In the modern era, many of us communicate through smartphones and ubiquitous connectivity. These technologies have had a profound impact on the way people interact. We are now accustomed to “putting our brains online” wherever we may be, whether that means texting a friend, sharing a photo, answering a work email, or updating our calendar.
The more we use touchscreens and pocketable devices, the more we’ve seen a somewhat counterintuitive shift: It’s easier than ever to communicate across the globe, but the devices we use to do so often isolate us from our immediate surroundings.
However, we shouldn’t blame technology for that. The capabilities and simplicity of modern technology simply exacerbate well-documented human conditional traits. Technology is a kind of catalyst, a Miracle-Gro for our communicative and curious tendencies. Still, many people hope the mainstream technology of the future will allow us to collaborate and interact without having to focus on a device.
While multitouch interfaces are still fairly new and revolutionary, smartphones still employ a somewhat primitive interface. Voice control is (slowly) becoming more helpful, but you still must actively engage your eyes and fingers to get most things done on a phone.
Enter: The Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), two major technology trends that are changing our world today. As these technologies converge, IoT and AI will create a more-sophisticated human-to-machine interface: they will set your eyes and fingers free. Using sensors and synthetic smarts, such systems will have the eyes, ears, nose, brain, and instincts to discern insights and trends in real-time.
For the most part, these sensors and smarts will reside outside of personally owned devices. Instead, the hardware and software will be all around us, gathering data for a hyper-intelligent brain in the cloud to analyze and make sense of on a personal level. Rather than enabling people to “put their brains online,” the hybridization of IoT and AI will be like an out-of-body extension of the brain. It will require far less user input and attention to acquire critical information.
We are already seeing this next level of technological evolution in the world of business. In any field you want, you can begin to enhance it significantly. In freight and logistics, for example, a combination of sensors and specialized AI can provide real-time data to help companies plan the most efficient loads and route, and reroute to acquire additional loads on the fly.
Take a moving company that has to make a long-distance trip for example. On the way from New York to California, the load may become unbalanced. Currently, nobody would know about that, leading to public-safety risks and inefficiencies. AI and IoT can fix all that. The system will optimize your load and make sure you are as efficient as possible every step of the way.
What does the impact of these technologies have to do with collaboration? Collaboration is simply a pathway to efficiency. We collaborate to gain additional insight, skills, and actions from people or organizations other than ourselves. Now, we must think of systems with superhuman sensing and analytics capabilities as our most-important collaborators. The combination of IoT and AI provides data-harvesting, analysis, and real-time insight that we’ve never had access to before.
The long-term fear is that more-intelligent and more-capable technologies can somehow displace the human element. Right now, few human functions can be replaced. For a long time to come, humans will be at the epicenter of this convergence of data and decision-making. IoT and AI will simply serve up insight to people in a new and profound way.
Eventually, for certain tasks, AI will become much smarter than us. Only then will we delegate decision-making authority to machine learning. A simple example underscores just how far away we are from that point. If we had reliable AI that could organize our inbox, tell us what’s important, answer things automatically, and learn our writing style, many of us would adopt it immediately. It would significantly declutter our lives – only so that we could go out and re-clutter them with new things.