19 minute read
Leslie Shannon: Hello, and welcome to today's session, ‘Seeing the Oak tree and the acorn: reading today's signals of massive future change’. My name is Leslie Shannon. I am Nokia's Head of Ecosystem and Trends Scouting. And today I am joined by two futurists, both of whom, I personally admire. So, this is a very exciting session for me, and I, I know it's going to be for you as well. I'd like to introduce to you Elina Hiltunen, and Cathy Hackl. Now, when we futurists use the word signals, that is something that we use to indicate small things that are happening, that we can see around us today, that are really the seeds of future change, you know. The acorn that will someday become an oak tree, and the metaphor that we have as the title of this session. And so one of the things that I wanted to, to ask both of you is, what are, what's the signal that you're seeing right now, signal or signals, that is the indicator for the most significant change that you think is coming towards us in the next 10 years? Cathy you're nodding, So I'm going to ask you first.
Cathy Hackl: Yes Leslie,
LS: Now what's really striking you right now?
CH: There are two signals, and they're kind of part of the same signal in some ways that are really striking me right now. And they're both connected to exploration. And one of them is space exploration. So, you know, everything that's happening in the space, the new space race, let's say, and the other one is more in the virtual world. So exploration in those virtual worlds, and that idea of world-building. And these are two of the signals that I'm tracking that mean a massive significant change, to human behavior and to who we are, as you know, as workers, as, you know, families etc. So those are definitely the two that I'm tracking to right now, very heavily.
LS: And you kind of, you said that they were connected together in a way, how do you see them actually connecting? Because when I put on a VR headset, for example, I'm not thinking about Mars. So where do you see them going together?
CH: It's about exploration between the finite world, that we currently, physical world that we live in, right? So I think that that's the common denominator there - it's exploration outside of the current physical limitations that we have in our current world, and then exploration into the digital space. So one is going, you know, interplanetary and the other one going is going more into a virtual space. where, you know, if you think about interplanetary, it's harder to, it's hard, it's gonna be hard to colonize. It's gonna have to be hard to become a multi-planetary species, whereas in world-building it's unlimited, right? It's truly unlimited what we can do. But they're both that sense of human exploration, beyond the current finite physical world that we live in.
LS: Excellent, thank you. Elina. What's a signal that's striking you at the moment?
Elina Hiltunen: Thank you, Leslie, for asking, because I have to say that I'm a true fan of weak signals. I did my PhD thesis about weak signals, but for me, they are very concrete examples. What is happening now? They are like something that you can spot, and then you are like, wow, what is this? What is this happening there? A couple of weak signals, a couple of examples, Nokia starting to build 4G network to the moon. I think that is cool weak signal. And then for example, one weak signal is IKEA is starting to build a department store that is only selling used furniture. So this is one example. Then of course, I'm a technology enthusiast myself, so I really like to, watch all the gadgets and so on. And specially, if you think about CES, so all of the things that are there on the CES, so you can really think that they are the weak signals of today, and they can be big things in the future. An example is a company that made this parallel reality, and it's a display, and everybody can look at the same display, and everybody is seeing the different kind of stuff in the display. So even though they're looking at the same display.
LS: I know you're talking about a physical...
EH: Physical display, Yeah. Yeah, so that's quite unique thing that is happening. And of course, not to mention the virtual robot, virtual avatar, that was also in the CES. So I think that that is cool.
LS: If we go further into exploring the digital world, into exploring space, into having 4G on the moon. What actually will come from that? What are the things that you see that we, that we might be able to expect? Because that's actually where the real change tends to happen. Cathy, do you wanna start?
CH: Yeah, I would say that, some of those second-order effects that you're asking about: What could happen? What could this lead to? Right? I see, for example, from the space side of things, you know, obviously a whole new world of careers, that are gonna open up, not only in our physical world, but off planetary, right? So, I also, one of the things I like to think about, when I'm thinking about what happens in the future, what are the potential futures? I spend a lot of time listening to my kids. Because they are in some way, those signals. If you look, if you spend time with your kids, those signals appear just by talking to them. And I was talking to my daughter the other day, and she's always talked about being a chef or a food scientist. And she said to me last Saturday, specifically, she said, "Mommy, I think I wanna become a lunar food scientist."
LS: How old is she?
CH: She's 10, she's 10. She's 10, she said, "I wanna become a lunar food scientist." Because I've been talking a lot about space with them and a lot of the things that are happening here in the US and abroad, and this new space race of sorts. And that to me was a signal, that if we become, you know, if we start, if we get back to the moon, if we start, you know, going towards Mars, and you know, terraforming in some way, this is gonna open up opportunities, that children didn't really see before, right? New jobs, what are those jobs of the future, right? Is it gonna be limited to jobs here on earth? So, you know, for her to say to me, "I wanna become a lunar food scientist," signaled to me that she sees opportunities to be on just this world. So obviously that opens up a whole bunch of, whole bunch of second-order effects. Like, how do you recruit for the moon? How do you get people to the moon? etc How do you, how do people communicate? What are the communication systems that we in place for me to communicate with my daughter, when she is a lunar food scientist, right? What are really the nutritional value of, you know, these foods that she will grow on the moon? So those are in that sense from the space side, that's a second-order effect.
LS: Elina, let's bring you in here. What second-order effects are you seeing from the signals that, that are most significant to you right now?
EH: Well, I see actually a couple of things that I would like to lift here, so, one of them is human technology interaction. So human and technology is going to merge, even more and more in the future. And we are already merged with the technology. I have this Polar Smart Watch, that is tracking my movements and how many steps I take, and, and my pulse and so on. But I also used to have this NFC chip installed in my hand. It was here in my hand, under the skin, and I use that as a key to my house. So I had an electric lock. So I just waved my hand and the lock recognized me, because of the NFC chip. I don't have it anymore, I took it away, but I had it for more than one point five years, and it was amazing. I never forgot my keys to my home. - Anyway, I think that this is more and more going to happen. Of course, not everybody's going to have chips installed and so on. But for example, here in Finland, one bank was introducing a possibility to have a ring in your finger that has NFC chip. And then when you go to the shop, you can just pay with the ring. So that is, I think that that is going to be the future that we are going to merge more with the technology. And we are going to be a little bit more like cyborgs. But Leslie, as I'm looking to you, you are a cyborg already. You have your headphones and you have eye glasses on, and there you go, a technology that is making you to see better, and making you to hear my voice and so on. And so we are already cyborgs. But then the other thing, which I think is very important, it's the sustainability, circular economy and these things, because if we don't have the planet, we can't be able to use the technology or anything. So this is very important, especially when you think about electric waste. So this is a big issue and these things are something that you should take very carefully and, and companies are also taking very carefully and considering these issues. but in the future, we might have problems how to get certain minerals and certain metals. And that's why we need to emphasize more on the circular economy. To make more out of little stuff. So, I think that that is something that every company, no matter in what industry they are, but every company has to go to that direction.
“We need to emphasize more on the circular economy. To make more out of little stuff…that is something that every company, no matter in what industry they are, but every company has to go to that direction.”
LS: I pay a lot of attention to dystopian views of the future, because that helps us understand, what we don't want to have happen, right. So it's important to watch Terminator and to think about, you know, robots out of control, so that we can make sure that we don't actually have that future come to pass.
EH: Leslie, I have to say that it's also very important to have these kind of like positive views of the future. Not only to see a future beyond a 'robots are killing us' future, because that actually gives people the feeling of hopelessness about the future. And now we have doors or think about positive futures and how can we do these positive futures? As you said, that Nokia has the circular economic team - this is how we are making the positive future, by creating that.
LS: Absolutely, absolutely. And so one of the things that I love when you look at all of the innovations in Star Trek, for example, every single one of them actually is now possible except, for teleportation. And so, right. And so, you know, and so we can 3D print food, for example, and maybe, maybe Cathy, maybe that's what your daughter is going to get into as a lunar food scientist. Maybe it's 3D printing.
EH: Cathy, you have done very good work, because I think that technology is going to be so big part of our life, that's in the future, We also need more women and more girls that are doing the science work there. I'm thinking about the technologist. And especially when we think about the algorithms, how much power they have in our lives. So we need to have the women coders, and not just to give the men these tasks. We need women too. We need the smartest brains, to do this kind of like technological, new innovation, and those brains - also women and men have those brains too.
CH: And, and, and to that point, Elina, I started the Cathy Hackl's scholarship for women, with the VR/AR association. People think, you know, scholarship to be a Rockefeller, no, you don't have to be a barrier on everybody, so as to start a scholarship. You can start small. And what I did is, I created one scholarship to help one woman - I gave her a membership to the association and mentorship one-on-one with me. And my hope is to grow the scholarship because I'm on a mission. One of my missions is to get more women and minorities into the virtual reality and augmented reality industry. Because as we create these worlds, we need different points of view. We don't need just one specific point of view. We need such a diverse point of view, in every sense of the word - cognitive, you know and racial, religious, like we need so many diverse point of views, so that whatever we build in this virtual space, is more representative of who we are.
EH: That's so important that you said that, and I liked Cathy, your attitude, that you have this mentoring system and so on. And that is a very good example, that we all can do something about, to make the better future. I have this project called science for girls, and I try to encourage even little girls to start to be interested in technology. Because sometimes these technology toys have been very, like, boy-oriented toys. So, I think that they need princess fairy tales of technology. This is my mission there, to have them interested in technology too.
LS: So, these are some really interesting views of the future that you're both talking about. Now, if anybody is interested in learning more about futures thinking, or how to kind of start incorporating the future into their lives today, what are some of the things that you would suggest that our audience actually seek out and experience? How can they learn more about the future, Elina?
EH: Well, I think that you have to learn the facts. I have this equation for the future. It's like, anticipating the future equals facts plus imagination. So you have to know the facts of what is happening. So read books, listen to podcasts, look at the documentaries from TV and also do something weird. This is my weird stuff that I'm doing.
LS: Oh, that's crocheted!
EH: Yeah, little Duff can. But also it's not so much academic tools or something wild.
CH: And Cathy, what would you recommend? - I love that idea of being, you know, doing something weird. I absolutely love that. And I'm going to recommend something, maybe not as analog. I would say, if you really want to explore these technologies, and better understand where the, you know, where the technology is going, where the signals are pointing to. Definitely, you know, put on a headset, look, find out what's in there. What kind of content is there? What kind of things can you do? You know, once we get back to some level of normalcy, you can go to, you know, to a trade show, where there might be technology, gets your hands on these things. For example, at CES, I was able to demo a similar headset to this. This is a brain computer interface device, that allows me to...
LS: And you put it on your head?
CH: Yeah, and you put it on your head, like this, I'll leave it on, there you go. Yeah, it looks very fashionable. Yeah, you're able to kind of like turn on lights with it. You're able to kind of just using your thoughts, by the way, just reading your brain, I don't have to do anything, or scroll an iPad. So getting, trying these technologies, connecting with people that are, you know, that are seeing these weak signals, I think is incredibly important, but yet don't get, don't be scared to, to do something weird.
LS: For me, the really fundamental change that 5G is bringing is the concept of splitting the chip. This, this idea that, you know, now we've got these kind of, you know, supercomputer level chips on our end devices, but that means that they're very expensive. They're heavy, they have a short battery life, and, what 5G allows, is to have end devices, that are as light, and as cheap, and as low power, and as long battery life as possible, with the minimum processing on them. And this is where you start getting, you know, augmented reality headsets, that look like normal glasses, when they're as light and as cheap as possible. And then 5G is the connection to the rest of the processing that is sitting at the network edge somewhere. And so it's, and now if you don't have to worry about having the end user purchase that device, you don't have to have just one GPU, one Graphical Processing Unit, you can have a whole stack of them, like in videos putting stacks of 40 GPU's into their network edge. And that splitting the chip, that is actually the thing that's really going to power this next wave, of so many of the devices, that are at the heart of the kinds of changes that we're talking about. So lighter, you know, augmented reality headsets, that are coming over the next couple of years, and the same, the same structure for enabling robots and drones to have these light cheap things - and sensors of all kinds, out there connected over 5G, to super-duper processing at the network edge. And so, so I see the, both of you are not, I guess You probably not so focused on the telco arm of this, but, but thinking about kind of that, that splitting the chip and the lighter, cheaper end device, what kind of, what kind of things are you seeing that, that structure will enable in the future? Elina, do you have - does anything come to mind for you?
EH: Yeah, yes. Well, I think that 5G is one that makes it possible. For example, when we are thinking smart cities, and we can save energy and we can actually have much smarter traffic - not traffic jams at all and these kinds of things. So I think that it has many possibilities, in many areas of life. If we think about your education, - having this kind of virtual reality education, educational classes - you could travel in time. You could go back to the history, to look at what has happened in Ancient Rome or something. And so it has - it is full of possibilities. So I have to say I'm really expecting that to happen. - I think everybody is actually. - I'm really a technology enthusiast. I'm really waiting for that to happen.
LS: And Cathy, what comes to mind when you're thinking about 5G and its connection to the future?
CH: I definitely think 5G is moving us in that way, you know, away from CPUs into GPUs being the most important thing. And like you said, it's an enabler. It's gonna allow us, it's gonna be the enabler that's gonna allow what I call the Ray-Ban moment, which you mentioned, when we were in the sleek glasses, and we're gonna have content in front of us. And I think for, you know, for communications service providers, what they need to start thinking about, when it comes to 5G and when it comes to these technologies, is how does that impact my, you know, the small business consumer, or the medium sized consumer? And we get into the whole idea of spatial programming, right. Right now, if I'm a consumer and I'm on my phone, and I'm walking to a restaurant, I'm checking the reviews, but that eventually is gonna move, from my cellphone into my headset. So what does that look like, when people are actually looking at it in a spatial way, and that's called spatial programming, how are you all gonna enable those medium and, you know, the small to medium businesses, and even the enterprise, to allow for the spatial programming, in a spatial plane. And I think the other thing that is really critical, Leslie, and you and I have talked about this, is 5G is gonna enable the world to become machine-readable. It's gonna enable the world to become machine-readable, to be clickable, searchable, likable. And in some ways, it's going to allow for us to meet the machine. We're gonna meet the machines in this virtual space and be able to communicate in a different world. So yeah, very excited about the possibilities of 5G for everyone from, you know, communication service providers and beyond.
“In some ways [5G] is going to allow us to meet the machine. We're gonna meet the machines in this virtual space and be able to communicate in a different world.”
EH: I have to say that I'm very enthusiastic about Smart Dust, which means that we can have these very tiny, tiny sensors. And we can, for example, paint the wall with this Smart Dust, and then the wall could react to the carbon dioxide level of the room, and then send alarms to my mobile phone that, okay, now open the window or something. So, we can have like computers everywhere, and tiny computers everywhere that would help us, and in a way, like save energy, and to make our health better, and so on, to grow food better. So, there are huge possibilities with this new connectivity.
CH: And I think that combining, if you combine spatial computing, with IoT sensors and 5G, we're gonna truly unleash the potential of big data, and data analytics on a totally different level we've never seen before.
EH: And just a new level of that, because there's more and more data coming, yeah.
LS: One of the things that I see is that, it's not just that, that this siloed thing is happening and this siloed thing is happening. It's that all of these things are happening together, as you all were just mentioning. And so we have visual analytics and IoT sensors, and spatial computing, all of these things coming in at the same time. And so it's going to be how they all weave together. That is actually going to be the thing that is truly, truly life changing. And so, Elina and Cathy, thank you very much for a wide ranging and stimulating conversation. And I hope we've put some new ideas into to the thoughts of our listeners today and let's all go out there and make the world a better place.
LS: Thank you both very much.
CH: Thank you Leslie, we'll see you in the future.
Intrigued by what you’ve watched? Read more from Cathy Hackl and Elina Hiltunen