Peter Diamandis thinks we need to get ready “the new Kodak moment” of disruption: machines that can learn.

Speaking during a press conference about IBM Watson’s 28 artificial intelligence APIs for developers, the X Prize Foundation CEO said AI-infused technologies will lead to a string of instances where innovative upstarts usurp the role of traditional companies the way Instagram emerged as a giant in photography while Kodak faded into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In the larger scheme of things, what will be disrupted is the role of human cognitive abilities in an economy increasingly powered by a universe of data too vast for the humans to process.

“Faster, cheaper computing power is enabling a slew of technologies, and these technologies are driving unexpected convergent change,” he said. "Things are not changing decade to decade. They're changing year to year."

Sensors, data and artificial intelligence capable of analyzing data in ways humans are unable will power changes that have effects across industries.

“It’s about enabling you to do frankly what your grandest dreams are,” said Diamandis.

He said self-driving cars will render car insurance and the need for more roads obsolete. He anticipates his children will never drive. He projected that advances in camera technology will lead to cameras woven into clothes, biometric sensing will “massively disrupt” medicine, and satellites will be able to watch raw materials entering factories and finished products leaving them, enabling smart AI to extract finanical performance data ahead of the markets.

"If you want to know what Best Buy's quarterly earnings are going to be, you can count the number of cars in the parking lots," he said. “People don’t realize the domino effects that each of these technologies have."

We are heading towards “a world of near perfect data” where virtually anything can be known anytime, he said. “If you thought privacy wasn’t dead yet, you can guess again."

Taken together, he predicted emerging technologies and their convergence would create “an entrepreneurial revolution like never before.”

Diamandis’s optimism clashes sharply with the concern of gloomier technology prophets like Tesla founder Elon Musk, who thinks AI could drive the human race into extinction. Musk has called artificial intelligence the “biggest existential threat to humanity,” especially as the technology progresses toward “superintelligence,” surpassing humans in cognitive ability.

Views like Musk’s are completely misguided in the eyes of Diamandis, who is also co-founder of Silicon Valley-based think tank-university-incubator hybrid Singularity University. He called artificial intelligence the “power that’s going to lift up humanity.”

“I’m sick and tired about the dystopian conversations around AI,” he said.

Published on: Sep 24, 2015