Kathy Gibson is at SingularityU Summit in Kyalami – Before the singularity (the point where machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence) can happen, we need to all connect.
Ramez Naam, Singularity U chair for energy and environment, calls this the “syncularity”.
Humans have had to connect through history in order to survive, he points out.
This began with the democratisation of reading and writing, which led to a global explosion in the pace of innovation.
“Every piece of technology you have today is because we found ways to supercharge the connection between scientists and innovators – to bring ideas together and this gives birth to new ideas,” Naam explains.
Moore’s Law is important, but there are two others that are also important
Neilsen’s Law deals with exponential data speed increase – and we are seeing a 50-times increase in speed each decade.
Metcalfe’s Law explains that the number of connections in a network is the square of the number of nodes.
“We live in an era of unicorns,” Naam says. There are hundreds of startups worth more than $1-billion today – and they are all networking companies rather than product companies.
“This is what is driving extraordinary wealth creation in these startups. You have to ask if you are building a network?”
But is not just about wealth creation, it is about value creation, Naam says.
Global Internet penetration is now at 51%, and this is helping to break down barriers to solve the fragmentation of the world, breaking down silos.
Language translation is a good example of how technology is breaking down barriers, Naam adds.
“Imagine if you can be anywhere ni the world, and you can take any online course in your own language.
“Imagine what this will do for our perceptions of others. What happens to our conception of other versus self when we can talk the same language?”
Africa is the least connected continent, so there is massive opportunity for new connectivity.
Fewer than half of people in sub-Saharan Africa have mobile phones. However, there is massive growth, says Naam.
By 2025, half a billion people will be connected to the mobile Internet, and two-thirds of those will be on smartphones. The data available to the average person will quadruple in the next five years.
“This is driving hundreds of billions of dollars of economic value on the continent, And most of this is in additional value – people doing things they couldn’t do before.”
Opportunities exist in areas like healthcare, where technology can scale more easily than people, and is coming up with solutions that start to make a difference on the ground.
Agriculture is another area where connected technology is making huge strides to improve yield and marketability of crops.
Technology is already delivering huge benefits in education, and this will continue to be felt as connectivity increases and machine learning is refined.
“What we are going to see is a virtuous cycle, a platform effect of gathering data that can make the artificial intelligence (AI) better.
“What we see in successful ventures is this flywheel: as you deploy the app you get more data, your AI gets more effective, more people want ot use the product, and the product gets better.”
Companies should think about what data they are not using today, and how they could use it.
Naam points out that there is a dark side of data – there is fake data, hate speech and more.
“But technology has always been misused in these ways,” he says. “In spite of this, the technologies have led to a better world, not a worse one.”