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Home > News > Industry News > Comment: R&D and imagination l.....

Comment: R&D and imagination lead us into the great unknown

  • Author:Ella Cai
  • Release on:2017-09-07
Most R&D triumphs owe at least as much to serendipity as to planning and foresight.

I was lucky enough last week to visit the home of the Lumière brothers in the sublime French city of Lyon. Auguste and Louis, as every Electronics Weekly reader no doubt knows, were pioneers of the moving image; their first film, just seconds long, showed the workers in the family’s photographic film factory walking through the gates at the end of the day.

I had a bit of a hard time explaining to my four-year-old son how this very old, very short film set us a journey that has directly resulted in the films and cartoon series he so adores today. And, while I was struck by the amazing vision of the brothers and their father Charles-Antoine in pursuing the possibility of creating moving pictures, I have no doubt that they couldn’t imagine the possibilities of the technology either.

That’s the very nature, after all, of scientific and technological research. You are constantly dealing with the unknown, the accidental, the unintended.

Sometimes, that can be scary. The 116 founders, inventors and innovators who wrote to the United Nations last month pleading for a world ban on on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in weapons know that. For all that AI can bring to humanity, their fear that it will fall into the wrong hands to do unimaginably terrible things is hardly unreasonable.

You need only look at the history of nuclear weapons to see their point; not least as we watch an off‑kilter dictator who may have functioning nuclear weapons, and an off-kilter president who does have them, threaten one another across the Pacific.

In other instances, it’s easy to dismiss new technologies as frivolous. What, we wondered at EW Towers this week, is augmented reality really for? We get that you can have fun with it and no doubt make money from it – Pokémon Go and all that – but otherwise we were at a bit of a loss. Are there any serious applications out there, right now? We’d love to know – and see where this particular new technology is really going to take us.