WORLD WIDE BRAIN?
It started simple. With the Palm Pilot.
You could do a few functions – notes, calendar, some calculations, that kind of thing. There was a modem, 512 kilobytes of memory, and a monochrome screen. The Palm was just a glimmer of what was coming. Microsoft got into it with it Microsoft Mobile devices and Apple caught the wave with its IPod and IPhone. And Google threw Android phones at the wall; and was amazed at how many of them stuck. Which pissed off Microsoft so it made a new version of its own phone.
The race was on.
They’ve gone all out. Gargantuan marketing budgets, out-of-this-world technical innovation, manufacturing prowess, and skyscrapers full of patent trolls trying to imagine and lock up every conceivable variation of computer and communications technology out into the distant, distant future.
It’s like the race for the atom bomb. Only that was scary. This is fun, right? Cute little I-things. Pictures of lovable green robots.
The primary field of battle was raw intelligence. The problem: improving the understanding of “natural language” for text input or speech input. Google wanted to make it easier to search. Not long ago, if you made a typo in a long search string, you got the wrong stuff. Or nothing at all. Google realized it had millions of users. “Why not,” it thought ” take advantage of what we can learn from their efforts to ‘understand’ speech?” If all that data was used right, maybe it would be the thing that would finally bring artificial intelligence into the mainstream.
Did it work? You know it did. When you type in Sicence Ain’t So Bad, what happens? It knows what you were trying to say, right?
The competition between the giants – Microsoft, Apple, Google took many forms. Last year, Apple released IRIS, its voice system. The BS may have gotten out a little ahead of its functionality and some users are so mad they’re suing. But you can see what those SteveJobsians are up to. An alter ego in your pocket Could Google afford to ignore IRIS? Hardly. Besides, Google, already had its own voice technology stuff. So it just cranked harder. Wait’ll you see the Galaxy S3!
THE WORLDWIDE BRAIN THING
There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition.
Or even unhealthy obsession.
It makes our devices better and better, right? But before phones went crazy with this stuff, the world of artificial intelligence was esoteric . It was inhabited by professor types. Now that Apple/Google/Microsoft are throwing everything at it to stay ahead, and now that the behavior of hundreds of millions of phone and tablet users is being mined to deepen the understanding of language, I gotta ask my usual question. Does ANYBODY have a CLUE where all this is leading?
How long will it be till – hype aside – we really can interact naturally with our devices? Till they acquire human-like characteristics but without human-like limitations such as fatigue, hunger, and lust?
It won’t be long. I CAN tell you THAT!
Because the devices are in our pockets, the technology is ALREADY deployed. It’s just a matter of picking out which apps to use. Plus the devices are connected from here to hell, right? – 3G, 4G, Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC – you name it. So your brilliant phone will connect to your not-too-shabby car and, voila!, machines with unnerving human qualities. Machines we may come to regret. Robots, medical devices, all kinds of things that operate independently and without much need for us at all.
LIKE IT OR NOT
We are on the threshold of something very big. I don’t exactly know what it will mean. Nobody does.
Please don’t worry. I’ll keep you informed as the good/bad things become more obvious, as we race beside the future trying to keep up with it.
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The cartoon is by MISTER ScienceAin’tSoBad. (I don’t understand it either.)