PCB007 Magazine

PCB-Apr2014

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April 2014 • The PCB Magazine 43 mission and then back off because they decide it is too risky. Nominating Kodak as the definitive example of a company worth billions that failed to rec- ognise the disruptive opportunity presented by the digital camera in 1996—actually invented by one of its own people—and found itself over- taken by new technology and bankrupt in 2012, Dr. Diamandis noted that in contrast, in 2012, Facebook made a multi-billion-dollar takeover of Instagram, a young company of 13 employ- ees. The life-span of a typical company is now of the order of 15 years, and he predicted that 40% of existing Fortune 500 companies would be out of business within the next 10 years. Returning to the theme of local-and-linear thinking, Dr. Diamandis explained the phi- losophy of Singularity University in the study of exponential technology—with the example that thirty linear steps would gain a distance of thirty metres, whereas thirty exponential steps would circle the world twenty-six times. And Moore's Law exemplified the exponential growth in computing power, to almost inesti- mable levels in the future. Near-infinite computing power could open up new dimensions in artificial intelligence— the ability to look beyond plain logic, even rec- ognise the subtleties of irony, cynicism and hu- mour, and understand what answer is relevant. Couple this with robotics, where a paradigm change is well underway, and truly intelligent machines are already a reality, as demonstrat- ed in Dr. Diamandis' video of the view from the passenger seat as Google's autonomous car negotiated a sla- lom course at high speed. 3D printing is another area of ex- ponential develop- ment, with amazing engineering capabili- ties. Breakthroughs in genome sequencing have enabled devel- opments in synthetic biology to the extent that printed DNA mole- cules have been produced. It was clear that the rate of innovation is exploding, and innovation is coming from ev- erywhere. True breakthroughs generally come from unexpected directions. Dr. Diamandis made it plain that any company relying only on innovation from within was probably going nowhere and that to limit risk was to accept a future of, at best, incremental improvement. Diamandis is a great believer in crowd- sourcing. Lindberg flew the Atlantic to claim a $25,000 prize. Diamandis had a longstanding ambition to get into space. How? By throwing out the challenge to the world and offering a $10 million X-Prize as the incentive, which re- sulted in 26 teams spending a total of $100 mil- lion. "Set a target and challenge the world to solve the problem. Winner takes all—no second prizes!" He believes the world's biggest prob- lems present the world's biggest business op- portunities. A question from the floor related to school- children having little interest in taking up ca- reers in science and engineering: How to inspire them? Dr. Diamandis suggested the answer was to make the scientists and engineers the rock stars, and to encourage the young people to per - ceive them as role models. The question he posed was, "How about a competition for the youngest person ever to travel to the space station?" What is the next X-Prize challenge? Health- care—to develop a hand-held universal medical diagnostic device. And after that, to achieve glob- al literacy, even in the most impoverished areas. Dr. Diamandis' closed by declaring, "The only constant is change, and the rate of change is in- creasing. The next twenty years are going to be trans- formational. There's lots of change ahead, and the rate of change is increas- ing beyond our ability to project it!" Dr. Peter Diamandis

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