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A mind model for intelligent machine innovation using future thinking principles

Anthon P. Botha (Department of Engineering and Technology Management, Graduate School of Technology Management, Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and IT, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa) (TechnoScene (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria, South Africa)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Article publication date: 28 May 2019




The purpose of this paper is to address the possible future evolution of innovation from a human-only initiative, to human–machine co-innovation, to autonomous machine innovation and to arrive at a conceptual mind model that outlines the role of innovation regimes and innovation agents.


This is a concept paper where a theoretical “thought experiment” is done, using future thinking principles and data that originate from the literature.


A conceptual mind model is developed to facilitate a better understanding of complexity at the edge of innovation where intelligent machines will emerge as innovators of the cyber world. It was found that innovation will gradually evolve from a human-only activity, to human–machine co-innovation, to incidences of autonomous machine innovation, based on the growth of machine intelligence and the adoption of human–machine partnership management models in future.

Research limitations/implications

Very little information is available in the literature on intelligent machines doing innovation. The work is based on a theoretical approach that presents new concepts to be debated, but have not been tested in engineering and technology management practice, except for a conference presentation and academic discussion.

Practical implications

The current world view is that future “smartness” is only possible through the creative abilities that humans have, but as machines are entering the workplace and our daily lives, not only as static robots on a manufacturing line, but as intelligent systems with the potential to replace lawyers and accountants, doctors and teachers, companions and partners, their role in innovation in complex environments needs to be explored.

Social implications

Human–machine interaction is often an emotional social issue of concern in terms of the replacement of human intelligence with machine intelligence. It should be asked whether humans will or should remain in control of innovation? Artificial intelligence (AI) may complement and even substitute human intelligence, but huge value is embedded in the new goods, services and innovations AI will enable, especially in manufacturing, where value embedded in the project becomes complex and dynamic.


The thinking presented in this paper is original and should lead to debate to question the way innovation systems will work in future and inspires thinking about AI and innovation.



Botha, A.P. (2019), "A mind model for intelligent machine innovation using future thinking principles", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 30 No. 8, pp. 1250-1264.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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