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The Future of Human Augmentation | Maurice Conti | TEDxPortland

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    All right, Portland, wow.
    Thank you so much for having me.
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    I love visiting this city.
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    I mean, where else in the world
    can I have breakfast like this.
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    (Laughter)
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    And clearly, this is
    a very creative place.
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    (Laughter)
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    How many of you are creatives,
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    designers, engineers,
    entrepreneurs, artists,
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    or maybe you just have
    a really big imagination?
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    Show of hands? (Cheers)
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    That's most of you.
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    I have some news for us creatives.
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    Over the course of the next 20 years,
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    more will change around
    the way we do our work
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    than has happened in the last 2,000.
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    In fact, I think we're at the dawn
    of a new age in human history.
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    Now, there have been four major historical
    eras defined by the way we work.
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    The Hunter-Gatherer Age
    lasted several million years.
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    And then the Agricultural Age
    lasted several thousand years.
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    The Industrial Age
    lasted a couple of centuries.
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    And now the Information Age
    has lasted just a few decades.
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    And now today, we're on the cusp
    of our next great era as a species.
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    Welcome to the Augmented Age.
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    In this new era, your natural human
    capabilities are going to be augmented
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    by computational systems
    that help you think,
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    robotic systems that help you make,
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    and a digital nervous system
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    that connects you to the world
    far beyond your natural senses.
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    Let's start with cognitive augmentation.
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    How many of you are augmented cyborgs?
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    (Laughter)
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    There's three or four of you,
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    that's just because it's Portland.
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    (Laughter)
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    Yeah, keep it weird.
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    (Laughter)
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    I would actually argue
    that we're already augmented.
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    Imagine you're at a party,
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    and somebody asks you a question
    that you don't know the answer to.
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    If you have one of these,
    in a few seconds, you can know the answer.
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    But this is just a primitive beginning.
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    Even Siri is just a passive tool.
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    In fact, for the last
    three-and-a-half million years,
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    the tools that we've had
    have been completely passive.
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    They do exactly what we tell them
    and nothing more.
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    Our very first tool
    only cut where we struck it.
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    The chisel only carves
    where the artist points it.
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    And even our most advanced tools
    do nothing without our explicit direction.
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    In fact, to date, and this
    is something that frustrates me,
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    we've always been limited
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    by this need to manually
    push our wills into our tools --
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    like, manual, literally using our hands,
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    even with computers.
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    But I'm more like Scotty in "Star Trek."
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    (Laughter)
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    I want to have a conversation
    with a computer.
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    I want to say, "Computer,
    let's design a car,"
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    and the computer shows me a car.
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    And I say, "No, more fast-looking,
    and less German,"
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    and bang, the computer shows me an option.
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    (Laughter)
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    That conversation might be
    a little ways off,
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    probably less than many of us think,
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    but right now,
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    we're working on it.
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    Tools are making this leap
    from being passive to being generative.
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    Generative design tools
    use a computer and algorithms
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    to synthesize geometry
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    to come up with new designs
    all by themselves.
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    All it needs are your goals
    and your constraints.
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    I'll give you an example.
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    In the case of this aerial drone chassis,
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    all you would need to do
    is tell it something like,
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    it has four propellers,
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    you want it to be
    as lightweight as possible,
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    and you need it to be
    aerodynamically efficient.
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    Then what the computer does
    is it explores the entire solution space:
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    every single possibility that solves
    and meets your criteria --
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    millions of them.
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    It takes big computers to do this.
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    But it comes back to us with designs
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    that we, by ourselves,
    never could've imagined.
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    And the computer's coming up
    with this stuff all by itself --
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    no one ever drew anything,
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    and it started completely from scratch.
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    And by the way, it's no accident
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    that the drone body looks just like
    the pelvis of a flying squirrel.
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    (Laughter)
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    It's because the algorithms
    are designed to work
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    the same way evolution does.
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    What's exciting is we're starting
    to see this technology
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    out in the real world.
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    We've been working with Airbus
    for a couple of years
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    on this concept plane for the future.
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    It's a ways out still.
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    But just recently we used
    a generative-design AI
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    to come up with this.
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    This is a 3D-printed cabin partition
    that's been designed by a computer.
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    It's stronger than the original
    yet half the weight,
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    and it will be flying
    in the Airbus A320 later this year.
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    So computers can now generate;
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    they can come up with their own solutions
    to our well-defined problems.
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    But they're not intuitive.
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    They still have to start from scratch
    every single time,
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    and that's because they never learn.
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    Unlike Maggie.
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    (Laughter)
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    Maggie's actually smarter
    than our most advanced design tools.
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    What do I mean by that?
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    If her owner picks up that leash,
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    Maggie knows with a fair
    degree of certainty
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    it's time to go for a walk.
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    And how did she learn?
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    Well, every time the owner picked up
    the leash, they went for a walk.
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    And Maggie did three things:
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    she had to pay attention,
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    she had to remember what happened
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    and she had to retain and create
    a pattern in her mind.
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    Interestingly, that's exactly what
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    computer scientists
    have been trying to get AIs to do
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    for the last 60 or so years.
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    Back in 1952,
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    they built this computer
    that could play tic-tac-toe.
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    Big deal.
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    Then 45 years later, in 1997,
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    Deep Blue beats Kasparov at chess.
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    2011, Watson beats these two
    humans at Jeopardy,
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    which is much harder for a computer
    to play than chess is.
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    In fact, rather than working
    from predefined recipes,
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    Watson had to use reasoning
    to overcome his human opponents.
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    And then a couple of weeks ago,
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    DeepMind's AlphaGo beats
    the world's best human at Go,
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    which is the most difficult
    game that we have.
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    In fact, in Go, there are more
    possible moves
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    than there are atoms in the universe.
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    So in order to win,
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    what AlphaGo had to do
    was develop intuition.
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    And in fact, at some points,
    AlphaGo's programmers didn't understand
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    why AlphaGo was doing what it was doing.
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    And things are moving really fast.
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    I mean, consider --
    in the space of a human lifetime,
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    computers have gone from a child's game
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    to what's recognized as the pinnacle
    of strategic thought.
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    What's basically happening
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    is computers are going
    from being like Spock ...
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    to being a lot more like Kirk.
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    (Laughter)
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    Right? From pure logic to intuition.
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    Would you cross this bridge?
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    Most of you are saying, "Oh, hell no!"
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    (Laughter)
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    And you arrived at that decision
    in a split second.
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    You just sort of knew
    that bridge was unsafe.
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    And that's exactly the kind of intuition
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    that our deep-learning systems
    are starting to develop right now.
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    Very soon, you'll literally be able
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    to show something you've made,
    you've designed, to a computer,
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    and it will look at it and say,
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    "Sorry, homie, that'll never work.
    You have to try again."
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    Or you could ask it if people
    are going to like your next song,
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    or your next flavor of ice cream.
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    Or, much more importantly,
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    you could work with a computer
    to solve a problem
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    that we've never faced before.
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    For instance, climate change.
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    We're not doing
    a very good job on our own,
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    we could certainly use
    all the help we can get.
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    That's what I'm talking about,
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    technology amplifying
    our cognitive abilities
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    so we can imagine and design things
    that were simply out of our reach
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    as plain old un-augmented humans.
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    So what about making
    all of this crazy new stuff
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    that we're going to invent and design?
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    I think the era of human augmentation
    is as much about the physical world
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    as it is about the virtual,
    intellectual realm.
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    How will technology augment us?
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    In the physical world, robotic systems.
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    OK, there's certainly a fear
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    that robots are going to take
    jobs away from humans,
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    and that is true in certain sectors.
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    But I'm much more interested in this idea
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    that humans and robots working together
    are going to augment each other,
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    and start to inhabit a new space.
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    This is our applied research lab
    in San Francisco,
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    where one of our areas of focus
    is advanced robotics,
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    specifically, human-robot collaboration.
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    And this is Bishop, one of our robots.
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    As an experiment, we set it up
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    to help a person working in construction
    doing repetitive tasks --
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    tasks like cutting out holes for outlets
    or light switches in drywall.
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    (Laughter)
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    So, Bishop's human partner
    can tell what to do in plain English
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    and with simple gestures,
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    kind of like talking to a dog,
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    and then Bishop executes
    on those instructions
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    with perfect precision.
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    We're using the human
    for what the human is good at:
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    awareness, perception and decision making.
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    And we're using the robot
    for what it's good at:
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    precision and repetitiveness.
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    Here's another cool project
    that Bishop worked on.
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    The goal of this project,
    which we called the HIVE,
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    was to prototype the experience
    of humans, computers and robots
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    all working together to solve
    a highly complex design problem.
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    The humans acted as labor.
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    They cruised around the construction site,
    they manipulated the bamboo --
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    which, by the way,
    because it's a non-isomorphic material,
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    is super hard for robots to deal with.
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    But then the robots
    did this fiber winding,
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    which was almost impossible
    for a human to do.
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    And then we had an AI
    that was controlling everything.
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    It was telling the humans what to do,
    telling the robots what to do
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    and keeping track of thousands
    of individual components.
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    What's interesting is,
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    building this pavilion
    was simply not possible
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    without human, robot and AI
    augmenting each other.
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    OK, I'll share one more project.
    This one's a little bit crazy.
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    We're working with Amsterdam-based artist
    Joris Laarman and his team at MX3D
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    to generatively design
    and robotically print
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    the world's first autonomously
    manufactured bridge.
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    So, Joris and an AI are designing
    this thing right now, as we speak,
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    in Amsterdam.
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    And when they're done,
    we're going to hit "Go,"
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    and robots will start 3D printing
    in stainless steel,
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    and then they're going to keep printing,
    without human intervention,
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    until the bridge is finished.
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    So, as computers are going
    to augment our ability
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    to imagine and design new stuff,
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    robotic systems are going to help us
    build and make things
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    that we've never been able to make before.
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    But what about our ability
    to sense and control these things?
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    What about a nervous system
    for the things that we make?
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    Our nervous system,
    the human nervous system,
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    tells us everything
    that's going on around us.
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    But the nervous system of the things
    we make is rudimentary at best.
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    I would say it's rather
    shitty, at this point.
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    (Laughter)
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    For instance, a car doesn't tell
    the city's public works department
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    that it just hit a pothole at the corner
    of Broadway and Morrison.
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    A building doesn't tell its designers
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    whether or not the people inside
    like being there,
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    and the toy manufacturer doesn't know
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    if a toy is actually being played with --
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    how and where and whether
    or not it's any fun.
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    Look, I'm sure that the designers
    imagined this lifestyle for Barbie
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    when they designed her.
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    (Laughter)
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    But what if it turns out that Barbie's
    actually really lonely?
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    (Laughter)
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    If the designers had known
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    what was really happening
    in the real world
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    with their designs --
    the road, the building, Barbie --
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    they could've used that knowledge
    to create an experience
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    that was better for the user.
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    What's missing is a nervous system
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    connecting us to all of the things
    that we design, make and use.
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    What if all of you had that kind
    of information flowing to you
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    from the things you create
    in the real world?
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    With all of the stuff we make,
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    we spend a tremendous amount
    of money and energy --
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    in fact, last year,
    about two trillion dollars --
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    convincing people to buy
    the things we've made.
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    But if you had this connection
    to the things that you design and create
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    after they're out in the real world,
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    after they've been sold
    or launched or whatever,
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    we could actually change that,
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    and go from making people want our stuff,
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    to just making stuff that people
    want in the first place.
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    The good news is, we're working
    on digital nervous systems
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    that connect us to the things we design.
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    We're working on one project
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    with a couple of guys down in Los Angeles
    called the Bandito Brothers
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    and their team.
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    And one of the things these guys do
    is build insane cars
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    that do absolutely insane things.
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    These guys are crazy --
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    (Laughter)
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    in the best way.
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    And what we're doing with them
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    is taking a traditional race-car chassis
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    and giving it a nervous system.
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    So we instrumented it
    with dozens of sensors,
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    put a world-class driver behind the wheel,
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    took it out to the desert
    and drove the hell out of it for a week.
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    And the car's nervous system
    captured everything
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    that was happening to the car.
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    We captured four billion data points;
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    all of the forces
    that it was subjected to.
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    And then we did something crazy.
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    We took all of that data,
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    and plugged it into a generative-design AI
    we call "Dreamcatcher."
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    So what do get when you give
    a design tool a nervous system,
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    and you ask it to build you
    the ultimate car chassis?
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    You get this.
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    This is something that a human
    could never have designed.
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    Except a human did design this,
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    but it was a human that was augmented
    by a generative-design AI,
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    a digital nervous system
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    and robots that can actually
    fabricate something like this.
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    So if this is the future,
    the Augmented Age,
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    and we're going to be augmented
    cognitively, physically and perceptually,
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    what will that look like?
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    What is this wonderland going to be like?
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    I think we're going to see a world
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    where we're moving
    from things that are fabricated
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    to things that are farmed.
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    Where we're moving from things
    that are constructed
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    to that which is grown.
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    We're going to move from being isolated
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    to being connected.
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    And we'll move away from extraction
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    to embrace aggregation.
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    I also think we'll shift
    from craving obedience from our things
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    to valuing autonomy.
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    Thanks to our augmented capabilities,
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    our world is going to change dramatically.
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    I think a good analogy is the incredible
    microcosm of a coral reef.
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    We're going to have a world
    with more variety, more connectedness,
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    more dynamism, more complexity,
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    more adaptability and, of course,
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    more beauty.
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    The shape of things to come
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    will be unlike anything
    we've ever seen before.
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    Why?
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    Because what will be shaping those things
    is this new partnership
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    between technology, nature and humanity.
  • 16:23 - 16:27
    That, to me, is a future
    well worth looking forward to.
  • 16:27 - 16:28
    Thank you all so much.
  • 16:28 - 16:35
    (Applause)
Title:
The Future of Human Augmentation | Maurice Conti | TEDxPortland
Description:

What do you get when you give a design tool a digital nervous system? Maurice Conti explores a new partnership between technology, nature and humanity - the future of human augmentation.

Maurice is a designer, futurist and innovator. He is the Director of Strategic Innovation at Autodesk and has worked with startups, government agencies, renowned artists and corporations to explore what the future might
hold for them, and design solutions to get them there. As leader of Autodesk’s Applied Research Lab, he focuses on advanced robotics, applied machine learning and sea
level rise. He has circled the globe and was honored for his bravery by the US, New Zealand and the United Nations for saving the lives of three shipwrecked sailors. Maurice lives
in Muir Beach, CA, where he serves as a volunteer firefighter.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDxTalks
Duration:
16:42

English subtitles

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