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Advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and biotechnology have the potential to disrupt the rules of the game for every industry.

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New research could let vehicles, robots collaborate with humans

This article was first published on 9 May 2013.

“In general, everything around us is getting smarter,” says Brian Williams, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and leader of the Model-Based Embedded and Robotic Systems group within MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “So we’re trying to allow people to interact with these increasingly autonomous systems in the same way that they would interact with another human.”

The quote above is taken from this story from the MIT Media Lab and really captures the heart of the message.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that everything around us is getting smarter.  It’s even easier to overlook the profoundly disruptive potential of increasingly smart machines and systems.

I’ve often heard senior executives claim that their industry wasn’t under threat from machines (computers) because machines could never do the clever things or exercise the skill and judgment on complex matters that people can.

The reality is that almost every day there is a new element of human capability that is being matched by machines.  It’s not just that human capability is increasingly being matched by machines – it’s being matching in ever smaller sized units at increasingly lower cost.

Apart from the fact that MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is behind this technology, one of the things that is particularly interesting about this story is the focus on trying to build machines and systems that give people an experience virtually identical to what they might get if they were interacting with another human.

This is a big deal because people tend also to assume that their clients, customers, alliance partners etc. prefer to interact with people.  I think that’s increasingly less true and I suspect that it will continue to become increasingly less true increasingly quickly.

If I’m right, then a large number of industries are in for a torrid time as their assumptions about what their clients do and don’t value get turned on their head.  If you’re looking for potential points of disruption then look no further.

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