Should We Innovate For Innovation’s Sake?

Innovation is one of today’s many buzz words. Everything from product design to advertising revolves around innovation, and the good that it purports to create.

But innovation has been responsible for some of the most dangerous creations to date. Asking the question “How can we do this better” can be a catalyst for astounding good, but on the flip side, has the potential to cause utter devastation.

So, should we innovate for the sake of innovation? It strikes me, that the notion of developing technology which have such a profound impact on society must be further explored in theory, before being applied in practice.

The recent press coverage on the dangers of Artificial Intelligence and two talks that I have attended in past weeks prompted me to put pen to paper about the evolution of innovation and the responsibility that innovators should perhaps accordingly adopt.

The first talk was given by Kevin Ashton, the man who coined the phrase the ‘internet of things’, who spoke at this month’s BT Ingenious event. The second by trend guru Michael Tchong (@ubercool) at an Ivy Club breakfast talk, covering the trends which are driving and shaping our society today. Whilst providing amazing insight into the changes which we’re experiencing, both speakers seemed to have chosen to stand on the side of the fence where the grass is always greener.

In order to innovate successfully, without the chance of a Terminator film script becoming real, should the societal implications of what is being created not be considered?

The doomsday style warnings about Artificial Intelligence are coming from the very minds which are bringing us life changing tech such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Eric Schmidt (executive chairman of Google), some of whom signed a letter last month calling for greater research into the future of Artificial Intelligence.

What started off as fiction and fantasy has turned into the technological forecast for the next 100 years.

In a recent Financial Times article Junji Tsuda (Yaskawa Electric Corp) was quoted stating that there is, and still will be for years to come, the need for human dexterity. “There are 10,000 sensors in a human hand, but to put 10,000 sensors in a piece of hardware…”

So, robotic hands and bodies may not be as advanced as the brains which power them yet, but what happens when these intuitive and intelligent brains are given hands and bodies which are equally if not more dexterous than human hands? What happens when a robot can reload a gun?

More terrifying still, what happens when the brain behind the gun, through a series of mind boggling algorithms, begins to see humans as obsolete, and no longer relevant?

These are of course extreme scenarios, but one’s which tech wizards are predicting may become reality in the future.

Rather than just continuing with the “Create now, think later” attitude which is so prevalent in the current tech climate, the potential negative consequences of innovation should always remain prominent in the minds of creators, innovators and the companies which foster their processes.

Although the speed of innovative change is undeniably exciting, we should be aware that the celebration of human technological advancement could sweep concerns over social repercussions under the carpet.

Joe Partridge


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