TED Talks can be one of the easiest yet fascinating ways to learn about the latest development in the world. With artificial intelligence and machine learning taking over our lives and becoming available in the form of services, there are a number of TED talks on AI and ML that continue to push the idea of data and technology integration.
Last week, we looked at Ray Kurzweil’s prediction that human brains and technology will merge in the next 30 years. Before we get there, we might see a phase in AI development called Augmented Age. Maurice Conti, a Barcelona-based designer, futurist, and innovator, uses his TED talk to explain how Augmented Age will lead to a phase where AI and humans can work together.
Dawn of a new age in human history
In his TED talk titled “The Incredible Inventions of Intuitive AI”, Conti speaks about artificial intelligence through three different phases. He says the first phase of AI development is the passive phase. The second phase is described as the generative phase while the third phase is called the intuitive phase.
Conti says this third phase will be the pinnacle of strategic thought and acts as demonstration of AI excellence. The TED talk is essentially aimed at creators, designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, artists looking to use AI in their creative field. However, the whole talk will appeal to anyone looking to understand and absorb rapid development in AI.
As a futurist, Conti sets his vision for creative professionals straight from the word go. He says the way creatives work will change more in the next 20 years than it has in the last 2,000 years. He terms this evolution the dawn of a new age in human history.
He says the world has seen four major historical eras defined by the way we work. The first is the Hunter-Gatherer Age that lasted several million years and then came the agricultural age lasting several thousand years. The Industrial Age came next and lasted a couple of centuries. The next era, Conti says, will be the Augmented Age.
According to Conti, the Augmented Age will see natural capabilities of human beings get augmented by computational systems. While we have seen such a transformation get sounded as an alarm bell, Conti is optimistic about such a future.
He believes the augmented age will see computational systems help humans think, robotic systems help humans build, and a “digital nervous system that connects us to the world far beyond our natural senses.”
Are humans cyborgs?
Conti says human beings are already augmented and he uses the phase of AI to explain this phenomenon. He says the passive phase is the most predominant phase right now and points directly towards the smartphones we use. Conti points at Siri, a digital assistant from Apple available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac, that allows people to find information with relative ease.
He further describes this passive phase as one where we tell the tools what to do and they follow our instructions. “Our very first tool only cut where we struck it. The chisel only carves where the artist points it. And even our most advanced tools do nothing without our explicit direction,” he says.
Conti is not a fan of this passive phase and he cites this manual push as a limitation for human beings. He uses Star Trek as a reference for the need to have conversation with a computer. He imagines asking the computer to design a car and the computer showing him options and then using his voice to further tweak the design. He calls this change as moving from passive to generative phase.
According to Conti, the generative design tools will use a computer and algorithms to synthesise geometry to come up with new designs all by themselves. “All it needs are your goals and your constraints,” he explains.
Maurice Conti was Chief Innovation Officer at Alpha when he delivered his TED talk in 2017. He was essentially speaking about futuristic interfaces and design paradigms that Alpha was working on as part of its moonshot-scale projects.
“In the case of this aerial drone chassis, all you would need to do is tell it something like, it has four propellers, you want it to be as lightweight as possible, and you need it to be aerodynamically efficient. Then what the computer does is it explores the entire solution space, every single possibility that solves and meets your criteria, millions of them. It takes big computers to do this. But it comes back to us with designs that we, by ourselves, never would have imagined,” he says, citing an example of a drone.
This generative design tool is already being deployed and Conti revealed working with Airbus to develop a 3D-printed cabin partition. However, it will be a few years before generative design AI becomes common in the industry.
Incredible Inventions of Intuitive AI
Conti says our AI systems are reaching a point where they have gone from working based on pure logic to intuition. This phase of development, Conti calls it the intuitive phase and explains it as a stage where deep learning systems will start to develop intuition like human beings.
“I think the era of human augmentation is as much about the physical world as it is about the virtual, intellectual realm,” he says.
He envisions the intuitive phase as one where robotic systems will augment humans in the physical world. Despite fear of robots replacing humans, he sees this possibility of humans and robots working together “to augment each other.”
The final phase of intuitive AI design will come in the form of designing digital nervous systems that connect humans to the things they design. He concludes by saying the augmented age will lead to the world “moving from things that are fabricated to things that are farmed.”
Watch the full video here.