The Robots Are Coming! Don’t Be Afraid
These days robotics is increasingly a part of our lives: from assisted-living robots in Japan to automation in construction and manufacturing to new ways to perceive animatronic creations as companions. Some of this technology is driven by advancements in artificial intelligence and more realistic design. And largely the goals are to aid in human production, development and efficiency. However, should robots look like humans – or not? Will we one day call robots our friends? And do initial forays into robot communication – like “bots” in social media programs – provide a glimpse of how we might one day interact with virtual beings? Daniel Sieberg, longtime tech expert, author and Googler explains the short-term future of these technologies and how we shouldn’t fear the rise of the robots.
What technological behaviors did you initially observe that inspired you to write The Digital Diet?
I think I was the initial guinea pig as someone who spent 15 years covering science and technology for news outlets like the Vancouver Sun, CNN, CBS News, ABC News and elsewhere. I began to realize – largely thanks to my wife’s needling – that I was losing the balance with technology and real life. I was routinely distracted, rarely truly present in the moment and relied too heavily on online forms of communication rather than develop my inter-personal skills. But while I was perhaps more immersed in technology and being over-connected than most others at the time (2010), I could also see that many people were starting to experience such a dilemma.
The book is meant as a self-help guide but more importantly to generate awareness of our respective behaviors and make informed choices. There are intentional parallels with food – we all have unique metabolisms, different demands on our time and respective abilities to manage life’s demands. But as I always say: love your technology, just not unconditionally.
How have corporate leaders responded to the book, in connection with positive or negative productivity in the workplace?
In my experience, many corporate leaders genuinely embrace this approach to technology; though not always immediately. Sometimes it takes diving into the data to examine the effects of not disconnecting sometimes, e.g. a lack of sleep and how it affects productivity or the time lost responding to an epic chain of emails rather than picking up the phone or slating a meeting. It’s not one-size-fits-all for any company or individual. But it’s about maximizing efficiency and time management coupled with building that awareness around what’s really happening in the workplace. I admire businesses that address this issue openly with town halls or internal discussions – letting people express either their concerns or ideas on how to best manage it. I don’t think anyone is immune no matter what field you work in.
How do you most effectively transfer your extensive technological background into audience education?
As a technology reporter, my job was always to take complex science and technology stories and try to make them compelling, relevant and simpler for a broader audience. I love the opportunity to play that role as an event speaker and engage with people about different perspectives. When I was writing a story or even appearing on TV I didn’t often get a chance to interact with the readers and viewers. But these days I get more access to people and get to hear their stories as well. I find that incredibly powerful.
Which major Google developments are coming down the pike?
I wish I could say! In all seriousness, our CEO – Sundar Pichai – has spoken about some of the exciting areas in technology today from artificial intelligence and machine learning (applicable through Google Assistant, Google Home, Knowledge Graph, etc.) to mobile technologies like VR/AR (Daydream, Cardboard) consumption to new ways of experiencing our world through mapping, Google Earth and other products.
These innovations help to identify efficiencies and productivity, and help us understand the market better. We know so many people rely on Google every day to enhance their lives, especially with new technology such as Google Home and Google Assistant, which can tailor to individual preferences and actually create natural conversations. I’m very curious to see what comes next myself.
Google is at the forefront of innovation when it comes to Machine Intelligence. What does the latest research indicate, in terms of how and when to best utilize these technologies?
It’s a really broad area – machine learning can potentially help the healthcare industry with rapid diagnosis with emergency room patients or it could pinpoint learnings from social media for a new marketing campaign. There are myriad applications where it could be applied and lots more work to be done. There’s also a notable distinction between AI and machine learning – such that the former refers to computers or machines doing something deemed “smart” while machine learning is the process by which computers learn on their own and apply those conclusions. Both areas are critical to the future of computing and how we interact with our devices, our information and our world around us.
What are the most positive aspects of incorporating both AI and robotics into one’s business?
That’s a tricky one – I’d say some businesses don’t need to worry about robotics for now – and maybe not even AI – but could benefit from improved analytics and metrics to evaluate success and failure. Google is a numbers-driven company and teams often learn to fail fast, learn and move forward. That’s where data and insights can provide those indicators but perhaps as importantly the company’s culture must include a sense of being nimble and agile to adapt. Without that malleability, any data won’t be implemented in a timely fashion and opportunities may be lost. In terms of industries that benefit most from AI and Machine Learning capability, healthcare is at the forefront. For example, we are on the verge of creating secure, databases for medical providers to create and utilize a streamlined system for more effective diagnoses, and still maintain patient privacy. Many other industries stand to gain from AI in the near future, as well, when it comes to interactive, targeted and streamlined services.
Your list of projects seems to be constantly evolving. What’s next?
My role at Google is part of the News Lab team, which fosters innovation in storytelling with the editorial side of newsrooms around the world. I also spend a decent amount of time as a Google spokesperson talking about various products and tools for consumers. We have many priorities to tackle and I’d love to share them all but many are still being baked. Suffice to say I thrive on enabling people’s understanding of technology and how it can play the most beneficial role in their lives.
To get to know technology keynote speaker and ESB exclusive Daniel Sieberg, or to book him for your next event, contact Executive Speakers Bureau at (901) 754-9404.