Futurist Amy Webb: “We go from Fiction to Reality!”

by paradoxig

The internet as we know it, is gone!
Everyone will need Upskilling
New Tools are not available for everyone!
A new Era of assistive technologies - we will work with AIs
BigTechs is becoming bigger and stronger!

These are a few of the thoughts and some conclusions made by Futurist Amy Webb, at SXSW 2023, while dissecting tech-trends to follow in the next few years. She also presented some optimistic and catastrophic scenarios for the future, depending on… lots of factors.

From MySpace to AIs. And the role of DATA

In order to understand the future, we need to see the past, let’s briefly see how the marriage between the internet and data evolved, and continue to evolve.

In the early stages of the internet – myspace, ebay – people started to share personal information – location, music, buying objects, etc. Amy Webb considers that it was the birth of metadata – information about information – and also the first time, when the information became a valuable monetizable resource. By the beginning of 2000, there was a need for another tool: the search engine. Companies such as yahoo, aol, google, baidu (the chinese google) were born, it was predictable that a profit will be made.
As such even more data was created as the internet evolved. And more forms of content generation were created: reddit, wikipedia or youtube. So much information was created that a new job title was invented: the creator.

But, what if the internet is morphing into something different?, ask Amy Webb. What if in the future, instead of you searching the internet, the internet searches you? Search version 1 was blue hyperlink, search v2 was knowledge graph, search v3 will be something different, something closer to human conversations.

In 2017, Google published research where it introduced the concept of a transformer. Attention is all you need!

Transformers underpins Large Learning Models- that can predict, analyze, generate information – which everyone talks about – because AI tools ingest and generate information.
The model learns from a library of huge texts (corpus) and generates words or sequences of what might come next with probabilistic distribution. For example, ChatGPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer

We are living in the age of radical transformation of information gathering and sharing. A lot of generators are coming up (text 2everything) – text, video, word, but also AI aligned in industries: medicine or climate. And Google is working on generalist AIs (GATO), which are an important step for achieving artificial intelligence. And we are on that path, as assured as Amy Webb.


And while for AGI, AI accelerators are needed ( systems that can speed up processes) or cloud systems (built by big tech companies) and other components that will come and are built right now, but there is a constraint: “Data – we need even more data!” Warns Amy Webb, explaining that this is the reason why there is this explosive demand for training data.
Developers are starting to look at everything, as readable information. Such as information produced during COVID by children when they had online-schooling: to what kids were looking on their computers, what they were searching what they behaviors look like, how long they were doing it keywords used, what they visited online, but also other information outside of school – what music was playing in the background, the fact that you were cooking, what you were cooking, with whom you were eating, the cat randomly walking across the table .

Data that once you put in the system you cannot get out. And all this data are in the benefit of companies, like OpenAI who were able to fine-tune their models.

And we are just getting started the era of MORE DATA. Some other examples of data that can be used are related to smell prints (fingerprint but for smells), till some that come from connected toilets.

“Why are we human guinea pigs AGAIN?”

In a few years AIs will interact with everything, predicts Amy Webb, and while at the beginning this will be awesome, a different world will be shaped. The next generation of infrastructure that all our society relies on will be built, and again…big companies are investing in the infrastructure (and controlling it), while regulators are gonna show up very late to the party, and humans risk to be guinea pigs again.

And there are two version by 2033

OPTIMISTIC: AI models are not closed and walled off, our data was not held by big companies, we have multimodal cloud systems, transparency in models, who is doing the reinforcements of AIs, and freedom to opt-in in sharing data.

CATASTROPHIC: Information is chasing you, marketing and advertising is made only via AI, aggressive curation and recommendations by the algorithms or then the death of search


Amy Webb states that We entered the assistive computing era. And the implication is: You will never think on your own again

In medicine, digital twins are going to be used in the surgery rooms, these tools will lead to the medical metaverses. In the pharmaceuticals industry, there are trials on how to apply generative AI to biology and to design antibodies from scratch, 3 million generative designs every week, and no human can do that.

But all these tools require knowledge to get the results, in a similar way as paper is useful only if you are literate or a calculator is useful only if you know math.

Problem is that today’s most powerful tools are actually hard to use, and knowledge workers have to know how to use this generative system. Billions of people are going to be left out of this Assistive Era Jobs.

“What if all these technologies we are creating lead to a new digital divide?” There will be a tremendous need for upskilling not only the older generations but also upskilling children too, in a world where education is underfunded in a lot of countries.

And there are two SCENARIOS FOR 2038

Optimistic scenario: humanity slowed down and invested in education and upskilling. HUmanity imagined jobs from the future and worked them back in the present.
As such Healing is personalized. Doctors are performing surgery and medicine that is highly personalized and in accordance with the needs of the patient.

Workers in the hospital were replaced by local surgical hubs – people in remote areas still have access to high quality medical care. For recovery patients are moved in a room that is customized by a patient experience designer – AI creates recipes for individual patience, soups, with restorative properties. Assistive tools were equally distributed.

Catastrophic scenario: We build up the AI optimized only for profits. Kids who get mentored are very productive, everybody else is so far behind. Assisted workers who know about AIs are in high demand, while knowledge workers are losing their jobs.
Rushing into commercializing these digital tools, resulted in digital harm in the real world.

As humanity is at a corner stone, as we are entering an new era, as technology is progressing, it is a moment to start ASKING QUESTIONS, putting the WHAT IF into conversation, and collectively work for the our Future

Amy Webb CEO of Future Today Institute
World-renowned futurist and founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute, Amy Webb possesses master-level knowledge and insights on the potential futures for the industries critical to keeping the world moving during this unparalleled period of disruption in business and society. Webb is a sought-after advisor to Fortune 100 and Global 1000 companies and provides strategic foresight on the emerging tech and trends that will turn industries on their heads and transform every aspect of our lives.

A powerful voice on all things tech- and future-related, Webb is the author of several bestselling books, including the critically acclaimed The Big Nine about the futures of AI, and The Genesis Machine, which examines the futures of synthetic biology. A lifelong science fiction fan, Amy collaborates closely with Hollywood writers and producers on films, TV shows and commercials about science, technology and the future. She is a 15-year member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and has served on a Blue Ribbon panel for the Emmy Awards.

Amy Webb was elected a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, serves on the Media Stewardship Board at the World Economic Forum, and is ranked on the Thinkers50 list of the 50 most influential management thinkers globally. She is a professor of strategic foresight at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University’s Säid School of Business. Webb earned the rank of Shodan in the Japanese martial art Aikido, but a serious accident during training forced her to retire. She is now an avid long-distance cyclist.

About SXSW Film Festival
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About SXSW
SXSW dedicates itself to helping creative people achieve their goals. Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of tech, film, music, education, and culture. An essential destination for global professionals, the annual March event features sessions, music and comedy showcases, film screenings, exhibitions, professional development and a variety of networking opportunities. SXSW proves that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and people come together. SXSW 2023 will take place March 10 – 19, 2023. For more information, please visit sxsw.com. To register for the event, please visit sxsw.com/attend.

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