I know I wasn’t the oldest person at Slush, because Al Gore was there and he’s 69 years old. But I was probably 35 years older than the median of the 20,000 tech heads from 130 countries attending the world’s largest startup event.
Some snippets of advice from some of the entrepreneurs and investors:
- You can’t change consumer behavior by persuading them, you have to give them an alternative that’s demonstrably better.
- It’s fantasy to expect masses of consumers (or customers) to switch to something more expensive.
- You’ve got to get your systems (production, marketing, sales, support) right in one market before you expand geographically. Avoid the VC trap; don’t expand too fast.
- You don’t make innovation spread. Innovation spreads, or it doesn’t.
- The only way to stay on top is to challenge and change what you are doing.
- You don’t build by focusing on what is going wrong, you expand from what is going right which also breeds excitement.
- The only way to secure data is not to gather it in the first place; the moment you start saving data, you are putting your customers and your company at risk.
- Storing your data under blockchain allows more choices for decentralization, mitigates risk, and reduces cost vs the traditional way of centralizing your data.
- The education system has to have both excellence AND equity, at scale. It's not neither, nor either, it has to have both.
- If teachers aren’t embracing the change (in education) you want to implement, the revolution collapses. And to do that, you have to trust teachers.
Will AI enhance our lives or obliterate the human race?
One series of talks were devoted to artificial intelligence and blockchain. The future belongs to decentralized (meaning blockchain) artificial intelligence. Current AI systems suffer from two missing ingredients: they can’t adapt to new situations without a great deal of human input (for example an AI system that can play the game of go cannot also drive a car), and they are not capable of rich models of objects and their interactions (for example, an AI system might be able to recognize faces, but it would not understand that the face was part of a human being and nor how to create a relationship with that person). It’s expected that the first gap will be solved in the next 3-5 years, which portends things like cars that under most circumstances will drive far better than humans, and the second in 15-20 years, which means machines may be able to learn to complete any task better than humans.
But don’t worry; 60% of AI experts say there is nothing to worry about, while only 40% maintain we are most likely on a collision course with destruction. Of course, speaking of experts, Ernest Rutherford, the founder of the atomic model, famously predicted that there would never be an atomic weapon, and that was just 12 hours before the first one was detonated. Would you get on a plane where only 40% of the experts were predicting it would crash?
Can we design a better person?
Another series of talks focused on human augmentation. Bionic devices are currently used primarily for disabled individuals. They can help people hear, walk, etc. Neuro technology (the interphase between neurons and devices) can work with bionic devices and provide feedback mechanisms. And gene editing already is used to alter crops and change animal cells to produce different chemicals (gene editing on pig cells growing in a lab enables those cells to produce human insulin). But these three technologies have even greater promise. Bionics will be able give people super human strength or other physical abilities (already most professional athletes get eye surgery in order to get vision twice as good as normal human vision). Neuro technology will soon allow brains to process faster, access more information, and control objects through thought. Gene editing will eliminate certain diseases while also offering the ability to create “designer children.”
Will we use human augmentation for the benefit of humanity, or will it further increase the gulf between the haves and the have nots? What do you think?
3DBear and TeacherGaming
Backing off these heavy thoughts a little, 3DBear reached top 10 startup status (out of 100 startup finalists) with Jussi Kajala’s riveting pitch startling the judges by crash landing a drone on the judges’ table. You can see at right how he used this to bring home the disruptive power of 3DBear to immerse kids in 3D design.
If you come to the SIIA Education Business Forum this week, or to FETC in late January, you’ll be able to meet Jussi and another Finnish EdTech star, Santeri Koivisto, whose TeacherGaming Desk is connecting curriculum and standard based lessons with popular video games to help teachers provide engaging lessons that promote deep learning.
Interesting online discussions on Edchat Interactive
And, please join us online in some exhilarating discussions:
- Shifting pedagogy from consumption to creation with Monica Burns
- Are your kids’ classes dangerously irrelevant with Scott McLeod
Just click on the links and register.