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September 2015

In 1984 James Camerons movie Terminator introduced a new

kind of super-villain to popular culture. The fictional Skynet was a
computer network, which on achieving a level of artificial intelligence,
recognises the human race as a threat to its existence and begins a
campaign to exterminate humanity.

The film, one of many examples in movies and While it is by no means certain that the singularity
literature that play on our fears of out-of-control will ever occur, it is clear that the rapid pace of
technology, neatly encapsulated one of the concepts progress in technological development is changing
scientists, authors and futurists have been discussing the way we live and work. Over the next thirty years,
since the late 1950s. advances in technology will make many of the jobs
we do, the businesses we run and the ways we
With the rapid development of technology, many interact obsolete.
predict a point when computers reach a level of
artificial general intelligence that enables them to
learn on their own. This new intelligent entity would
be capable of designing ever more sophisticated
technology in a kind of runaway super-intelligence.
The concept of a technological singularity describes
this moment, when humanity is suddenly tipped
from its place as the dominant intelligence on the
planet and faces an uncertain future.

Whether that future is a technological utopia or

global destruction, many leading theorists are now
predicting the singularity may be reached within the
next thirty years with some claiming it may be in
the next decade.

In January, MYOB released The Future of Business report. In it, As businesspeople, entrepreneurs and students,
MYOB Chief Technology Officer Simon Raik-Allen looked ahead how do we prepare now to make ourselves both relevant
25 years at what business might look like, and discussed ways in and successful in the future? How do we prepare to survive
which SMEs can prepare. Now, one of Australasias largest software the singularity?
developers looks at the rapidly evolving field of Artificial Intelligence,
and how it may affect business, society and work in the future.


As machines get smarter, there will be a

time when someone creates a machine that
can learn. We are not there yet, but a lot of
progress is being made.

Scientists are beginning to could have access to all of

understand more and more human knowledge, computers
about the detailed operation are constrained by their ability
of the amazing human brain; to interpret and apply the
an extraordinary machine information they are given.
Simon Raik-Allen developed and refined over To reason, respond and evolve.
is MYOBs Chief millions of years to thrive in
Technology Officer. His our environment. As they do, However, its only a matter of
role involves looking at engineers are replicating that time before we understand the
understanding in software and machinations of learning, and
the current and future
silicon. become capable of recreating
trends in technology
this process within a computer.
and how they can be Alongside the capacity for That will be the moment of the
developed to benefit emotion and free thought, singularity.
SMEs. According to one of the most mysterious
Simon, technology will and astonishing attributes of Rapidly, that ability will give its only a matter of time before we understand
continue to radically the human brain is its capability rise to an immense capability
transform business. for learning. for autonomous reasoning by
computers. Their intelligence
the machinations of learning, and become capable
While we dont understand
how learning takes place, our
and ability will soon surpass
that of humans, and at that
of recreating this process within a computer.
technology is constrained by
our own inputs. Even though
point, we will no longer be
the dominant species on
That will be the moment of the singularity.
they are capable of incredibly planet Earth.
complex calculations and
processes, our current The singularity is coming
computers can only do what quickly, with predictions it
we tell them. While we are will occur within the next
programming increasingly 30 years. After which, the
autonomous machines, they future of humanity is
are still unable to decide to do uncertain.
things outside the parameters
we provide. And though they

Enhanced technological intelligence is already Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is sceptical that
providing enormous benefits, and in the future current technology is capable on delivering on all
could offer much more. Concepts that, just a few years the promises it makes, especially for the much-hyped
ago were in the realms of science fiction, such as internet of things. However, he agrees the singularity
digital personal assistants and self-driving cars have is the most significant development in the future of
already become reality. In the near future, massive technology. He spoke publicly on the issue recently
technological advances in everything from advanced in Sydney, saying that: The most important thing for
robotics to implanted biological enhancements have the future, which all of the leaders of our time with
the potential to greatly improve our lives. brains like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk and Bill
Gates are talking about as the biggest threat to
However, the fear that technology could turn on
humanity, is that once machines have intelligence
us, especially in the area of military development,
and can think themselves, thats a turning point.
is becoming increasingly widespread. In 2014, the
United Nations Human Rights Council held its first But perhaps the expert who is most vocal on the
debate on the issue of lethal autonomous robots. risks associated with the rise of artificial intelligence
This is a rapidly developing field of the defence is tech billionaire Elon Musk. The Space X and Tesla
industry giving killer robots, from drones to missile pioneer, who has invested in a company called
batteries to guard robots, power to determine and Deepmind, which is working in the field, caused a
engage their own targets, including people. stir recently when a comment he made to the author
Even seemingly innocuous technologies like self-
driving cars have recently come under scrutiny as
of a discussion on AI was published online, revealing
his strong fears about the rapid development of AI. The risk of something seriously
their developers ponder how to govern the choices
they might make when faced with an unavoidable
Mr Musk has previously likened the advent of
artificial intelligence to summoning the demon.
dangerous happening is in the five year
accident. For example, what does a self-driving car
do when faced with swerving into oncoming traffic,
At the end of July 2015, Professor Hawking, Steve timeframe. 10 years at most. Please note that
Wozniak and Elon Musk co-signed an open letter
risking the lives of its passengers, to avoid a child
who has run into the road?
alongside a thousand AI and robotics researchers,
including MYOBs Simon Raik-Allen presented at
I am normally super pro technology and have
But for many of the worlds leading theorists, the rise
of artificial intelligence poses a far greater threat.
the Joint International Conference on Artificial
Intelligence in Buenos Aires, calling for a ban on
never raised this issue until recent months.
Internationally renowned physicist, Professor
offensive autonomous weapons.
This is not a case of crying wolf about
Stephen Hawking recently told the BBC: The Not everyone is as concerned about the risks of
primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already
have, have proved very useful. But I think the
artificial intelligence, however. Ray Kurzweil, who
is widely recognised for popularising the idea of the
something I dont understand.
development of full artificial intelligence could singularity, has been appointed by Google to work on
spell the end of the human race. It would take off the next stage of the search engines development:
on its own and re-design itself at an ever-increasing intelligently organising and processing the worlds
rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological information. Mr Kurzweil, co-founder of the
evolution, couldnt compete, and would be Singularity University, predicts that computers
superseded. will outstrip their creators in intelligence by 2029.

Elon Musk photograph: Art Streiber/August image



One of the best examples of the new realities
of business is likely to be seen in the retail sector.
In the internet age, retail has been the canary in
the coalmine, showing some of the most obvious
HUMAN and significant changes as much of the worlds
consumption moves online.
Since the earliest days of commerce, humans have
traded and shopped. And the trading post or store
in its many forms has been as much the centre of
community life as the church or the tavern.
The major shortcoming with online shopping is
the instant gratification that comes with in-store
shopping and the ease with which consumers can
get their hands-on products in real time. As new
technologies emerge, that advantage for traditional
retailing will continue to shift.

TECHNOLOGY At the same time, particularly as people recognise

the risks of consumption on our broader environment,
we are seeing growing demand for products that
The other key element of business, negotiation,
are locally made, using traditional methods and and deal making, which is currently moving away
In a world where so much is digitized traceable inputs that can be tracked from the farm from face-to-face, will also become more focused
and automated, its the human factor gate or original producer to the consumer. This is on personal interaction.
that people will value the most. While there is growing recognition of the risks of not only an environmental movement it also In the future, special business deal houses will
the singularity, we still want to harness the power reflects a desire for a return to the unique outputs emerge, where people will book time to meet
The ability to offer the crucial things of advanced technology. This will mean taking of human creativity. other companies and make deals. They will house
technology cant such as person-to-person computers to the limit without crossing the line.
interactions, displays of emotion, and shared, As the impact of technology increases, retail will technology and holograms, and set up environments
As with other human inventions that have both conducive to making deals between humans much
interpersonal experiences will see the powerful potential and significant inherent risks, evolve to where stores dont sell goods they sell
creation of new industries. experiences. Bricks and mortar retail spaces will more effective.
such as nuclear technology, that limit will have to
be clearly defined and closely guarded through become showrooms, which emphasise the unique Although these may not be in the flesh, they will
As technology begins to break down and
international agreements and development controls. attributes of the product or the values of the brand. focus on creating a real experience, rather than
homogenise our experiences, the very
Instead of loading up a cart with goods to purchase relying on algorithms negotiating on your behalf.
culture and character that has made us Over 70 years ago, science fiction author Isaac in store, consumers will try on or sample the Indeed, computers may have become so fast at
uniquely successful over thousands of years Asimov introduced the concept of the Three Laws products on display, scan and purchase the items negotiating deals, and so adept at exploring all the
will once again become a thing of value. of Robotics; primary directives designed to ensure they desire using their mobile phone, and have angles and making complex assessments of their
Today, commerce is moving away from robots would protect and obey humans. We are now them delivered to their homes within 24 hours opponents like highly advanced versions of todays
human interaction. More and more so close to developing the technology that might possibly by drone. poker playing algorithms that humans may need to
businesses are starting or moving online, create the singularity that serious effort needs to step in to broker the final deal based on trust, shared
be given to understanding how it might be In the future, the retail experience will focus
allowing consumers and businesses to values, and an old-fashioned handshake.
controlled. To prevent unforeseen consequences on interacting with someone who knows you,
interact without the need for direct
of well-meaning development, or more nefarious understands what you like and can offer new ideas
human engagement. Retail businesses,
actions by states or individuals, it is time to act now and suggestions based on your digital profile and
in particular, are struggling and many are
to begin to assert those controls before the robots the latest trends from around the world. No longer
closing, due to the convenience of online
break their programming. just a retail assistant, these highly-trained service
people will be tour guide, advisor, curator and
The work environment is also moving However, assuming we take computer intelligence subject matter expert, helping you make choices
away from physical interaction. Working to the edge of the singularity, we will still be living that suit your tastes and experience the latest
from home is becoming more commonplace in a highly automated and advanced computerised novelties in a constantly changing world. Having
and remote workforces are becoming more world. Well potentially be sharing it with smart that human interaction will become a cherished
widespread. People are able to spend their machines that have a form of limited or governed experience you may even pay to enter the store
days without living interaction just digital artificial intelligence. for this interaction, regardless of your purchase.
ones. The use of holograms will accelerate So where does that leave us? In a world at the Human inputs in products will also become
this even further. singularity safety limit, what roles will we play, as increasingly valued. In a world where mass
But, in a world where growing levels of people in business, and what opportunities can we automated production is ubiquitous, items that
consumption are bad for the environment find, and niches can we develop, in an increasingly are handcrafted, locally sourced, and individually
and therefore expensive and limited automated world? made will become rare, fashionable and sought-after.
when it does come time to make a business
interaction, you will want to make the
most of it and use it as an opportunity
for human interaction.

BAD 2015
Administering the Turing test on an
attractive robot invented by the founder
of the worlds largest search engine (sound
1983 familiar?), a young programmer gets caught
WAR GAMES up in a murderous battle of wills.
Before enjoying his more famous
1927 day off, Matthew Broderick
nearly starts World War 3 playing
a computer game against an AI.
In Fritz Langs sci-fi epic, exploited Shall we play a game?
workers in a dystopian 2026 are 1975 Austin has his hands full fighting off a
inspired to launch destructive THE STEPFORD WIVES horde of killer fem-bots. Oh be-have!
uprising by a robot. Based on Ira Levins 1972 novel, the
Connecticut suburb of Stepford might
seem idyllic, but the towns murderous
female robot doubles are hell bent on
holding back the feminist cause.

1982 2004
Just who is the replicant, the Tyrell Corporation United States Robotics supercomputer
Nexus-6 synthetic humanoids, Harrison Ford is really Viki (Virtual Interactive Kinetic
pursuing in this Ridley Scott adaptation of Phiip K Intelligence) interprets Isaac Asimovs
Dicks Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep? first law of robotics as meaning she must
kill humans to save them from themselves.
Whoops, hadnt thought of that!
1968 1982 1984
In Stanley Kubricks classic, the ships computer A computer hacker is abducted into the digital Arnold Schwarzeneggers killer robot
HAL 9000 murders crew members of the world and forced to participate in gladiatorial has become a cult classic, but the
Discovery One to prevent them disconnecting games where his only chance of escape is with Skynet that unleashed him on the world
it. Open the pod bay doors, Hal! the help of a heroic security program. On the is frighteningly realistic. Ill be back
other side of the screen, it all looks so easy. maybe soon!


One of the fears often expressed about widespread The Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan (CST) worked
automation and increasing technological automation with foresight strategists to create job descriptions
is the threat of what has become known as the that will likely be available in the year 2030. With
jobless future, where people just cant compete technology moving at such a pace, a glimpse into the
with the efficiency and versatility of machines. future provides some insight on our future careers.
In a speech recently, Microsoft founder Bill Gates The roles they identified, range from designers
predicted that within just 20 years, many current recreating retro spaces: nostalgists, and upcyclers
jobs will be replaced by software automation. that engineer recycled materials: garbage designers,
While many manufacturing and processing roles to specialists helping patients work through the health
especially in dangerous or highly specialised system: healthcare navigators, and consultants
environments are already filled by robotic to help families integrate with the robot world:
workers, other areas will soon be affected. robot counsellors.
For example, within one of the largest local sectors,
the professional service industry, a number of
specialities are likely to disappear or see significant
job losses, including telemarketers, auditors, bank Bot lobbyist
tellers, travel agents, retail salespersons, technical A bot lobbyist will be able to take charge of a
writers, real estate agents, and word processors. virtual army of real (and not-so-real) social media
accounts to support a clients PR and marketing

Future currency speculator

The growing virtual currency market will need
experts, which could give rise to the future
currency speculator.

Productivity counsellors
As workers compete in a future of scarcer
work opportunities, and ever more information
OTHER JOBS THAT COULD GO BY 2034: is available to employers about their staffs
habits, health and attention, these specialists
Social media experts will be able to help provide maximum value.

FUTURE Print journalists

Assembly line workers
Big data doctor
Big data already has a growing influence
Postmen and women in many industries. A new area of medical
While we may not risk being enslaved by our robot overlords, In an increasingly globalised economy, workers will also
Data analysts specialisation could include doctors who provide
the next wave of technology will have a profound effect on have to develop new skill sets, such as speaking multiple
treatment recommendations based on a patients
the number and types of jobs available. languages and changing sleeping patterns for multiple
Middle managers biographic profile and personal data.
time zones. Humans will have to compete harder for a
According to research from Oxford University, nearly smaller number of jobs, while we battle our own biological
The rise of automated technology and limited AI Crowdfunding specialist
half of the US workforce is in danger of losing jobs to limitations to keep up. As work begins to change the
will also have profoundly positive impacts on many As crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter
robots in the next 20 years. In particular, recent studies demands on our brains and bodies, we will increasingly
areas of work opening up new job opportunities become increasingly popular, it is likely well
have found that as technology drives robots to be more use technology to augment and boost our abilities.
in areas that are currently only theoretical. Its see a whole industry grow up around managing,
efficient and cost-effective, people who work in lower
been predicted that 65 per cent of children today promoting and curating the ideas pitched by
skilled roles, including drivers and call centre workers, The demands of our new jobs in the technological age,
will end up in jobs that are yet to be created. fundraisers.
would be out of a job. and the advances we make in nano-technology and
biological implants, will likely drive us to increasingly shape
So, todays young people face the challenge of Jobs of the future counsellor
ourselves to succeed in this new world. The irony is that the
preparing for careers that may not even exist yet
singularity may not occur in machine intelligence at all.
and their current ambitions might not be relevant And to help a new generation come to grips
in the future. with the changing future of work, it is likely the
school jobs counsellor will have to have a firm
The artificially intelligent beings that achieve global dominance might be us a post-human view of the opportunities of the future.

combination of thousands of years of evolution and the latest technological revolution.



According to a recent study, almost
THINGS Some of the worlds leading car Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles)
DeepMind In 2011, the IBM Artificial
one in five AI experts believe such The Internet of Things (IoT) manufacturers are currently in are becoming more and more a part British start-up artificial intelligence Intelligence software called
technology will ultimately pose a is being developed around advanced testing of this technology, of our lives. In the future, not only company, DeepMind, was bought Watson, beat humans in the
threat to humanity. Super-smart increased machine-to-machine and a number are already will drones buzzing around in the by Google for $400 million in 2014. general knowledge TV quiz
machines already prescribe communication. As chips and incorporating autonomy features sky be as commonplace as cars on One of the companys projects is Jeopardy! Watson has been
personalised treatments for cancer sensors become embedded in into their latest models. There are the street, but we will have our own the creation of a computer that developed to understand and use
patients, write sports reports or everyday objects, they will become two different types of self-driving personal drones. As well as carrying will be so intelligent it will be human language, using advanced
beat human players in video games. able to share information, provide cars: semi-autonomous and fully out services such as making capable of programming itself. language processing and automated
But, despite the positive potential alerts and reminders and interact autonomous. A fully autonomous deliveries its been predicted by Director of engineering at Google, reasoning and machine learning
of AI to help eradicate poverty, with our digital devices. Your fridge vehicle that can drive from point NASA that every home will have Ray Kurzweil and his team are techniques. The competition was a
disease or the drudgery of daily will be able to remind you to pick A to point B without needing any a drone in five or 10 years time. developing super-fast quantum proof of concept for a machine that
work there is fear of a future up milk when you are in the interaction from the driver will Currently, the military, the police computer chips based on the human has many real-world applications.
with self-aware machines. supermarket; your phone will be debut in 2019. and emergency services, real estate brain. This will make machines more After its short-lived TV career, IBM
able to tell your car to warm the agents, farmers, scientists, and human, as the chips would enhance has continually developed Watson
seats as you are five minutes from professional photographers their intuitive decision making for a range of industries to provide
finishing your meeting. While there commonly use drones. skills and predictive ability. Google analytical insights, support clinical
has been a lot of hype about IoT, it recently started partnerships decision-making and improve
is already technically feasible and with two AI research teams of the customer service. Watson currently
many companies are working to Oxford University to help machines resides in a cluster of 90 IBM
make it a reality. better understand their users by Power 750 servers.
improving visual recognition
systems and natural language



With automated systems becoming increasingly sophisticated and experts predicting that researchers
are getting closer all the time to developing some form of AI, we asked Simon Raik-Allen how local
businesses might prepare.

Get online with a business website, and automate Focus on the customer experience that your Again, as more and more elements of our existence
as many manual processes as you can. This is probably product or service delivers, and be sure you understand become automated, dealing with human colleagues
the most important step you can take in streamlining why your customers like to interact with your business. will become a unique element of business. To make
your operation today, to take advantage of the Ironically in the age of robotics, human contact will your business stand out in an automated world, you
opportunities every new stage of technology provides. become more valuable and sought-after, and your will need to focus and leverage your interactions with
Anything you commit to paper now, or a system you customers are likely to seek out a more other companies. Create relationships and
have that cant handle automation, will not benefit human service experience. partnerships now that will enable you to pool
your business in the future. Not only is the process your resources as the new post-AI
good for your business now, it will prepare world evolves.
you for when the AI algorithms
can operate over it!


Some elements of a more automated world, such Also, holograms will enable us all to interact with In a world transformed by AI, online accounting As our world changes, technology will evolve
as 3D printing factories, will need plenty of open each other wherever we are physically located and business management solutions will become with us. But unlike death, we will probably never
space, so centres outside cities will boom. Of course around the globe so people will no longer need to even more critical. But it may not be money you are beat taxes, so your small business will still have
humans need company and local communities will live in a city in order to work anywhere in the world. accounting for. It could be human experiences that some form of financial reporting, hopefully
become more important. In an ideal world, with will become the currency of the future. You could compiled with just a few seconds thought and
AI controlling and automating many functions, barter, trade and trade IOUs for artwork, theatrical an imprint of your thumb or scan of your retina!
people will have more leisure time to enjoy, with a performances, gardening demonstrations and so
accompanying tourism boom likely around the world. forth.

September 2015