One of the staples of sci-fi entertainment is the driverless car. The fully autonomous, self-driving car “is fast (and furiously) becoming a reality,” write the authors of a new book entitled, What To Do When Machines Do Everything. In fact, write authors Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring, carmakers are in a race to be the first to develop viable self-driving cars. “Ford, General Motors, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, among others, are all in the process of introducing different flavors of autonomy into their fleets,” they write. “Some will be fully self-driving — most eye-catchingly, Ford’s ‘no steering wheel/no pedal’ model developed in conjunction with Google — while others, such as Audi, will have a ‘highway traffic jam pilot’ feature available by 2018.”
What Happened to Our Cars?
At first, What To Do When Machines Do Everything might seem to be another over-enthusiastic description of a future that stays futuristic. However, Frank, Roehrig and Pring are futurists on a mission, since as executives of the global technology consultancy, Cognizant, their jobs are not to spin imaginative stories of what might be, but instead to prepare companies for what will probably be. For example, the authors make a compelling case that the development of driverless cars is not only a natural progression of automotive technological advances, it also fits our needs and comfort zones. “One of the places in which we’ve become totally reliant and comfortable with automation over the years has been in our cars,” write the authors. “Without us really noticing,” they continue, “our cars have become full of automation technology: windows, steering, cruise control, GPS, adaptive headlights — the list goes on. Automation has snuck up all around us to improve the driving experience.”
The authors acknowledge that the title of their book “may sound a bit hyperbolic.” However, they write, “in the next few years the machines will continue to amaze, will be embedded most everywhere and in most everything, and will increasingly do more and more of the work people do today.” To succeed in this AI future, therefore, companies must understand what the new machines can do and what they can’t do, and react accordingly.
The authors provide companies with a five-step game plan for thriving in the new age of artificial intelligence that is summarized in the acronym AHEAD:
Automate. As discussed above, this is the most familiar and most entrenched form of artificial intelligence. Successful companies, the authors write, “outsource rote, computational work to the new machine.”
Halo. In a previous book called Code Halos, the authors described how in today’s world, people are continuously creating through their online and digital behaviors “halos” of code that surround them. These blankets of code don’t just surround every person, but also every place and every thing. The most successful companies, write the authors, will be the ones who tap into these code halos to create new customer experiences and business models.
Enhance. While some may fear that machines are taking away jobs, the more realistic (and optimistic) view, according to the authors, is that machines can enhance the ability of people to do their jobs, just as a GPS enhances people’s ability to navigate to their destination.
Abundance. Abundance refers to the digital equivalent of building Model T’s, which democratized the automobile with the technology of the assembly line. According to the authors, Jon Stein, founder of the “robo-advisor” wealth management company Betterment, is a new Henry Ford, democratizing financial investing through technology.
Discovery. Discovery is the culmination of the four previous steps, and is a clarion call by the authors to seek out “blue-sky innovation” that AI makes possible.
In their chapter on Discovery, the authors tell the tale of Edwin Budding, the inventor of the lawn mower. Today, the global sports industry, which owes much of its existence to cut grass, is worth up to $620 billion. The authors have a point: If a lawn mower can have that impact, imagine what AI can do.