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Negotiating the Boundaries of Being Human
By Cynthia Weber
January 2021

By 2029, industry experts predict that there will be more than one million people around the world with implantable brain interfaces. — I Am Human

Are there non-negotiable boundaries to what we consider “being human”? Will our efforts to enhance our current abilities or regain lost abilities with the aid of technology—for example, motor or cognitive loss after disease or injury—eventually change those boundaries and alter our understanding of what it means to be human? Questions such as these served as the background for a lively panel discussion and selected screening of the award-winning documentary film, I Am Human, held in December 2020. The event was a collaboration between IEEE Brain and the International Neuroethics Society (INS) and featured distinguished panelists from the areas of neurotechnology, neuro-activism, and neuroethics. Introduced by Laura Cabrera, Assistant Professor of Neuroethics at Michigan State University and Chair of the IEEE Brain Neuroethics Subcommittee, and moderated by Joseph J. Fins, President-Elect of INS and Professor of Medical Ethics and Chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College, the online event drew more than 260 viewers to hear debate on key points raised in the film regarding the future role of neurotechnology in society.

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Mapping the Future of Closed-Loop Brain-Machine Neurotechnology
By Cynthia Weber
December 2019

Development of next generation closed-loop brain-machine interfaces requires input on overcoming key technology challenges in order to realize full potential

“Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) are designed to establish communication between the brain and external devices (e.g., a computer or prosthetic), using recorded signals to control the devices. Closed-loop BMIs extend this cycle further by continuously recording signals from the brain and nervous system, decoding this information, and then encoding information and sending it back to the brain and/or nervous system, usually in the form of localized stimulation. Research and development of closed-loop technologies for control of neural activity has increased steadily over the last decade due in part to the potentialities that both reading and writing into the nervous system may offer for both the advancement of neuroscience as a field as well as for therapeutic interventions and associated consumer applications.”

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Digital Reality: Fostering and Leveraging the Ongoing Digital Transformation
By Roberto Saracco, IEEE Digital Reality Initiative Co-chair
March 2019

In its November 2018 meeting in Vancouver, the leadership of the Future Directions Committee (FDC) considered the growing interest occurring worldwide in the Digital Transformation. In the February meeting, the decision was made to launch a new initiative regarding the Digital Transformation that can benefit from the participation of several Societies/OUs with Future Directions acting as a catalyst.

The Digital Transformation everyone is talking about today is fueled by advances in technology, mostly transducers, i.e., sensors and actuators, and semantics extraction tools, i.e., artificial intelligence supporting data analytics. The main reason why industries and institutions globally are interested in the Digital Transformation, however, is based on economics. The Digital Transformation is shifting the economy from one of atoms to one of bits.  The economy of atoms is an economy of scarcity: atoms are limited; if you give an atom away you no longer have it. On the contrary, the economy of bits is an economy of abundance: you can give bits away while maintaining a copy that is indistinguishable from the original bits. Additionally, the economy of atoms has a high transaction cost, i.e., it costs money and resources to move atoms along a value chain, while the cost of operating on bits is very low. This is attracting new, smaller players into various industries.

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Learn more about the IEEE Digital Reality Initiative, and join their Technical Community to stay informed and, even better, get involved in the new initiative… for the benefit of humanity!


Technology Beyond Tomorrow
IEEE Technology Time Machine 2018 (TTM 2018)

November 2018

IEEE Technology Time Machine 2018IEEE Future Directions recently hosted a successful Technology Time Machine symposium (TTM 2018) on 31 October-1 November 2018 in San Diego, CA, USA focusing on the theme of technologies Beyond Tomorrow. The room was abuzz as panelists engaged the audience with topics including:

  • An intelligent ambient that customizes the environment to each person
  • The future role of human digital twins and their legal and ethical implications
  • Smart materials that will significantly address energy efficiency
  • Development of a prosthetic for long-term memory
  • Brain computer interfaces to help enable the disabled through invasive and non-invasive measures
  • Applying artificial intelligence to the food supply chain
  • Blockchain for management of food safety and decreasing food waste
  • Current and future Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality hardware and its applications

While these topics seem diverse, synergies and natural interdependence between the various technologies and their potential applications were evident through the panel discussions and further conversation that occurred among the attendees. A broad understanding of future technologies enables engineers to design their innovations to capture and leverage the commonalities that may exist.

The ethical impact of technology was addressed throughout the conference. Given the future advancement of technology and its impact on all humans, it is critical for engineers to consider ethical and social concerns throughout a product’s entire lifecycle, from original idea through design and implementation, to insure that decisions are made with both technology and societal impacts in mind.

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Stimulating Industry Interests in IEEE Initiatives and Other Programs
By Michael W. Condry, President, IEEE TEMS

IEEE Technology and Engineering Management Society (TEMS) is seeking articles for its latest publication focused on practical business matters, called Engineering Management Review (EMR). The publication seeks articles from IEEE technical communities summarizing the status of your technology evolution, its research directions, and challenges to stimulate business interest in your programs from industry leaders. The publication reaches an audience of business decision makers and may eventually lead to more interest to your initiatives from their companies.

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IEEE Future Directions Initiatives Report on New Developments
July 2017

IEEE Future Directions initiatives are creating opportunities to advance next-generation technologies. On 21 June 2017, representatives from Future Directions initiatives came together at the IEEE Meeting Series in New Brunswick, NJ, USA. They discussed accomplishments, ongoing activities, and plans to grow their cutting-edge initiatives, which currently have a combined 31,000+ members. Among their top priorities were efforts to build cross-collaboration with other initiatives and IEEE organizational units, create and expand educational programs, build industrial connections, foster engaging student activities, and produce groundbreaking standards.

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IEEE Future Directions Committee Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) Report
July 2017

At the June 2017 Future Directions meeting series, Roberto Saracco, Head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital, gave a report on behalf of the Industry Advisory Board. Based on input from industry experts, the presentation outlined the future technologies that are most important to industry and identified the roles that the IEEE might play in advancing those technologies. Among the topics discussed, 3D Printing and In Memory Computing were identified as having high industry relevance. Roberto also included feedback from industry near the end of the presentation, describing how it is important for IEEE to focus on the present in addition to the future. Roberto also outlined deliverables that were deemed to be the most relevant to industry including tables of standards, industry landscapes, and technology roadmaps.

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Choices Regarding Designs Today Will Impact Our Shared Future Tomorrow
By Dr. David A. Bray
January 2017

In early December 2016, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) released version one of its document entitled Ethically Aligned Design focused on artificial intelligence and autonomous systems.

Produced by an impressive group of positive #ChangeAgents all working under the larger umbrella of The IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems, this living document provides initial recommendations for considering how the designs of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems (AI/AS) may impact the lives of humans in ways both intended and unintended. Additional updates to the document are expected in 2017 and beyond.

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Understanding the Societal Impact of Autonomous Technologies
By Raj Madhavan
November 2016

Autonomous technologies have a bit of a Hollywood problem.

Movies and television shows have made it quite easy to talk about autonomous technologies such as robots, self-driving cars and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Hollywood has turned the topic into a dependable conversation starter in schools, in boardrooms, at dinner parties, etc., and that’s definitely a good, helpful thing for researchers in the space.

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