September 07, 2017      

Author and geopolitical expert Abishur Prakash is a consultant at the Center for Innovating the Future. He’s also a frequent contributor to Robotics Business Review. At RoboBusiness 2017 on Sept. 27 and 28 in Santa Clara, Calif., he’ll be speaking about cyber security, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things.

Here, he discusses his areas of expertise — cyber security and international robotics — and gives a preview of his session.

What got you interested in robotics and AI, and how is it connected to what you’re now doing?

My work revolves around understanding how new technologies will transform world affairs and what this means for a business or government. Of all the different technologies, from embryo editing and biotechnology to space mining, the two most important are robotics and AI. Their impact on the world has not been fully understood, and that means their ability to bring huge transformation and disruption continues to rise.

Which emerging technology or application excites you the most?

The use of AI in foreign policy decision-making. I went in depth about this in my new book, Next Geopolitics: The Future of World Affairs (Technology). As governments deploy AI in trade, security, diplomacy, and other avenues, it is going to change how countries behave with one another and how nations grow their power.

What are the biggest barriers to continued growth of the autonomous systems market?

Policy. Ironically, lack of policy is also the biggest catalyst to the growth of this market. Every government is approaching robotics and AI differently, and many of the advances, such as those coming from the defense industry, require federal policy if not international policy. Thus, how every nation approaches robotics and AI regulation will have a huge impact on whether these technologies can take off.

Take a look at the recent ban on self-driving cars by India to protect jobs — and likely social and political stability — and you have an understanding of the kind of radical steps government are going to take to control the trajectory of robotics and AI.

Where do you expect robotics and AI use to grow the most in the next five years, and why?

It depends on what kind of robotics and AI growth. If we are talking about major advances then Japan, Germany, the U.K., and South Korea all fit the bill. If we are taking deployment of robotics and AI, then Asia-Pacific is where the action is going to be for the next decade, specifically in countries like China and India.

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Other kinds of growth, like frugal robotics and AI, will take off in Asia, but at the same time in Africa, the Middle East and South America. It is impossible to say there is one region or country where robotics and AI will take off faster than everyone else as each geography is developing its own niche within the robotics landscape.

What do you think your cyber security session offers to the robotics developer and end-user community?

An understanding about the convergence of robotics, policy, and cyber security, themes which have been isolated until now. We need to ensure that, as more and more robots enter mainstream society, and as robots become more advanced in the factory, there are protocols in place to protect these machines from being hacked.

We need to move beyond thinking of hacking as stealing data and understand that if someone hacks a self-driving car, their intention isn’t to steal data but to create danger. Without policy and cyber security, these scenarios will become real.

What are you most looking forward to about being at RoboBusiness?

Learning about what’s on the mind of robotics companies and policy makers when it comes to the global ramifications of the most important technology sector in the world: robotics.