I was on a joint educational call for the World Talent Economic Economic forum on mobile computing this week. We drifted to topics that included technological advancement and privacy.
While I was doing the show, an article by Ashlee Vance on an exciting project from a company called Kernel that was AI-based hit my feed. That project is to develop a product that uses personalized brain scans and an AI to reverse mental aging potentially and significantly improve mental performance. Kernel may not be successful. It is rare a first mover on a significant technology jump is successful, but it will, at least, set a foundation for what a future offering that will be.
This discussion on Kernel and some of the elements we discussed in the program led me to think about how future AI applications and AIs will dramatically change our way of doing things.
Let’s talk about coming AI disruptions:
Kernel and the Direct Man-Machine Interface
Kernel’s goal is to help users understand their brain as they can understand other organs like their heart. With that understanding comes the potential for recommendations that would help the user improve their mental performance, anticipate and mitigate medical issues like Alzheimer’s disease and generate a wealth of knowledge on how the brain works. This knowledge would help us better deal with mental illness and lead to breakthroughs, like lie detectors that are far more accurate and viable man-machine electronic interfaces. Even real-time translation to reduce latency (the Star Trek-like universal translator) becomes possible.
But this brain knowledge could also lead to tools to better control and manipulate people and suggest that we’ll need rules and regulations to prevent the misuse of this technology, or, if it was subverted, our freedoms would come under extreme risk.
The ability to, in real-time, understand and interface directly to the brain will be a game changer and one that now appears we are within a decade of solving.
We already see the beginnings of this with recommendation engines that provide products that better match our interests. For example, Amazon and eBay increasingly use this technology to improve the offers they send to customers. In addition, Netflix has recently implemented a feature that will automatically start what the service thinks you might enjoy if you are having trouble finding a show. Facebook and Twitter intelligently modify your information feed to keep you in their applications, and Quora provides curated focused content in bulk based on your prior interests. It is only a matter of time before digital publishers more aggressively curate content, so you receive more of what you are interested in and less of what you are not.
This early practice has certainly inflamed political differences, because those favoring one party or the other often only receive positive news on their selected area, providing a large information gap that makes cross-party cooperation more complex over time.
As a result, there will be an increasing need to provide standard baseline information to these polarized groups so that efforts requiring cooperation again become viable. If this baseline isn’t established, people will become polarized and put any government or management structure at risk, due to a lack of common ground and distrust of familiar news sources that don’t cater to either party.
Professional Digital Assistant
The IBM Watson Assistant is an early iteration of this, but the concept of an AI-based digital assistant has been anticipated since the launch of Siri. Siri is less of an AI and more of a speech-to-tech search engine interface, but it does help provide an on-ramp for the coming professional digital assistants. When fully trained and implemented, IBM’s solution can answer broad questions about the business like which sales reps are under- or over-executing, what organizations are under- or over-performing their goals and automatically flag decision makers when an event requires an immediate decision or change. It can even advise on what that decision or change should be based on the knowledge base with which it trained and connected.
This professional AI implementation will be the first high-level integration of man with a machine for decision making on a broad scale, making it far easier for decision makers to make informed decisions and avoid catastrophic mistakes. This professional digital assistant is also emerging now. Once it reaches critical mass, this digital assistant will, if the AI is properly trained and the knowledge base isn’t corrupted or biased, make companies and individuals far more productive and effective or less likely to make mistakes.
Wrapping up: Collective Impact
Each of these coming AI efforts alone has the potential to change the world as we know it. But collectively, and they will all mature over the next decade, they will have an even more significant impact.
For example, an AI digital assistant that could interface with your brain could not only provide real-time advice on behavior, such as remembering names for you, alerting on things like substance abuse or mental irregularities, providing the best comeback to a challenge, but train you how to interact and perform more successfully in all your tasks. In addition, pre-curated content on areas of interest could be modified based on what the brain interface determines are breadth requirements for you to better interface with others as well as immediately alert if you are being told, taught or reading material that is both inaccurate and designed to manipulate you into behavior, not in your best interest.
Collectively, these will evolve into kind of a guardian angel, if we assure this outcome, that will make our lives better, make better decisions and help guide us on a path that makes the best use of our inherent interests and advantages throughout our lives. But there is also a real danger that this technology could be combined to corrupt us, enslave us and have us act against our best interest if the proper controls aren’t first put in place.
However, one thing is for sure: these technologies are world changers and will have a massive impact on how we live our lives by the end of the decade.