This week: looking ahead, looking back and looking to see what looking means. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

00:45 – Looking ahead with predictions for 2019

12:37 – Looking back on 2018

23:42 – The benefits and pitfalls of predictions

 

The stories this week:

The NYT predicts what devices will invade your life in 2019

MIT’s biggest technology failures of 2018

25 years of Wired predictions

 

Other stories we bring up:

Washington Post Tech Predictions 2019

CNBC tech predictions for 2019

IBM predicts 5 innovations will change our lives in 5 years

MIT’s biggest technology failures of 2017

MIT’s biggest technology failures of 2015

MIT’s biggest technology failures of 2014

Naughty parrot caught ordering from Alexa

Our previous discussion about self-driving cars

Our interview with NSW Chief Scientist, Hugh Durrant-Whyte

Our previous discussion about Juicero

Our interview with Dan Ariely

1999 AD: House of Tomorrow

 

Robot of the week:

Somnox, the robot that simulates natural breathing as you hold the robot to fall asleep

Qoobo the headless cat robot 

 

You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Libsyn, YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts. You can follow us online on Flipboard, Twitter, or sbi.sydney.edu.au.

Our theme music was composed and played by Linsey Pollak.

Send us your news ideas to sbi@sydney.edu.au.

Disclaimer: We'd like to advise the following program may contain real news, occasional philosophy and ideas that may offend some listeners.  

Intro: This is The Future, This Week. On Sydney Business Insights. I'm Sandra Peter and I'm Kai Riemer. Every week we get together and look at the news of the week. We discuss technology, the future of business, the weird and the wonderful, and things that change the world. Okay let's start. Let's start.  

Kai: Today on The Future This Week: looking ahead, looking back, and looking to see what looking means.  

Sandra: I'm Sandra Peter, I'm the Director of Sydney Business Insights.  

Kai: I'm Kai Riemer, professor at the Business School and leader of the Digital Disruption Research Group.  

Sandra: And we are finally back. 2019. Season 5.  

Kai: Happy New Year.  

Sandra: Happy Gregorian New Year, Happy Lunar New Year.  

Kai: Yeah, all of them. And I mean we're a fair bit into the year. So for our international listeners who might have wondered 'where have you been?', it's summer in Australia still. So the summer holidays are over. We've been to the beach. We've seen the beach. We've had the beach. We're back. Back in the studio.  

Megan: Woohoo!  

Sandra: And Megan's back as well.  

Kai: Hello Megan. Makes us sound good.  

Sandra: Keeps us honest.  

Megan: Well, to a degree.  

Kai: As far as that's possible. So what do we do this year on the podcast?  

Sandra: Well exciting things as always on the podcast, but the first one has got to be about predictions. We've had December, January and the beginning of February all littered with articles about the next five big technologies, the ten things in 2019, the 15, ah, disruptive innovations, the five techs that would change the world. So we have to address predictions today.  

Kai: Inc.com had 31 predictions for 2019 at which point it becomes fairly random I guess. There's been so many stories over the break we cannot possibly catch up on all of them but you know, Sandra and I figuring out what are we going to do with the year, we thought well let's have a look what people think 2019 has in stock. So we read a fair few of the prediction articles.  

Megan: I thought we didn't do predictions.  

Kai: Yeah, we don't do predictions but you know we can still have a look what other people's predictions have in stock.  

Sandra: No but we have to have a say about predictions. So as always, we're not going to do them we're just going to comment on them and try to figure out what is up with predictions and if you see them out there in the media what should you take away from them.  

Kai: So Sandra what story I'm going to start with.  

Sandra: So this was a hard one because we had Washington Post tech predictions, the CNBC tech predictions, the Sydney Morning Herald. IBM, Deloitte, but we settled on the New York Times. And this story comes from the beginning of January and it's titled 'Devices That Will Invade Your Life In 2019'.  

Kai: And remember it coincides with the big Consumer Electronics Show, CES, in Las Vegas which has happened during the break, where companies try to convince us about all kind of cool tech gadgets that they have in stock. So a lot of these predictions are indeed about gadgets and tech.  

Sandra: So here is what to watch from the New York Times article. First one is virtual assistants.  

Kai: So these are your Siris, Alexas, Google Home. The voice enabled assistants that have become part of many people's lives for better or for worse. Sometimes creepy, sometimes useful. Sometimes able to listen to your parrot ordering stuff online.  

Sandra: And we'll include in the show notes previous episodes where we've tackled various aspects of virtual assistants including patents and kind of the future of virtual assistants. But the New York Times warns us of the hype and the oncoming battle for these virtual assistants to become an omnipresent companion in our everyday lives, whether at home or at work.  

Kai: Or even indeed in the car, increasingly.  

Sandra: The second one is of course to do with smart things. And indeed, security for smart things. So the Internet of Things is making a comeback again in 2019 on the list of 'watch out for'. But this time we're warned of an oncoming slew of networks, securities, softwares and companies offering protection because in the era of smart things everything will be a target for hackers.  

Kai: 5G will finally arrive. We're all familiar with 3G on our phones. You know, slightly too slow. 4G which gives us the kind of bandwidth we need to do most of the things on the Internet. And the latest on the horizon is 5G technology that is being rolled out in many parts of the world. Usually in inner cities and the hot spots of activity where most people go to work. So finally, the article says we will see the first 5G installations and tech companies will roll out devices with 5G for people to actually make use of it.  

Sandra: And indeed the New York Times makes the usual disclaimer, and let's not forget 5G is on every single one of these lists, makes the usual disclaimer asking people not to get too carried away and too excited too soon because this will only be deployed in the few parts of the world and then a few cities. Australia is of course on the list, but so is the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland and China. But as not many smartphones are yet ready to be connected to 5G and also not many applications have been developed, and use cases have been developed for 5G. They're saying 'yes it is coming, but please hang on, we don't know how this is going to play out yet'.  

Kai: And before we take a look at a couple of other prediction articles, the New York Times also mentions a couple of technologies that they think are over-hyped that will continue to decline in significance, and we have on this list virtual reality and self-driving cars. Now remember we mentioned about a year ago that 2018 should be the make or break for virtual reality and augmented reality, that if this technology's going to make a splash forward then we should in the next little while see the kind of killer applications that will tell us what these technologies are good for, and not too much has happened other than in specialised areas and maybe entertainment, so the New York Times reckons that the star of virtual reality is in decline.  

Sandra: Same with self-driving cars. And this is something that we have been discussing over the past two years and they're basically the same observations that we've had ongoing. That self-driving cars are still quite a few years away from becoming mainstream. We'll include in the shownotes our interview with Hugh Durrant-Whyte and our discussions of the forays made into self-driving cars by various companies including Uber and Alphabet's Waymo and so on. Self-driving cars still quite far away from becoming mainstream.  

Kai: One of those technologies which, you know, have often been discussed as if they already existed. But as a reminder we haven't actually mastered the technology yet. And there's more and more people who say that it might never really come to fruition, that we have fully self-driving cars that can navigate the world as we live in today.  

Sandra: Meaning of course in the central business district of Sydney or in our cities for consumers. But of course we do have in Australia already a lot of autonomous vehicles in controlled environments. For instance in the mining industry, or some of our ports are fully automated, and we have the highest number of autonomous vehicles in circulation but they are all in controlled environments. So whilst we might see buses on special lanes or trucks on special lanes, as far as your very own self-driving car goes - it's still on the drawing board.  

Kai: Absolutely. So let's take a look at a few of the other prediction articles. We have one from Deloitte, who offer 'Nine Tech Predictions for 2019'. And to their credit they try to actually put some numbers behind some of those developments. But here's the list of the kind of tech topics that Deloitte wants us to keep an eye on. The first on the list is smart speakers which, closely aligns with the virtual assistants that we just mentioned. We have 5G networks arriving again. AI goes everywhere in to consumer tech. Deloitte mentions TV sports betting which increasingly drives the TV viewing experience. eSports experience a further search. There's a lot of money in this industry around eSports tournaments. 3D printing will finally break through, Deloitte says, especially in industrial applications. Radio remains relevant, there's an interesting prediction. And also we should keep an eye on quantum computing which isn't quite there yet but we should evaluate its applications. And surprise, surprise: China expands its technology sector.  

Sandra: So across the range of other articles that we read, indeed things like virtual assistants, or the Internet of Things, or 5G, they appear on every single one of the lists. And then there's of course the 'maybes' or the 'not quite there yet'. Things like autonomous vehicles or quantum computers. So the reason we're doing predictions today is to try to unpack what's behind these predictions and what can you take away from them. And one of the things that we've noticed across all of these predictions is that they're pretty much talking about developments in things that are already here.  

Kai: None of these things are really surprising and none of these predictions are about things that are not already happening. Deloitte actually tries to spell out in a bit more concrete terms how big those areas will be, but by and large the predictions we found were fairly pedestrian in the sense that they don't offer anything terribly new. And they're also almost always about the tech itself, and may be in a very narrow sense the tasks that they can be used for. But people, the social contexts, the outcome, what the effects might be, and how it might actually change the world or practices in business or work, they're conspicuously absent from any such predictions.  

Sandra: So for instance, the Internet of Things will allow you to connect devices, but what that will lead to is often left quite vague or not present at all. The arrival of 5G - well this will change the way we deliver data at incredibly fast speeds. But other than telling you that we'll be able to watch movies of better quality even faster...  

Kai: 5G is a super interesting example because it's the next version of a technology that we already have. And it's, you know, you could argue a quantum leap in Internet download and upload speeds to the point where companies are actually struggling to come up with sensible use scenarios that would actually make use of the kind of speeds that we will have available on our mobile devices. And do we really need more HD on a small screen that we could stream over the air. So it's, you know, all of the kind of uses that are being discussed are decidedly uninspiring.  

Sandra: One of the other really interesting things for us reading these predictions has been the positive tone that all of them take. There is nothing ambiguous or uncertain, they are all opportunities to do with all of these technologies. Which is a wonderful sentiment, but as we've seen with many of these technologies there have been regulatory blind spots. There have been some fairly serious scandals that have arisen around social media over the last year. Yet none of these predictions ever alert us to maybe nefarious uses of technology.  

Kai: We get the odd prediction that AI will lead to automation which will lead to displacing people, so there's sometimes a dystopian angle but they're equally mechanistic as the positive uses are. But I do think it's not a surprise that most forward-looking predictions are opportunity driven and positive because by and large in our society we think about technology always in terms of a solution to a problem. So whenever we have something in the world that we want to fix these days, we reach for tech. We engineer some solution that involves technology. And so when we discuss technology and what it will do and we predict it's always in terms of solving problems or making the world a better place. But that this is not so, we can see when we look back. And that's what we want to do now as a second step to understanding those predictions and what technology does, we're going to look back at some of the articles that discuss what happens in the sector in 2018.  

Sandra: So beginning of every year there's always a slew of articles also on the biggest failures of last year. So just as we have the many, many predictions for 2019, we have the article such as the one we've picked from the MIT Technology Review looking at the biggest technology failures of 2018. And I want to point out the wonderful - and we'll of course include this in the shownotes as always - the wonderful picture at the beginning of the article that has got a very small baby with an e-cigarette in his mouth wearing a CRISPR baby T-shirt followed around by a Google Dragonfly and...  

Kai: Almost being hit in the head by a bloodied Facebook logo hanging by a thread.  

Sandra: And accompanied by what is possibly their parent's brain in a jar. And that kind of sums up what MIT see as the biggest tech failures of last year.  

Kai: A truly disturbing picture. So let's take a closer look. So, 2018 was the year of the CRISPR babies. And that is something that has happened largely over the break. Of course we're talking about what has become a fairly well publicised scandal in China, where a group of scientists at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen have pronounced that they have created the first live CRISPR babies. Gene edited babies which are supposedly born with a gene that makes them immune to HIV.  

Sandra: And today we're not going to go into all the discussions about the ethical breaches that were at the heart of this, or how the editing technique itself didn't go particularly well. Or about how, you know, some of these subjects might have not consented to what was being done to them.  

Kai: It is worth pointing out that CRISPR is one of those technologies that are always predicted in terms of solving the problems of the world, and it is curious to see how this technology can be used in fairly disturbing ways.  

Sandra: So another one on the list is the systematic use of social media, in this case Facebook, to manipulate large numbers of people into spreading hate, spreading propaganda, lies and misinformation.  

Kai: And we've of course seen this in the case of the US elections. But here the example is Myanmar where certain groups have spread hate against the Muslim Rohingya minority. In the wake, this has led to hate crimes, ethnic cleansing and the displacement of some 700,000 Rohingya who have fled the country in the wake of the unrest. And Facebook is very much attributed to it to be the platform where such hate crimes have been fuelled.  

Sandra: And let's not forget in terms of predictions, this would not have been a difficult one, as Facebook has really had trouble curbing the spread of fake news and propaganda on its platform. We've discussed this over the past years, whether it was the American elections where it was Russian intelligence meddling or political manipulation or Brexit. We've seen this happening over and over again.  

Kai: Another one I want to highlight is e-cigarettes. Now, e-cigarettes have been touted as a solution to the smoking problem. As a device that can take people off real cigarettes, off nicotine. However what has happened in the US in particular is that e-cigarettes have become cool. They are now devices that have introduced hundreds of thousands of youth to smoking in the first place. To the extent that the US Food and Drug Administration says that there is now a youth nicotine epidemic where this technology has had very much the opposite effect. Rather than providing a pathway for smokers to get off the cigarette, it has actually spread the phenomenon just by a different technological means.  

Sandra: Yes and before we have a serious conversation about why looking back is very different from looking forward, just want to mention the last one on their list which is the hundred percent fatal brain uploads.  

Kai: Yeah, so this is an interesting one. It concerns the startup company Nectome.  

Sandra: Which has the ultimate aim of uploading your entire brain so that you can outlive your mortal coil.  

Kai: The only catch here is that...  

Sandra: To prevent damage to the brain they need to embalm you while you're still alive.  

Kai: Not a particularly enticing prospect.  

Sandra: So in other words doing this will kill you for sure.  

Kai: You could call this a technology failure, but I feel it's a bit by design so you know, are these really failures?  

Sandra: And that's the interesting question because whilst we looked at previous year's biggest technology failures, 2017 had Juicero on the list which was an actual failure. Just reminding you that we've been awarding the Juicero award for quite a while now. This was this $400 Internet of Things juicer that...  

Kai: Solved a problem that basically didn't exist right, and the company failed spectacularly and became a kind of an example for the tech excesses that Silicon Valley sometimes brings about.  

Sandra: Yes. It spent a hundred and 20 million dollars to create a machine that would obtain the same out of a juice packet as you would by hand. Then another one of the big technology failures in 2015 was Theranos, who set out to disrupt diagnostics by doing these really cheap blood tests that only needed a few drops of blood. Which turned out to be an actual scam. It was valued at nine billion dollars and has now seen some people go to jail.  

Kai: Or 2014. Google Glass. Or for that matter 2018. Google earbuds. Your personal translator in your ear which doesn't really work all that well because of, you know, there's a time lag, and it's just awkward, and it's not really a good user experience. So these are failures.  

Sandra: These were actual failures, but the list of technologies in 2018 interestingly looks at not failures of the tech itself, like the Juicero or Theranos, but actually the consequences of the use of those technologies.  

Kai: Exactly, so you could argue that Facebook is being very successfully...  

Sandra: Weaponised.  

Kai: Yes. To spread hate messages. CRISPR has been successfully, we don't know the details, but let's assume has been successfully yet very unethically used to gene edit embryos.  

Sandra: The 'Apple' of e-cigarettes is a perfectly beautiful design that works as intended.  

Kai: And highly successful because it sells like shit basically right, which creates the problem that we were talking about. The nicotine epidemic.  

Sandra: Which brings us back to making predictions and how when looking forward it seems to always be just about the technology and not about consequences. Whilst in hindsight...  

Megan: Oh, Dan Ariely.  

SandraOh yes.  

Kai: Ah thanks Megan. Dan Ariely's Center for Advanced Hindsight. One of the most glorious titles out there.  

Sandra: And we've had Dan Ariely, the behavioural economist, on the show. We'll link it in the shownotes. We've been 'Misbehaving with Dan Ariely'.  

Kai: Great podcast that was released while we were on a break.  

Megan: "We were on a break!".  

Kai: Shut up Ross. But there's something in the difference between foresight and hindsight. Foresight always seems to be about the tech, about the problem solving, about the tasks that we can automate, the things that we can do. But in hindsight things do not always look that positive. Especially 2018, which has widely been condemned as a very negative year for the tech sector. We've had the Facebook and Google and Amazon scandals, and the controversies and the appearances before Congress and Senate. But the deeper learning here is that in hindsight we always look at the tech in context. We look at the consequences, we look at what tech has done and all the kind of surprising uses and unintended consequences. Whereas in predicting, in foresight we seem to struggle with placing technology in context, imagining the ways in which the world might change beyond just some narrow uses. And we also often leave out the people and the social practices that will have to change and adopt those technologies.  

Sandra: And these are indeed the very types of conversations we want to have on The Future, This Week. So when we look at the technology, for instance things like artificial intelligence, more than two years ago we were trying to understand the consequences of that technology. So whilst we were seeing increasing use of the technology in banking and finance, in law enforcement.  

Kai: Image recognition, facial recognition of course.  

Sandra: Advertising. Looking forward two years ago, we saw conspicuous lack of engagement with the ethical implications and the biases inherent in such algorithms. And indeed over the last two years we've seen an increased focus on how we can address the built-in bias in algorithms, the problem with having a black box and then when discriminating against certain groups of people.  

Kai: Or what happens when you do have widespread use of facial recognition. The way in which it can be used in public spaces for policing, and what then those biases and those problems built into the algorithms can lead to, you know, when it comes to false positives in picking out people in a crowd, things like that.  

Sandra: And yet this is not always so easy to do because quite often the social practices that these technologies are embedded into are very difficult to predict and imagine. And one of our favourite clips is the 'House of Tomorrow', a video made in 1967 that tried to imagine the house of tomorrow. So it tried to imagine a house in 1999.  

Kai: Full of technology and computers and network technologies and cameras. And try to imagine what it would be like if those technologies had become a normal part of a family's life.  

'House of Tomorrow' audio: [00:24:20] What the wife selects on her console will be paid for by the husband at his counterpart console. All bills and transactions will be carried out electronically.  

Sandra: And we'll include a link to the entire movie in the shownotes. The movie's made by an appliance and radio manufacturer trying to have a look into the future. And the interesting thing about it is that they predict all the technologies right. There is something akin to Wikipedia that the child uses to do his homework. There is something akin to internet banking that is used by the husband to pay the bills. There is something akin to Amazon for shopping. The house has computers, networks, cameras, so the technology part is quite right. But what is conspicuously missing is any change in the social relationships between the people inhabiting this House of Tomorrow.  

Kai: We note that the woman is in charge of the cooking and the shopping, but she cannot actually finalise the transaction because the husband who is of course in charge of the finances will then have to approve the shopping basket of the woman for the transaction to be executed. Telling us a lot about what the social fabric and the division of labour in the family and the typical behaviours and norms were like in the 1960s when the video was produced. So while the technology is being extrapolated forward and many of the predictions are quite accurate, the social world has not changed in 99 and is pretty much a carbon copy of what it was like in the 60s.  

Sandra: And this is indeed what makes predictions so, so difficult. So we thought for our last article for today, why not actually have a look and try to tally how well have some of these organisations predicted technology and its implication over the years. So of course we're going to go to one of our favourite places, Wired magazine. And we're having a look at an article that reviews '25 Years of Wired Predictions: Why the Future Never Arrives'.  

Kai: And this is an article that we actually missed last year. It was published in September. But in so far as predictions and engagement with the future goes, this is a really great article and quite a monumental piece of work because it's written by a historian who spent a fair amount of time reading cover to cover all of the Wired magazines of the past 25 years to look at how well their predictions come to pass, what the magazine predicted. And also tells us a lot about the sentiment around technology in those 25 years and how that might have changed.  

Sandra: A quick look at those predictions of what they got right and what they got wrong over the last 25 years shows a pretty consistent track record of underestimating the durability of our social institutions. They've predicted over and over the death of media and yet not only is the old media still around but the new media has come to augment the power of advertising monopolies. They've predicted over and over the death of politics, the death of the nation state and yet we see over and over again that technology has not diminished the power of governments. But worse, it has allowed us to play political games to manipulate people to create more and more toxic political environments.  

Kai: Yeah so in 1997 Wired predicted that the internet and digital democracy, a direct engagement with democracy will do away with the divisive left-right politics in the US and will lead to a new post political philosophy. A utopian new world in which every individual would be engaged with policymaking and instead we got Trump, basically. So what we learn from a lot of the predictions that Wired as a outspoken visionary tech magazine has made over the years is first and foremost, a lot of the predictions are very utopian. They are positive, they are driven by an ideology of making the world a better place through technology. Which very much underpins the idea of Silicon Valley, especially in its early years. It's only in recent times that the mood has shifted. But it also tells us something about how tech predictions often treat the social world. And it's really either of two things. It's either that the social fabric is largely backgrounded and ignored, as we've seen with this clip that we've played earlier where technology is extrapolated forward while ignoring any social changes, or...  

Sandra: It's ripe for disruption and if only the right technology comes along we can do away with durable institutions - with government, with banks - see the flurry of articles around how cryptocurrencies will change the world.  

Kai: And so neither of the two are of course helpful. While the way in which technology turns out is usually a lot more messy. And that is because while technological progress is often fast-paced, the social fabric has proven over and over again to be much more durable. And also technology comes up against a powerful ideology. So it is worth mentioning that the history of Silicon Valley and the technology narrative goes back to the 1950s, 60s, a movement called cypherpunk. Anarchistic ideas of using technology to create a better world that will do away with institutions, oppressive governments. The idea of a cyber currency is very much rooted in the idea that currencies that are owned by the states are used to finance wars and we need to really overthrow these existing structures to come to a better world. But what happens over and over again is that these technologies as they enter the world, they're being integrated and reinforce the existing world order. Capitalism, political systems that we have, and the way in which Facebook for example - which started out as a way to connect people to build community - has turned out to be a weapon to spread hate or manipulate the political process is very much, in my view, an example of how the positive tech ideology often clashes with and is being subsumed under the existing social structures.  

Sandra: And Wired indeed does recognise some of these shortcomings. It does recognise that the magazine has an overconfidence that technology and the perceived era of abundance would basically overnight erase things like economic inequality or social inequality and that we are all going to be millionaires, we're all going to be makers and shakers and creators, and we'll all collaborate for a brighter future for all. However, time and time again that has been contrasted with the reality that you've just described where a few have gotten extremely rich.  

Kai: And I guess the point is that while Wired has for a long time been a positive voice, an advocate for technology with good intentions, in recent years the tone has shifted markedly. And Wired it has become much more of a critical voice rather than merely a cheer squad for Silicon Valley and tech-driven change.  

Sandra: So whilst yesterday's predictions were all about the sharing economy and the benefits were we would all be masters of our own time and our own jobs, now it's become a much more nuanced conversation around minimum wage jobs, no benefits...

Kai: Inequality, hierarchical algorithmic power, the impersonal nature of decisions being made. The accountability of the large companies such as Uber and what it does to the economic system and society more broadly.  

Sandra: And that goes back I think to the first story that we discussed where a lot of the future predictions can be more accurately described as depictions of the moments we are in now. As the tone in Silicon Valley and as the tone around technology has changed to a more critical one, so have the predictions and the considerations of technology in magazines like Wired.  

Kai: And so the point we want to end on is that what we're trying to do on The Future, This Week and indeed here at the University of Sydney Business School is that we're trying to imagine the future forward. We're trying to think about how trust and power structures, how social norms, how social practices can be shaped and can indeed reshape technology and technology uses. An endeavour which needs different methods than just extrapolating tech forward, but needs an engagement with the future that might include the reading of science fiction...  

Sandra: Speculative engagement with what might come next and also shift away from just thinking about innovation as technology or digital.  

Kai: And rather than just thinking about technological developments, giving those predictions or imaginations a more socio-technical view where we put people back into the equation...  

Sandra: Where we think about not just innovation in terms of technology, but innovation in terms of how we think about trust or how we think about power or how we think about government, what our understanding of ethics, of morality of fair play is. How we rethink inequality.  

Kai: And indeed when we use technology to do something good, what does success look like? A topic which we will come back to on The Future, This Week, and more broadly in the coming weeks for sure.  

Sandra: But also a promise to always also engage with what's at the fringes with all that weird shit out there.  

Kai: Such as in our much-loved segment...  

Robot voice: Robot of the week.  

Sandra: So here's one from Forbes's predictions for six robots for 2019, Somnox.  

Kai: So Somnox, a Dutch startup has created what they call a soft robot, it's like a cushion that simulates natural breathing as you hold the robot to fall asleep.  

Megan: Aww.  

Sandra: That's right Megan.  

Kai: A new species of robots that is designed to solve particular problems in people's lives. Not necessarily the humanoid robots, but smart devices, soft devices.  

Sandra: Wasn't there a cat pillow with a tail like that last year?  

Kai: Qoobo I think it was named. And yes it falls into the same category. And so the company Somnox has great expectations for this new class of robots. Jagtenberg, who is the CEO, says that we are on the cusp of creating a new species, the electroids. "Just like homo sapiens", he says. "the electroids will co-exist with other animals and us". They will be stronger, have electric muscle, more intelligent (connected to the Internet and processing power) and are telepathic because they are in radio contact. So what do we say to that Sandra?  

Sandra: Bullshit.  

Kai: Bullshit. And that's all we have time for today.  

Sandra: Thanks for listening.  

Kai: Thanks for listening.  

Megan: Thanks for listening.  

Kai: Thanks Megan.  

Outro: This was The Future, This Week made possible by the Sydney Business Insights Team and members of the Digital Disruption Research Group. And every week right here with us our sound editor Megan Wedge who makes us sound good, and keeps us honest. Our theme music is composed and played live from a set of garden hoses by Linsey Pollak. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud or wherever you get your podcasts. You can follow us online, on Flipboard, Twitter or sbi.sydney.edu.au. If you have any news that you want us to discuss, please send them to sbi@sydney.edu.au.