Speaker: Webb, A. (Future Today Institute)
Date: 26 June 2019
SMA hosted a speaker session presented by Ms. Amy Webb (Future Today Institute) as a part of its SMA General Speaker Series. Ms. Webb first stated that the US’s free market economy rewards short-term solutions with long-term risk, which can sometimes be problematic. She then spoke about her model, which uses data to listen for weak signals at the fringe, to see patterns, to identify trends, to calculate the ETA of a particular trend, to write scenarios, and to backcast preferred outcomes. Ms. Webb also stressed that there is no way to predict the future when there are so many variables at hand, nor is there a way to determine what geopolitical risks there truly are or what the impact of a technology may be. Her research deals with big areas of disruption and change. Ms. Webb then identified ten sources of disruption: 1) wealth distribution, 2) infrastructure, 3) education, 4) government, 5) geopolitics, 6) public health, 7) demography, 8) economy, 9) environment, and 10) journalism media. She also stated that artificial intelligence (AI) is being developed for different purposes along separate tracks in the US and China. Furthermore, the future of AI hinges on nine different companies: Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, and Apple in the US, and Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent in China. In the US, there is a free market economy that incentivizes growth, fast production, and quick market entry and discourages collaboration without some sort of incentive. In China, the situation is the opposite—collaboration is encouraged and rewarded, particularly with the government. Ms. Webb then provided a critical assessment of the US’s technology sector and several examples of near-horizon developments within the US, including emotion recognition via Amazon’s Alexa and baseline biometric data collection via Walmart shopping carts. She also discussed the US’s vulnerabilities in this field. Ms. Webb proceeded to do the same for China, while also highlighting some of China’s strengths. To conclude, Ms. Webb offered a series of tactical, strategic, visionary, and systems-level evolutionary recommendations for both the DoD and a broader US government audience.
To access a recording of this session, please email Ms. Nicole Peterson (firstname.lastname@example.org).