Why we all need to think about Transhumanism in 2016

In a recent post we talked about how we are entering the ‘augmented’ age. While extending human capabilities has been frequently covered in science fiction, from Goldorak to Iron Man, today’s reality is more down to earth: organisations already augment sales force capabilities with mobile and CRM tools; buildings are augmented with data collection and event management; communications and information sharing enable physical and virtual team interactions.

Some of these capabilities have been around for decades, so what is so different today? The answer is that they are becoming increasingly powerful, better integrated and more widely available, making them an increasing element of our personal and business lives. Technology is evolving without pause, driving the digital shifts that are transforming the business landscape. It is all any organisation can do to keep up.

If we follow these trends a few years into the future, their true potential starts to emerge. Consider business analytics — while BI systems may as yet still struggle to operate outside of specific use cases, they are becoming increasingly able and accessible. Meanwhile machine learning is coming to the fore as processor power reaches two important thresholds: real-time response times at an affordable cost.

We cover the impact of these shifts on business decision making here. But where will they take us in the future? Some, such as Ray Kurzweil and the so-called ‘transhumanist’ movement, see their logical extrapolation leading to a specific moment — the ’singularity’ — when computers pass a threshold of actual intelligence. Even the most optimistic estimates put such a point at least a decade away.

But even if we do not buy into this absolute vision, there is an important reason why decision makers should consider its potential. Many organisations look to evolve or extend from where they currently are — of course, this is a perfectly reasonable starting point but it does mean the organisation’s past is going to be strongly represented.

As a thought experiment, it also makes sense to consider how companies might respond in the most futuristic of possibilities. We can already see how increasingly autonomic devices — connected, then driverless cars, for example — will become a normal part of our existence. So what do they mean for a retailer, or an insurance company, or a manufacturer? What data will be generated and how will it affect company structures and processes?

It may be that, on reflection, such a brainstorm yields very little to be done in the short term. As many of our own clients have found however, it is equally possible to uncover new opportunities, or indeed. We may be a long way from transhumanism but whatever is coming, we can nonetheless consider how ready we are to evolve, and what we need to have in place to ensure our organisations have a bright future ahead of them.

Read the full paper here: http://inst.be/007INT
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