in a transaction having open, trusted access to a distributed ledger is something that a rapidly expanding community are eagerly pursuing.

And it’s the speed at which this community is collaborating that is so striking. We are at very early days in the development of this technology. (Never mind the applications, many of the core protocols are still being debated.) Despite its formative state, research and development around blockchain is distinctively collaborative, with start-ups, big business, regulators and academia all openly sharing knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.

In the programme, one of my co-speakers, Anish described this as being ‘Evolutionary’, in a Darwinian sense. Progress is being made through collaborative experimentation and a form of natural selection that enables progress to be made at speed through ‘generations’ of iteration.

It’s an approach that reflects our digital times. The value of knowledge is now ephemeral. It’s the application of knowledge that is key. The accessibility of digital technology – be it blockchain or otherwise – invites us to develop new use cases, test solutions and refine them. Openly. Collaboratively. And rapidly.

And in the end the fittest ideas survive. ‘Distributed Digital Darwinism’ in action courtesy of the blockchain.

Why not watch the episode on YouTube? and read our latest thought leadership paper “Blockchain: Harnessing the Power of Distributed Ledgers”.

Sopra Steria is proud to support Digital Leaders – helping to organise and host digital salons for Digital Leaders Scotland and Digital Leaders Northern Ireland. Learn more about Digital Leaders.

What are your thoughts about blockchain? Leave a replay below or contact me by email.

What will be disrupting our world in the next 3 – 5 years?

In 2015, we used this blog forum to talk about how our future digital business world is being shaped by some key technologies, what impact they are having and the resulting societal challenges they are bringing about. You may have listened to the podcasts from ‘Aurora’, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team that discussed digital automation and human augmentation.

In 2016, we are broadening our research and focusing on three areas of disruptive technology and the effect they have on us as individuals, the world of work and the planet as a whole. We are even more fascinated by where these stories interconnect, as shown on the matrix below:

(See end for text description of this image
Aurora horizon scanning: our six areas of research in 2016

Listen to our first podcast of 2016 where we describe the approach for our research and an insight into areas that we are interested in – and getting excited about!

We are hoping to include guest speakers for our future podcasts, so let us know your ideas for them and thoughts about our areas of research for 2016.

Leave a reply below or contact us by email.

Don’t forget to follow the team on Twitter:

@timdifford
@richpotter_
@ben_innovates

And enjoy our Flipboard magazine on iOS, Android and Windows devices.


Description of Aurora’s six areas of research in 2016

  1. The digital human: interacting with services and each other through ubiquitous devices and data-driven experiences
  2. The organic enterprise: flexible, distributed, collaborative and networked organisations
  3. The connected planet: a crowded, ageing, more connected and fluid world
  4. Intelligent insight and automation: the increase in the application of prescriptive analytics and automation to augment or displace human activity
  5. Ubiquitous interaction: the growth of sensing and interface technologies that make interactions between humans and computers more fluid, intuitive and pervasive
  6. Distributed disruption: the growth of decentralised processes enabled by the adoption of technologies which assure and automate security and trust

 

Internet of humans and whether smart devices are boosting our capabilities

Will information by sensors bring about the ultimate human augmentation?

I’ve spoken previously about how our future digital business world is being shaped by some key technologies, what impact they are having and the resulting societal challenges they are bringing about.

If you’ve listened to the first two podcasts from ‘Aurora’, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team, you’ll know that we are fascinated by advances in the technologies that will increase digital automation (the displacement of human work by machines – or robots) and bring us closer to becoming fully augmented humans.

We’re increasingly familiar with people wearing fitness trackers and using other health monitoring apps and devices and are now well into the era of ‘the quantified self’. Our third podcast continues this discussion about wearables and other smart devices aimed at boosting human performance and capabilities.

We start to ponder nanotechnology as the ‘ultimate augmentation’ and if implants will change things in our bodies to the extent they could orchestrate our genetic code and influence the make-up of generations to come? However, as this is still more science fiction than fact, we focus on how the current plethora of wearables send data to external displays for our analysis and whether this data could be captured for use in real time to interact with our bodies to, for example, ‘inform by sensors’ for service providers to anticipate service delivery requirements and modify our behaviours.

If all this sounds a bit too futuristic for serious consideration at the moment, we bring our discussions back to more sound assumptions about current technologies enabling – or driving – us to become augmented humans of the nearer future. The course is charted where smart devices are becoming increasingly assimilated into the physical being of ourselves and the interactions between the technology and human beings are becoming more seamless. We’re starting to see this transition towards becoming augmented humans – for example, better management of our IDs and more enriched service experiences – as recognition that the human being is becoming part of the Internet of Things ecosystem in which we increasingly live.

Have a listen to this continued discussion in our podcast, and learn more about Aurora and the topics that we are researching by reading our brief opinion paper on the world ‘beyond digital’.

  1. Digital automation
  2. Augmented human
  3. My Data
  4. Disintermediation
  5. Securing the net
  6. Hyper innovation

What are your thoughts about human augmentation? Leave a comment below or contact the Aurora horizon scanning team by email

Internet of humans and the evolution of a sixth sense

How close are we to human augmentation?

My previous blog introduced you to the first in a series of podcasts from Aurora, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team in which we talk about some of the key topics shaping our world. We discussed digital automation and the way it is impacting society and how we work.

Our second podcast takes the theme of automation further and we debate how the advances in wearables and other devices are turning us into ‘augmented humans’ – allowing us to do things that we couldn’t do before, improving the way we do things now and giving us access to a global network of connected humans providing the opportunity to do even bigger and better things in the future.

We also ponder the potential blurring of boundaries between humans and technology – for example, the progression for (what are now) wearable devices being miniaturised and embedded in our bodies, giving us a “sixth sense” and becoming an ‘Internet of Humans’, and whether industry-wide standards for these types of technologies can be realistically applied.

With such a vast and interesting topic to cover, we split the podcast into two sessions and you can listen to the first part – ‘The Internet of Humans’ – now.

To learn more about Aurora, and the topics that we are researching, read our brief opinion paper on the world ‘Beyond digital’.

  1. Digital automation
  2. Augmented human
  3. My Data
  4. Disintermediation
  5. Securing the net
  6. Hyper innovation

What are your thoughts about human augmentation? Leave a comment below or contact the Aurora horizon scanning team by email

Wired for sound: what are the next ‘big things’?

My colleagues and I in the horizon scanning team are constantly looking at stories from around the world about the technologies that are shaping our lives and digital workplace. But it doesn’t beat experiencing creative, insightful and inspirational speakers – such as those at Wired2015 in London last week, described as “…the innovators changing the world and promoting disruptive thinking and radical ideas…”.

We were so inspired by what we heard that we recorded a short (8-minute) ‘at event’ podcast in which we each summarised the highlights… they range from quantum physics, art installations and test labs to space rockets powered by antimatter, smart cities and whether our noses will become big data devices!

Listen to what excited us about our digital future and what is on the horizon that will shape our lives in the next few years and for the next generation.

To learn more about Aurora, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team, and the topics that we are researching, read our brief opinion paper on the world ‘beyond digital’.

  1. Digital automation
  2. Augmented human
  3. My Data
  4. Disintermediation
  5. Securing the net
  6. Hyper innovation

What are your thoughts about robotics and the future of digital? Leave a comment below or contact the Aurora horizon scanning team by email

Julie is a robot! The rise of digital automation

I love talking with colleagues, clients and partners about the new ideas and technologies that are defining our digital business world. As a result, I’m thrilled to be part of ‘Aurora’, Sopra Steria’s horizon scanning team, where we discuss some of the key topics which are going to shape our world in the next three to five years.

We love sharing our ideas, and we want to widen the conversation with like-minded people interested in listening to what we have to say. So we’ve turned our round table discussions into a series of podcasts and you can listen to the first one where we focus our attention on digital automation – the displacement of human work by machines (or robots), the impact it’s having and the resulting societal challenges.

We discuss “Julie” Richard Potter’s ‘virtual assistant’ who – alongside the likes of ‘Siri’ and ‘Cortana’ – demonstrates an area of robotic technology that’s transforming the workplace, and Ben Gilburt’s interesting experience of a webchat with a high-profile media company. This began as an obvious interaction with a robot then, when his questions became too complex, in stepped a real person which posed the question, how and when does human intervention take place within a robotic process?

We talk about a specific example in the insurance industry where regulatory reports could be compiled using automated intelligence. Although each report would contain different data and results, the language used would be similar across every report provoking a potentially irrational response from the regulators that the reports weren’t acceptable.

These, and other questions around our readiness for faceless interactions with computers and whether robotics as simply another delivery channel would meet customer expectations, is discussed in our podcast, “Julie is a robot!”

To learn more about Aurora, and the six topics that we are researching, read our brief opinion paper on the world ‘beyond digital’.

  1. Digital automation
  2. Augmented human
  3. My Data
  4. Disintermediation
  5. Securing the net
  6. Hyper innovation

What are your thoughts about robotics and the future of digital? Leave a comment below or contact the Aurora horizon scanning team by email