The amplifications of cognitive inequality could lead to social tensions and far reaching political turmoil
The future of our bodies will be determined by technology, says Tan Le, CEO and founder of Emotiv.
Emotiv, founded in 2003, is a bioinformatics company advancing understanding of the human brain using electroencephalography (EEG).
The company produces ‘brainwear’, headsets that can measure and translate brain activities.
While EEG is not new, the new versions can be taken on and off in minutes, and are as affordable as smartphones.
“We can use the data to understand how the brain behaves, and how to use the brain more efficiently,” says Tan Le.
In sports, the technology can see how how football players process information and react to different stimuli under stress. “This allows players to up their game,” she says.
In the workplace, brainware can be used to study how successful problem solvers think and roll out this process to the workforce to see how individuals can best work with stress.
She says integrating humans and machines can produce hybrids that combine the analytical processing power of computers with the creativity of humans.
“The possibilities of making ourselves better in what we do are almost endless,” says Le, who delivered the opening keynote at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo at the Gold Coast.
But she says these technologies bring their own intrinsic challenges.
“How do we ensure they are widely accessible and do not promote the creation of a newer elite, a small group of people who have the resources to monopolise the benefits while leaving the majority on the margins?”
“We are already seeing polarisation with massive disparity in global wealth,” she says.
“If this divergence is accelerated by limiting access to neurotechnologies, the amplifications of cognitive inequality could lead to social tensions and far reaching political turmoil.”
“We have to ensure they are widely accessible or else this will lead to the creation of an elite that can monopolise the benefits of the technology.”
“We have worked to create headsets that are as affordable as smartphones and can be used in any environment but this isn't just a social goal,” says Le, who was born in Vietnam and migrated to Australia as a refugee with her family in 1982.
“If we fail to make these technologies available to everyone, then we will have failed to fully harness the power of the human brain.”
She says the challenge is to build inclusivity in the business models from the ground up.
“We can not rely on technology itself to do the heavy lifting to benefit humankind,” she says.
We need to have ensure these waves of advancement will be available to all, she adds.
She says the most imminent challenge from automation and the rise of machines is mass unemployment with automation of jobs previously done by humans.
She says the World Economic forum has estimated five million jobs will be lost to automation across the globe by 2020. But additional studies show the scale of replacement will be greater.
If we fail to make these technologies available to everyone, then we will have failed to fully harness the power of the human brain
At the moment, she says, 80 per cent of neuroscience research is carried out in Western universities. The typical research subjects are drawn from students in these institutions.
By relying on data that only studies a very very narrow band of the population, we risk building bias into our development cycle, she says.
In order to mitigate these risks, Emotiv is working with organisations around the world to “seed neuroscience labs” by creating affordable neurolab kits with easy to use hardware and software, and making these available to researchers around the world.
“We are seeding and creating the foundations for a truly global research culture that will enable us to study the brain in all its myriad forms.”
The neuroscience hubs in developing and underserved regions is not just a question of being socially responsible, she says.
“We aim to build democratically accessible technologies that empower and augment the human brain.”
She acknowledges not everyone who plays a role in shaping future technology will share these goals.
“Many decision makers will ask whether a focus on inclusivity will benefit their organisations and companies in the short and medium term.”
“After all, what is the ROI on social responsibility?”
She says in all areas of machine learning, deep learning and cloud analytics, organisations are drawing from the same small pool of candidates.
“It is in all our interests to work together to make something positive in the coming effects of automation,” she states.
“We need to create education programmes that will help to retrain the large number of talented individuals who will be displaced from jobs and start filling the skills gaps," she says.
“We also need to retool our industries simplifying the tools platforms and technologies required will enable many more people to participate."
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