Imagine a restaurant where, without you having to order a thing, the chef prepares the food you’ve been thinking about all day; a shop where the owner can tell you what’s in stock by consulting their neural-linked artificial intelligence; unlocking your office with a wave of your hand; or lifting heavy machinery with the help of an exoskeleton.
These are just some of the everyday changes that will transform the world of work, according to the latest in the MYOB Future of Business series: The Augmented Human. The report is the third from the leading online accountancy software business. The overall series takes a longer term view of the technology trends shaping the world, with the previous reports examining what business will look like in 2040 and the concept of ‘the singularity’.
MYOB Chief Technology Officer and futurist Simon Raik-Allen says, based on the development of current technology, the rise of the augmented human, where biology and technology blend to offer a whole range of physical and mental enhancements, is inevitable.
“All sorts of things that are actually happening today, from neural transmitters to artificial hearts, are bringing about fundamental changes in the way we view and challenge the limitations of our biology,” says Simon Raik-Allen. “We are on the cusp of an evolution revolution.”
Is this the future of business?
One of the areas that will profoundly change with the development of more advanced human augmentation, according to Mr Raik-Allen, will be the business world.
“It’s going to be massive for business – giving rise to a whole range of new industries that we’re only just starting to imagine the possibilities for,” says Mr Raik-Allen.
“Imagine a version of today’s app store – the brain-app store or the body-app store – which you can connect to in order to download the latest developments in intelligence, mental performance, or simply entertainment.
“Got an important business meeting in China? Download the language app and speak like a local with an accent add-on. Worried about offending your hosts at dinner while you clinch the big business deal? Connect with the app-store through your neural interface while you’re riding the hyperloop train to Beijing and pick out the social etiquette app with the best reviews on Weibo.”
Alongside the physical and mental enhancements, an embedded connection to a personal artificial intelligence could offer massive improvements in understanding, communication and productivity.
“For business, this adds a whole new dimension to the information-driven economy, which has already driven so many opportunities globally,” says Mr Raik-Allen. “Our knowledge and capabilities will be enhanced, our physical and mental abilities will be raised to new heights, and the opportunities for us to experience, communicate and share will be unparalleled.”
How close are we to this?
Although some of the ideas may seem like the stuff of science fiction, the report’s predictions are based on the evolution of technology currently in development, or even in use.
“Part of my job is to think about the future, and how businesses in particular might prepare for it,” Mr Raik-Allen says.
“Looking 20 or 30 years into the future not only helps us start preparing for what might be coming along, but also gives us new ways of thinking about what we are doing now, and the processes and preconceptions that might be holding our business back.”
“That’s why we’ve developed the MYOB Future of Business series: to stimulate discussion and get business people talking and thinking about what the future might look like for them.”
Where the current technological trends might end will be a matter for debate, but Mr Raik-Allen believes humanity is about to enter a period of considerable change.
“Just a few years ago, none of us could conceive of carrying around the amount of computing power we do today in our smart devices. Now, most of us can’t be without it. Imagine having an exponentially greater level of technological capability, quite literally at your fingertips, or tucked away in your skull.
“The advantages and the convenience of all kinds of human augmentation will do more than change the way we think about technology – it will change what we are.
“The more our technology and our humanity start to merge, at some point, we’ll become indistinguishable from the technology itself. Even our biology will begin to fade. And that will be the rise of the new human.”