The future is here, look around for it

Sundar Pichai.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai. PHOTO | AFP 

On occasion I am asked by many a company executive or fledgling entrepreneur, a flavour of these two questions; how can we innovate and how can we tell what is coming?

The simplest answer I have had to offer is ‘look around’. While it comes across as bland, even uninspired, given away by the look on their faces, taking time to mull over it reveals the truth and potency of those two words.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai at their developer festival earlier this year did an enamouring live demonstration of Google Duplex, an artificial intelligence system built to make it that much easier for us to interact with computers and accomplish various tasks riding off a nuanced understanding of conversation and context augmented by connectivity.

The fluidity with which the interactions happened had the audience cheering wildly with the realisation of the possibilities presented.

Viewing this demonstration took me back to my childhood with two science fiction television series coming to mind.

The first was ‘Hard Time on Planet Earth’ from 1989 and the second ‘Time Trax’ that aired in 1993. ‘Hard Time’ sees the lead actor have at his disposal a floating robotic eye charged with overseeing his every move to ensure he tows the line, while in ‘Time Trax’ the star has a Specified Encapsulated Limitless Memory Archive or in short, SELMA, a digital assistant in holographic representation that is stored on a credit card sized chip ready to pull any information or run a computational tasks.

Science fiction quickly becomes science fact in this and many more examples that you can now probably see in plain sight as you jog your memory.

The time to market for any idea, concept or innovation varies by a large degree from one to the next, but the crux of what I am advocating for is that you start looking more intently at the world around you.

What are people writing about in novels and research papers? Or conjuring up for the big screen?

What habits do you find yourself indulged in? What is at the heart of random conversation in your city or village? What is giving people a laugh, inclined to the sceptical?

There is the cheat sheet, freely and readily available for anyone to make use of to guide their path and in the words of world famous hockey champion Wayne Gretzky, ‘skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been”.