Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: A few Musings.

I found this article today. I'd recommend taking the time to digest it...

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond

 A very well written article, which examines many facets and possibilities for the future due to advancing technology. Worth the time to read and consider.

The author doesn't go into it quite as much, but mentions 3D printing and the integration of Biology and Technology. One point I find myself considering in this area, which he comes to the edges of in this article...

What will happen to the large businesses and governments of the world? There are now 3D printers for Plastics, Metals, Fabrics and even some biologics. And some effort is being made to construct said printers in a way which allows the various printer parts to be replicated on the printers. Suddenly, not only can the digital world be copied, duplicated infinitely for virtual no cost, so can the physical world. Anyone, ANYONE, with a clever idea could have the potential to produce it.

Can't afford some new toy, some new tools, some new gadget? Design your own and print it yourself.

Much of the massive cost associated with medical devices and drugs is due to the heavy burden of government regulation. What if you are manufacturing your own device or drug for personal use?

But what then happens to big businesses? Will their revenue streams dry up? Will they be able to adapt to a new, decentralized economy? Or will they try desperately to protect themselves through government regulation?

What happens to the world of intellectual property? How will intellectual property be defined in this new world? Will Apple, for instance have to run around suing individual consumers for owning a home made rectangular device with rounded corners that is roughly the same size and shape as an i-something and runs similar programs? Would they be able to win those cases? Would they be able to be profitable?

The Music industry has been something of a precursor to this - Music is now mostly, and may one day soon become exclusively a digital medium. For the past decade or so, we have watched the music industry desperately cling to the good old days. Touting out Metallica to cry about how poor they are because everyone steals their music, Sending their army of lawyers out to sue twelve year old girls for sharing music. They even tried loading spyware on music CD's, and they continue to fiddle around with DRM, and protective legislation. They roam around issuing take-down orders to youtube in a last desperate effort to stem the flow. In a less stupid direction, they have begun to embrace cloud subscription services, making it so convenient to rent access to music, that it is frankly to inconvenient for many to "steal" it. Some artists have left the old music industry behind, acting as their own label, producer, and distributor. Cutting out all the middle men saves them a great deal. And so long as they have sufficiently rabid fans who will choose to willingly pay for their product, they can be very successful.

The final line of defense for most of these large, slow moving behemoths will likely be government regulation.They will try to turn to the Government to write better protection for intellectual property, perhaps event try to prohibit the self-production of certain items. But how can the government control and enforce this? Will the government recognize that there role is going to shrink, or will they too desperately cling to the old way, desperately try to hold on to illusory power?

There is a brave new world coming, one that will require a world of individuals to be alert, forgiving, kind, cooperative, engaged, charitable... willing to negotiate, seek compromise, and stand together. If we do, amazing things will happen. If we don't...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Random Thought: The Future of Artificial Intellligence - Is Skynet's Grandaddy What We Should Really Be Worried About?

I've had conversations with a number of people on this topic. What do I think of ever-improving AI, do I love it or fear it? Will it help humanity, or destroy us?

The Skynet reference in the title is specific to the Terminator universe, in which an AI becomes self-aware, then proceeds to exterminate the human race, going so far as to develop time travel in order to go back in time and eliminate its most troublesome foes before they become troublesome.

But it also tends to generically reference the idea - commonly used in Sci-Fi  - of an artificial intelligence which becomes sophisticated enough to think for itself, then determines that humans are the biggest threat to itself - or humanity, and then through various acts (or inactions) attempts to subjugate or exterminate humans. Terminator, The Matrix, I, Robot (The Movie), Eagle Eye... To name a few.

And this is a concept that worries many, including such "luminaries" as Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak...

But here's a random thought... Is it really Skynet we have to worry about? Or is is his relatively dimwitted grandfather which will be our undoing?

Currently, AI behavior is cropping up in internet search and content delivery. It is a convenience, and a money saver, If you search for Grills, you will suddenly find ad's popping up for grills, if you show an interest in gardening, ads for garden supplies will follow you around. This benefits the suppliers of products by targeting their ad's to interested audiences, rather than spamming the whole world, which theoretically saves advertising dollars. It benefits the customers by showing them things they are actually looking for, in theory reducing the number of pointless cold calls, and potentially putting exciting new products they might actually need in front of them saving them time searching.

But what about the dark side of this?
"I think therefore I am."
"As a man soweth, so shall he reap,"

See. the down side to this targeted media. Is that we see more of less, and consequently less of more...

I purchased a few "Epic Score" albums from Amazon a while back. Now when I visit amazon, I am flooded with music titles from that same genre. Social media is using this AI as well. I watched a video by some guy named Mat Larson once, years ago, now his tinfoil hat is taking up a whole row in my you-tube feed.

So here's my theory, this relatively dumb AI is helpfully feeding us more of what we like, what it thinks we want to see, what we agree with...  and showing us less in the way of new information, new ideas, alternative viewpoints... making us more insular, more isolated, more narrow of view, more ... radical... until we self-destruct... leaving dim-net to starve to death long long before skynet is ever born.

So. what do you think? Is it bad form to make fun of someone for wearing tinfoil whilst donning tinfoil yourself?