The Augmented Age

By Frank Diana | 19 August 2019
Reimagining the Future


Maurice Conti is the Chief Innovation Officer at Alpha focused on what he calls the Augmented Age. He talks about it this way: We’re heading for a future where our natural human capabilities are going to be radically augmented in three ways: Computational systems will help us think. Robotic systems will help us make. And a digital nervous system will connect us to the world far beyond what our natural nervous system can offer.

Car Frame

Take a look at the picture above. Can you guess what it is? It is an example of what you get when a design tool intersects with the augmented age. Take a look at the short Ted Talk below for the answer.

Can the augmented age lead to the human replacement age? That’s a question explored by many as they take a Glimpse into Possible Futures. One such possible future exists in the world of art. When we  evaluate art, we tend to judge it by its emotional impact on the audience. What happens if external algorithms understand and manipulate human emotions better than humans? Emotions are the result of a biochemical process. In the not too distant future an algorithm could analyze the biometric data streaming from sensors on and inside your body, determine your personality type and your changing moods, and calculate the emotional impact that a particular song is likely to have on you – what composer can compete with that?

Taryn Southern composed this hit using algorithms – a good example of work in the augmented age. But is Ms. Southern even needed in the future if the above scenario plays out?

How about artwork? Christie’s sold its first piece of AI art, a canvas named the Portrait of Edmond Belamy, for $432,500. The expected price for the print was between $7,000 and $10,000. The artwork was created by a collective named Obvious. The three members of Obvious, a trio of 25-year-old French students, used a type of machine learning algorithm known as a GAN (generative adversarial network) to create the picture. The network was trained on a dataset of historical portraits, and then it tried to create one of its own. Obvious printed the image, framed it, and signed it with part of the GAN’s algorithm.

What about the world of media? Will these advancements augment or replace? China’s state-run news agency recently unveiled the AI-powered anchor at China’s World Internet Conference. The news anchor is modeled on a real presenter named Zhang Zhow. The anchor learns from live broadcast videos and is able to man the news desk 24-hours a day.

The augmented age promises to expand our capacity to solve some of our grandest challenges. The question we can’t answer is this: how far on the spectrum of an automated society will this lead us?

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Frank DianaFrank Diana is a recognized futurist, thought leader and frequent keynote speaker. He has served in various executive roles throughout his career and has over 30 years of leadership experience. At Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), he is a thought leader and advisor in the context of business, societal and economic evolution. He blends a futurist perspective with a pragmatic, actionable approach – leveraging horizon scanning and story telling to see possible futures. His leadership experience obtained through various executive roles connects practical realities with the need to focus on an emerging future filled with complexity and change.

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