In the keynote “The World is Blurring,” Adam Schouela, head of emerging technology, FCAT (Fidelity’s Center for Applied Technology), Fidelity Investments discussed the wave of innovation and the blurring of lines between the real world and the virtual, what is human and what is machine.
Technologies and socio-cultural trends are shaping the world to come. Schouela recalled how in awe he was at purchasing a computer with one gigabyte of memory. Today, a gig is almost nothing. “It’s not just technology moving fast causing a blur, it’s a few other things as well.”
What can digitize right now is increasing in scope and complexity. Schouela described taking his family to a farm and how that experience was physical and visceral, but noted that “We can actually digitize the farmland these animals are on.”
He sees digital assets, such as NFTs, as providing entirely new objects every bit as “real” as physical objects. Noting that artists can create a piece of art, sell it, and then get nothing from it ever again, he sees NFTs as allowing them to continue to make royalties every time the art is sold, saying, “You can actually write in the ability to take royalties.” Schouela also sees “digital disintegration” as possible, speculating that a digital shoe could “wear out” the same way a physical one would.
The Blurring of Human and Machine
With the rise of robo-advisors and AI data crunching, machines are becoming more critical to the investment space. These robo-advisors are a hybrid model, still relying on human advisors to handle the “empathy” side to investing as they crunch the data.
Schouela sees robo-advisors as doing more than crunching data to create investment plans, but as possible tools to help connect advisors to the next people they should reach out to to build their practice.
AI can also do things like make pictures come alive, potentially allowing people to see loved ones who are no longer around moving in a life-like pattern, “like in Harry Potter,” he noted. In this way, these images of our loved ones are becoming a blur of both human and machine.
AI could represent us even after we’ve passed, Schouela theorized. He sees people as eventually being able to get information about how a deceased loved one might react in a situation, “What would Adam do in this situation even though Adam’s not here?” Though such a technology might have troubling implications for some, others could see this as potential exciting, particularly with how it could interact with Web 3.0.
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