The post robotic AI age and the role of creativity and innovation

Sense Making

You’ve heard the news. Jobs will come under fire if not already so. Machines, robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI), are going to take over. The Matrix, Terminator, all those movies had it right. So is it time to start a resistance movement?

What happens if it’s all true but the ending is not a tragic one. Can we find a happy coexistence with machines? In an alternative scenario, machines would be our servants and tackle the hard tasks they are brilliant at. Retaining, processing and repeating rule-based information. Complex calculations in milliseconds. Massive infrastructure and mechanical jobs that require strength, are dangerous and may even need to happen on other planets and atmospheres.

And whither humans? With land, capital, and labour safely being managed on our behalf, might humans be able to realise their full potential? Creative powerhouses constantly renewing and improving, stimulated by human interaction and fired by endless imagination. With time to put that strength to work.


In this post, I’m attempting to set out my stall for the next trend report I write. This will be my third. You can find out about the first two in the trend report page.

This is going to take about a year because I’m doing this alongside a day job. This post expands on the main hypothesis I am working on verifying.

No doubt it will change over time.

It’s important to start somewhere. A diagram is one of my favourite ways to synthesise thinking. So I drew some lines.


This post is also a part of an attempt to work out loud as much as possible. That could take the form of an occasional post to update on progress.

Or I will curate articles and any research I compile as I did before and after publishing my last trend report. See these posts tagged research and innerventuresupdate.

Follow along if you have a mind to or an interest. Better still, take part. But don’t feel obliged.

For my last trend report I set out with great intentions to involve contributors.

I found out it’s not so easy especially when you are time constrained to start with. It takes effort to do well. Others are in the same boat and have their own priorities.

So if you manage even a read and a comment, I would be grateful :)

An explanation of the diagram

I hope it’s straightforward enough. I struggled with this for a while and am still not sure I have the right angles. I’m not referring to the arrows :)

I grappled with how to characterise the trajectories of the three arrows. I mean what did they constitute. I concluded that they were learning priorities. Wether by humans or machines, they were directions of learning intent.

By machines I mean AI for the most part. In the case of super AI even more so. By definition it is self learning and its intent is to become super intelligent.

Robots are something that are going to take over physical work. They have mechanical capability more than intelligence. Their intelligence will come from computers that drive AI.

Together you could see them as a whole – machines.

If all projections on AI are correct, then its trajectory is due for a massive jump soon. Capacity to learn as well as intelligence will rise exponentially.

Human learning is different. Learning directions and priorities are often imposed. By schools that teach who are often lead by organisations that hire based on skills taught.

I have distinguished between STEM based learning directions and creativity based.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (as an educational category). This has dominated learning priorities for at least the last fifty years. As mentioned, institutions of all kinds impose it.

Creativity, if seen beyond the narrow confines of education in the arts, has lagged. That in my view, should change and I’m not the only one. I’m suggesting we will need to see a massive increase in learning emphasis, both at school and at work.

Creativity is as important as literacy. Sir Ken Robinson

I assume there is going to be a need for humans to take care of the machines. Even if humans will not remain on a par, they will have to maintain their STEM focus. They will need it to maintain the machines – at least in the near term. So the STEM based learning trajectory continues roughly on par with past trends.

As for my vertical axis, here too I grappled. I was thinking what is the point of all this activity. For the moment I have couched it in the familiar. Innovation and productivity are after all the holy grail that many organisations aspire to achieve.

So that will do for now on my current standpoint. My hypothesis in essence is as follows:

Machines are self learning and will become super intelligent. There will soon be an exponential rise in their capability. They will outstrip our current STEM based capabilities. We will no longer need the capabilities as much since we can rely on machines. Mastering our creative capabilities is the next frontier. We will use them to put ourselves and machines to work and solve the biggest challenges humanity face. We need to start preparing now.

Below I describe some of the main influences on my thinking so far.

Main influences on my thinking so far

Tim Urban: The Road to Superintelligence

I attended a Tim Urban talk at Transition, an event my company hosted last year. We didn’t record and share the full presentation. Luckily this Google talk he gave was and he spoke about the same topic.

He makes compelling arguments simple, as he is know for doing. A couple of things stood out for me. That we are at the cusp of exponential growth in AI’s capability for self learning. And the distinctions between standard and super intelligence blew me away.

The latter especially lead me to believe we are not thinking big enough about AI. In essence he showed me the limits of my imagination.

He didn’t project futuristic outcomes, he only shed a light on the possibilities. Extrapolate from only recent progress and a super intelligent future is hard to deny.

Don’t want a robot to steal your job? Be creative

The title is not mine – here is the article: Don’t want a robot to steal your job? Be creative. The title alone is what nailed it for me. Then on reading it several points jumped out. The first was this one:

Cheap computing power and rapidly advancing AI mean that machines already outperform us on tasks that involve retaining, processing, and repeating rule-based information.

Then their point about STEM learning which I incorporated into my diagram and thesis.

creativity-vs-robots-nestaThere was also the link to the NESTA report (pdf). This provided rich, research based evidence. The results confirm that “creative occupations are more future proof to computerisation”.

They also define a far broader concept of creativity than common perception holds. That it’s more than the arts. It encompasses “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something”.

The part in italics is what stood out for me .

That lead me to Richard Florida’s paper: The Creative Class and Economic Development (pdf).

Modern Organisations Hierarchy of Needs

Independent of all this, I wrote a post some time ago that seemed to resonate with many from all the likes and shares it received (in the thousands).

Based on Maslow’s model I positioned the Modern Organisation’s Hierarchy of Needs. Creativity and innovation were at the pinnacle of organisational actualisation.

What I left out was the AI and robots element. I’m convinced I should include it. I propose to remodel the hierarchy and include these considerations. I’ll make this a core part of my trend report. I’ll use it to advocate how organisations should change to refocus their efforts.

modern organisation hierarchy of needs

Any feedback at all on my initial thinking would be great. Please add a comment.

Round up of latest #innerventures trends

Startup Innovation

Lots going on recently so this is a big update with an excellent selection of articles and activities.

You can see other updates like this by checking out posts with the #innerventuresupdate tag as well as the original posts I curated under the #research tag which I then used in the InnerVentures trend report that you can find here: Trend Reports

Round up of latest #innerventures trends

Startup Innovation

In this post I’m changing the format slightly by tagging the title with a different hashtag (which was partly for Twitter but had other purposes too). Instead of intrapreneurtrends that I used before, its now the new name of this site, its URL, the new hashtag I’m tracking on Twitter (see sidebar) and my new book/trend report which I’m about to publish – more on that soon. This is also the last of the research tags I’ll be using on this site that tagged all the new articles and reports I found to include in the book and started with this post.

Here are the more prominent, recent articles below – these and others have all been included in the trend report. Once the trend report is published I’ll  keep tracking new articles and the like differently. For anyone interested, I curate content first on Flipboard in the INNERVENTURES magazine there which has a slightly broader set of articles – you can subscribe to the magazine if interested.


World’s biggest startup? Samsung to reform corporate culture

Startup Innovation

SEOUL (By Se Young Lee, Reuters) — Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the world’s biggest maker of smartphones and memory chips, announced on Thursday that it plans to adopt a corporate culture akin to a startup, seeking to become more nimble as growth slows.
More here


What Big Companies Can Learn from the Success of the Unicorns

Startup Innovation

From an article on the Harvard Business Rreview, the authors carried out a systematic analysis of the 146 unicorns identified by The Wall Street Journal. Thanks to this analysis, we identified four features that are common to pretty much all the unicorns and which we believe helps explain why they have been so successful. Unicorns are:

  1. Small in size
  2. Led by serial entrepreneurs
  3. Financed by VC firms
  4. Narrowly focused

They call this unique approach adopted by unicorns lightning innovation. How can companies achieve the same success:

To realize this potential, established companies will need to fundamentally revisit their business models and cultures. Some of the big players do seem to recognize this — it may be one of Google’s motivations for creating its Alphabet structure, in 2015, splitting itself into smaller and more agile units. In a digital world, learning to fail fast is the key to getting big fast, and we can expect the big, structured companies of today to take a leaf from Google’s book and start to turn themselves into portfolios of unicorns.


Round up of latest #intrapreneur trends

Startup Innovation
  1. How to partner with a larger company when you’re a startup
  2. Why investors love spin-off startups
  3. The struggle with adapting the lean startup to the corporate environment
  4. Big Companies Must Embrace Intrapreneurship To Survive
  5. Big Companies Should Collaborate with Startups
  6. Driving a culture of innovation with entrepreneurial thinking now being pushed at University
  7. How Large Companies Can Act Like Startups
  8. European tech startups are well advised to get closer to corporate giants in the pursuit of growth


Corporate Innovation Trends – Report from CB Insights

Startup Innovation

The blurb for the report says it all:

The life of an S&P 500 company is rapidly declining and increasingly, the risks to these companies comes from an armada of startups and not a giant incumbent competitor. We dig into how corporations can use startups to innovate faster and how to make the important build, buy or partner decision.

Here it is. #research

More #intrapreneur trends being led by financial services

Startup Innovation

From this article on the Financial Times (you may find its behind a paywall): Axa chief excited by technological change

The chief executive of Europe’s second-biggest insurer by market capitalisation says that the industry is dealing with technological change unevenly. “That is great news,” he adds, explaining that it allows more nimble operators to win business from those slower to embrace change. “Everyone is threatened . . . and it creates more fluidity in market shares.”
He wants to put Axa at the forefront of the change. A bewildering array of initiatives is already under way — research labs in Silicon Valley and Shanghai, a €200m venture capital fund to invest in external start-ups, a new internal incubator fund called Kamet with €100m to invest, partnerships with LinkedIn and internal data analysis competitions to name just a few.


Round up of latest #intrapreneur trends

Startup Innovation

Some very interesting articles over the last few weeks – here they are: