0x09 The Future of Everything is Data
Bill has been an early adopter of technology most of his life, and although I haven't been in the front of the line as much as he has over the years, when it comes to programming, I'm very quick to try out a newly launched piece of technology. We live in technology, and we grew up during a time when technology was just starting to make its way into households in all it's dial-up modem, green screen, and CRT monitor goodness.
The point is: We don't fear technology, but fear of technology is one of the tried and true tropes of the entertainment industry. I remember talking with Bill about the movie Pulse, and he was just shredding it as a poorly written metaphor for such fear.
I've never been one to believe in a Terminator future. This idea that artificial intelligence is going to take over the world and murder us is simply us projecting our own worst behavior on machines. We are subconsciously admitting that humanity is--in fact--terrible, and why wouldn't machines wipe us out? We'd probably do the same to them.
With the advances in artificial intelligence, we keep getting bombarded with news articles about how Elon Musk says we need to fear AI, or how employment is going to suffer. We get the pessimism because the pessimism sells. Our reptilian brain has a quicker reaction to fear than reason, so these click-bait headlines deliver the eyeballs that the news media craves.
But artificial intelligence is hard, the math is complicated, and journalists know too little of either of these to appropriately vet the "experts" they talk to. This has led to an onslaught of self-proclaimed influencers that do little but parrot other people's warnings.
Microsoft's James Whittaker has been honing a talk for years that discusses the future of data and humanity's existence within that future. It's well worth watching/listening to. It's not a pessimistic one. It's a discussion about how the future is data, and the future of "jobs" is breaking things down into data. This data will enable us to offload decisions, processes, and tasks to artificial intelligence, so that we can get on with living our lives rather than being bogged down with the mundane.
James' breakdown of five pillars for the future is really intriguing. While Bill has always maintained that we don't have definitive AI yet, he believed that James' definition of things is a better way to contextualize these terms.
- The CLOUD gathers the data
- Machine Learning finds the patterns in data
- Artificial Intelligence makes the data actionable
- Internet of Things automates the collection of data
This is a really powerful way to couch the collection, maintenance and activity of data, completely decoupled from a centralized access point, something we have been extolling for years over at Codepunk. In a way, it’s very similar to the way man sought immortality by escaping corporeality: when data escapes the ad-driven revenue model of controlled platforms (like the web), it becomes infinitely more valuable and empowering to the user.
Don't fear the technology. Don't fear the data collection.
Yes, there are issues with privacy and security. There will be court cases. Social media companies will come under increased scrutiny. But in the end, a Star Trek future requires the type of data that comes with intense data collection, cameras, recordings, etc.
The problem, then, doesn't become the technology, but those who seek to use it. Authoritarian regimes and governments will seek to use this technology to monitor their citizens, so it's important to establish an ethical and legal framework for "covalence" as Kevin Kelly described it--a way to watch the watchmen, control your own data, and understand what its being used for. --Michael Szul & Bill Ahern
Wearable Tech is Entering a Golden Age
I love the idea of a Tony-Stark styled HUD on a helmet but the reality of this kind of thing, I think, is far more dangerous than it is cool. No one should allow for distractions while they drive, but motorcyclists are especially vulnerable to the dangers of on-road distractions. However, I think the greater value is the voice assistance. Far more useful than distracting graphics between the rider and the road is a smart bot who can keep relevant information audibly updated while the rider is free to keep their eyes on the road. --Bill Ahern
With Data Comes Ethics
Microsoft has been pretty explicit in examining the importance of ethical considerations in software, contracts, and research--even if there are some gray areas in a few of their deals. They continue to be a company looking towards the long-term health of the industry and the technology community. Initiatives such as AI for Earth show that they take environmental concerns seriously, and they have been slowly building themselves into a company that values the greater good in society. This includes debating the importance of regulations in certain areas of artificial intelligence, including recently calling for federal regulation in facial recognition because of the negative ways in which such technology could be used. --MS
While working through a chatbot end-to-end for the book that I'm writing, I realized that, at the time, there was no way to consume a bot file inside of your chatbot code. I ended up spending a weekend creating the botbuilder-config NPM module to remedy this. --MS
Lindemans Framboise Raspberry Lambic Beer
More of a fruit beer than a sour, which means you have to be careful that the sweetness isn't overpowering. Luckily, this beer has a nice balance between the sweetness you get hit with right when it touches your palate and the sour aftertaste that lingers to cleanse that sweetness away. I would stay limited to one before switching to a different beer though. It's not something you would want to drink steadily all night long. --MS