Do you have Super Powers? Would you like to have Super Powers? I was recently invited to give a talk about AI at the Escape Velocity Science Fiction Conference (https://escapevelocity.events/) put on by the Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC. I focused the talk on how our advances in AI technology and augmenting human intelligence (Intelligence Augmentation = IA) are starting to provide humans with Super Powers, once only the realm of sci-fi writers. I’ve seen a lot technology come and go. And what we are now developing has the most potential of any of the technologies I’ve experience to help people to do more, do it faster, and do things we couldn’t do before. IA is going to have more impact on individuals, our professions, and society than all the previous advancements in computers to date.
John Campbell, the famous editor of Astounding Science Fiction, who published the likes of Asimov and Arthur C Clark, pushed his writers to create heroes and foes that had cognitive abilities that were better than humans, or had different attributes. So too, the comic books that came out featured heroes with unique powers, some cognitive and some around endurance and power. As you know, this vision of achieving super human capabilities has existed for most of recorded history. And it has been a dream of computer scientists for as long as computer scientists have existed too.
We haven’t made a lot of progress in the non-fiction world of creating people that are different - - Evolution is a VERY slow process. And while the world’s knowledge keeps increasing, people think pretty much at the same speed with the same memory limitations as before. Therefore, my talk focused on how we can use technology and data to help us to achieve super human capabilities.
Just like we’ve created assembly lines full of machines for our factories, we are starting to create tools to help those of us that are called Knowledge Workers to do our jobs more efficiently and create results that haven’t been possible in the past. Technology will redefine our professions and our jobs within our fields. These changes won’t just provide marginal improvements, they will provide significant new capabilities that will provide higher productivity to our employers, enhance our own well-being, and solve significant problems facing society.
We will know what customers are looking at in every store in the world, what they pass over and what they buy. Some might call that Omni-presence. We will be able to predict who will click on which ad on the web, who will buy which product, and who will get which diseases and which drugs will work for which individual. Is that Precognition or Clairvoyance? We’ll be able to instantly recognize a face in a crowd of thousands and see through objects. Our cars will help us to see black ice on the road and around corners. Our super-hearing will not only hear from a distance, but will allow detection of emotional stress and mental health issues that others might be facing – probably before they themselves realize it. Even better than superman!
In the government space, these super power of Super Vision will enable us to spot terrorists pictures among the millions of videos and images collected, as well as detect illegal fishing and logging operations. Precognition will allow us to predict the outbreak of a potential pandemic early enough to mount a robust public health defense, and predict weather events in time to evacuate and prepare emergency operations. In the cybersecurity world, we'll have to super power to detect threat patterns quickly, predict likely fast-fluxing techniques used by the intruders, and provide rapid advice for the response teams.
These Super powers come from taking all the data the world is now generating – which mostly is going to waste – and analyze it to find patterns and answers to questions that we couldn’t answer in the past. We’re now creating almost 10 Zettabytes per year – and the amount is increasing exponentially. Analyzing all that data will give us these superpowers and as that data grows, so too will our Super Powers. Analyzing all this data requires very sophisticated technology which IBM and others in the I/T industry are intensely developing. We will do this using Machine Learning, NLP processing, and reasoning.
My goal in the talk was not to talk about the technology but instead to show how far we have come in creating super human capabilities. I talked about some of the applications of IA – Intelligence Augmentation – to businesses, professions, and society. See the slides for some of the examples I used: https://www.slideshare.net/frankibm/getting-your-super-powers-with-watson-and-ia
I concluded with some discussion on how humans and machines can complement each other so that we can accomplish more together. It is my belief that we will need this collaboration to solve some of society’s hard problems such as climate change, supporting all the people that will soon be on planet earth, and even protecting us from incoming asteroids. The final slide shows 2 famous quotes regarding the value of the combination of people and machines:
- “The hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought and process data in a way not approached by the information-handling machines we know today.” - JCR Licklider, 1960, Professor at MIT
- “The computer is incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Man is unbelievably slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. The marriage of the two is a force beyond calculation.” – Leo Cherne, Presidential Advisor
Write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org