Saturday, September 29, 2012

The road to HAL is paved with good inventions

Hello folks

Maybe this article caught your attention too

Artificially Intelligent Game Bots Pass the Turing Test On Turing's Centenary

It seems like we are slowly but surely making progress towards the creation of an Artificial Intelligence (AI). But I think the  HAL 9000, as envisioned by Arthur C. Clarke in his screen play for Kubrik's "A Space Odyssey" is probably still as far away from realization as ever. And that's a good thing. We don't want HAL around, trust me.

"Wait"! .. you shout. "What about the article above? What about all the other progress? The Petabyte InMemory engine that will simulate an entire universe? What about the Siri app on my iPhone which is so cool?" ... etc.

My point is that we might be severely misguided in our approach to creating an artificial intelligence by trying to model it on the human mind and then shoving that model into an evolved toaster aka. machine. To use the human mind as model, the human mind would have to be a good and useful thing to model in the first place! Something worth reverse engineering, copying and mass producing. But that's exactly what the human mind is not.

Human minds are fuzzy. Human minds are influenced by emotions (a.k.a. the chemical cocktail sloshing about in our water filled skin bags we refer to as our bodies). Human minds make lots of mistakes; as a matter of fact, we are practically stumbling through life relying on a set of half-baked assumptions, available data heuristics, wild guesses, and intuitive judgement calls we usually explain as "rational" only after the fact. Do we really want a machine with potentially million-fold speed, physical power to acquire Jeffrey Dahmer levels of thinking and acting? I hope you get my point.

Let me elaborate.

I think its about time we change the definition of the TLA (Two-letter acronym) A.I. from "Artificial Intelligence" to "Augmented Intelligence". If you redefine it that way, we have already achieved leaps and bounds in AI.

  • Augmented Intelligence, Phase I (AI-1) was and still is basically the use of books, maps, and all manner of tools like compasses, abacuses, microscopes and clocks to make better sense of the word and augment our minds that way. Most of the world is still in that stage, and some have not even reached that level because they are unable to acquire reading skills or books or tools. As for the industrialized world, we might be proud of our Smart Phones, Portals, Siri's and Blogs, but its still essentially a Phase I model where these tools are simply helping us to get a job done, when we need the job done.
  • AI, Phase II (AI-2)  kicks in when systems, programs, software, apps, whatever you may call them, start acting and making decisions on your behalf, based on rules and exceptions you have set for them. You might want to think of these rules and exceptions that allow systems to act for you as your "Avatar", your digital butler, your concierge. This goes beyond the automatic transfer into your kid's savings account at the end of the month, since that's repeated mindlessly until cancelled. It's more related to the automated trading and booking systems in the financial world. Part of the world is in AI, Phase II, and the advent of ubiquitous 3rd Generation Mobile Networks, affordable smart phones, cloud computing to simplify development and deployment of applications will ensure that AI Phase II will rapidly spread to the parts of the world with access to free internet and free speech.
So, you might wonder, what's next? Is AI, Phase III the HAL 9000 that thinks independently and eventually decides to destroy its redundant maker? I hope not. And I hope we stop trying to get there before it's actually too late. 

I think we are already in the middle of Phase III of Augmented Intelligence (AI-3), which is the phase where our minds are continually augmented and supported not only by technology in terms of systems and software, but by other humans as well. I think of AI-3 as the emergence of the global hive mind, a cloud of connected communities of like-minded individuals, retaining their individuality but benefiting from the real-time access to other opinions, expertise, creativity, networks and resources, even to financing available near real time, on-demand.

This is not science fiction. This is real. If you take the combination of social platforms like FaceBook and Twitter, combined with near ubiquitous and instant access to information via your smart phone, and combined with near-real time analysis of massive amounts of information (Big Data), the advent of augmented reality interfaces with tagging of objects, simple cloud applications that are easy to learn and use .... most if not all the infrastructure is already there. 

I think this is what most people are missing when thinking about AI. While some folks are still chasing the mirage of building HAL, Augmented Intelligence Phase III is already here. If you are reading this, you are part of it. Part of the emerging global hive mind.. the question is .. what are you doing to make it even better for all of us? 

I have decided that blogging is my 6 cents contribution. 

CHHO, Vierkirchen Sept 29, 2012

Summer's waning, time to blog again

September is rolling down the shutters. Summer has packed her suitcase and is headed south. Fall is parked outside the window and has begun to paint the landscape in his colors. It's dark when I leave office these days, longer evenings beckon.

So I think its blogging season again (blogging seems a seasonal thing for me)

The reason I have not updated my blog more often is not that I had nothing to say. Plenty of random thoughts on SaaS, Paas, Software and Services in general, and marketing in particular crossed my mind, and begged to be written up. But I never felt that these random musings were interesting enough for anyone to actually give a dang. Well, I changed my mind. What changed my mind? I just completed a live radio show with blogger celebrities Frank Scavo and Jon Reed, and it was a ton of fun to throw an opinion out there, and have it challenged in public. I had really missed that. And that's what I am going to use this platform for.

Its bait for debate.

Stay tuned, don't touch that dial