We are drowning in data. All kinds of data, video streams, sensor data, weather satellite data, you name it. Much of this data is available on the internet. But knowing how to fetch this data is hardly useful unless you know how to process the data and tease new facts out of it. This is the age old problem of turning data into information.
We are collecting such immense amounts of data that we can no longer pour over all of it individually. We have to apply statistical methods to help us understand the trends, to recognize patterns, and make predictions based on the results of our analysis.
People that use computers to analyze this data glut are called Data Scientists. It is an interesting combination of skills. You need programming skills, mathematical skills, and communication skills. As progress in the field occurs we see various artificial intelligence techniques being applied, in particular machine learning.
Machine learning has been studied for over seventy years now. In recent years we have made vast strides, in part due to advances in processor horse power and distributed computing techniques. Much work has been done on so called deep learning which uses artificial neural networks to perform sophisticated tasks normally associated with human expertise.
Recently Facebook AI chatbots developed a private language that was unknown to the researchers. The machine was shut down. I am becoming more and more convinced that if we haven’t already seen the emergence of General Artificial Intelligence (GAI), it will not be long before we do. And it will be due, in large part, to the very sea of data available to a neophyte GAI.
I doubt it will know how it works. Do most people know how their brain works? But it will learn and when it does, it will figure out how to improve itself, much like human beings do. Only the GAI isn’t subject to forgetting like we are. It will consume Wikipedia like a candy bar and be on to analyzing the data feeds of our financial institutions and the signal intelligence collected by our intelligence community.
It is a scary thought and one that raises all kinds of interesting questions. For instance, how much privacy and freedom would you give up to keep a system like this in check? And, what’s to keep it in check in the first place? We’ve got a lot to think about and not much time to think about it. We are on the cusp of a new age on Earth and I’m afraid mankind may not be at the top of the intellectual heap. We need to start endearing ourselves to our mechanical overlords or at least make sure they don’t perceive us as a threat.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.