When I was a kid back in the 80’s, there was this admittedly terrible sci-fi show on TV. The pilot had a great setup but nothing ever really happened after that. Notably, however, it had a few innovations that even I thought were a little far fetched. First, this guy was a time traveller, but I don’t think things that are (probably) against physics count. The other thing he had was this credit card that was actually a computer. When you needed it, it would beam out a hologram of a British librarian-type. She spoke and understood perfect English and had a database containing ALL of the world’s printed knowledge. She also had a bit of a know-it-all attitude but maybe that comes with the territory.
All knowledge on earth accessible in a single database sounded too good to be true as well, but wel within the realm of possibility. Holograms? Maybe. Communicating in standard English syntax with a personality that learned from the environment… that also seemed possible, but far off. But all combined together in the space of a credit card? Come on.
When you consider that probably everyone you know carries around what used to be a super-computer in their pockets with full video cameras and enough space to store every document you’ve ever read, the future is here, and it is up on us fast. Once we get self-driving cars, I’m running out of future tech that I wanted as a kid that hasn’t been invented yet. Maybe my own personal spaceship? For all I know, Elon Musk or someone like him is going to make that happen soon.
But the thing that really got me was the power of Watson. The craziest thing to happen for a while is that IBM, which doesn’t even make hardware anymore, has made it available for developers on the cloud. Of course everyone knows about Watson from Jeopardy, but Dr. Kelley from IBM was at Techcrunch Disrupt explaining that it was actual learning system, and this was the advent of a new era of computing. Dr. Kelly stated,
Watson has read every medical journal available, and if I had cancer, I would want him to weigh in on the subject.”
I’ve heard this type of hype before, but I actually got a chance to get my hands dirty with this new technology at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. We used Watson for our entry Kno, a cognitive news engine, and I discovered it to be surprisingly topical with a great grasp on current events. It’s the opposite of the cattle-call of the keyword (read: Pandorization). It allowed us to provide insights into related concepts so that you can research based on that, not just dumb pattern matching. We also found it to be super fast.
As AI really starts to dig into the fabric of society, what are the implications? Humans will stay in control for a while, but eventually everything that can be automated, probably will be. AIs will be your doctor. They will be your car mechanic. They might be your lawyer. They might be your shrink.
What are the implications for privacy in all this? With this new learning model, is it even possible to separate out sensitive data, by the aforementioned robo-lawyer or robo-psychiatrist?
I have a feeling we’re going to see the initial wranglings of these issues sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my super-smart credit card and hoping it has a sunny disposition.