Skip to main content

Catching-up with Tomorrow

“I'm not trying to predict the future, I’m trying to prevent it” – Ray Bradbury.

Nobody has a clue what the world will look like in five years and yet we are all preparing for the future.  Studies of information-technology adaptation suggest there is generally a gap of between five and fifteen years, between investments we make in new technology and the appearance of measurable returns in productivity associated with that investment.

After decades of exaggerated prediction, the internet is finally transforming both business and politics, but not quite in the way the digital prophets expected. It’s twenty years this month since Gary Kasparov was beaten at Chess by IBM’s Deep Blue computer. In the interval since, the human Rubik's cube record has dropped to 5 seconds while the machine record is now an astonishing 0.637 seconds.

As computing has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, raw technological complexity has obscured our collective ability to grasp the much greater impact a rapid convergence in technologies, processes, ideas and materials is having both on the shape of tomorrow and the narrative of the present.

Intuitively speaking, our ideas have been formed by a set of experiences and preconceptions about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable.   However, what we have witnessed over the last 12 months or more, is that a new and significant technology threshold has been crossed. We are always on the cusp of transformational change and the present is no different. So while businesses struggle to understand how to exploit new machine capabilities to their fullest, the machines are being made more capable still.

For most of us, the most obvious manifestation of these changes today are our smartphones. We take them for granted but nobody would have suggested thirty years ago that we would have powerful AIs in our pockets in the form of telephones? But now that it has happened it seems rather obvious and just wait until devices such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, speaking agent of Cloud-based intelligence, become pervasive, not simply in the home but in the workplace too? Machines are learning to learn and in the process, are proving that algorithms can be faster and more accurate than humans in developing new goal-oriented strategies and business processes.

These powerful new forces reshaping our world are forcing businesses to shrink around their core competencies, if indeed they can define these clearly anymore, and the technologies that will reshape the world in less than fifteen years? These probably haven’t been thought of yet. Consider the iPhone in 2007, and that dramatic quote from Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft: “There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance ...”

So, it’s not the availability of technology the that’s holding us back, rather it’s a conceptualization of how we might use all these new tools in an agile, opportunistic and profitable way; For many organisations, the next step among many involves not simply data and what we can now achieve with it, but unstructured ‘Big Data’ analysis, informing us in ways never previously imagined; think algorithms, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence(AI) for a start. Researchers at Google’s DeepMind, recently taught a computer system how to learn to play forty-nine simple Atari video games—not “how to play video games” but how to learn to play the games. This is a profound difference.

Very soon, everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and a new service layer on the edge of the Cloud that will soon run seamlessly across consumer devices, powered by AI. And that intelligent future, now fast appearing on the horizon, like a gathering tidal wave of information, one that looks more like Google or Amazon Web Services; invisible, cheap, reliable, digital intelligence running behind everything with an electric current.

This will change everything with much greater impact than the internet ever did and we will be spending the rest of our lives living in this future.


Popular posts from this blog

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

The Nature of Nurture?

Recently, I found myself in a fascinating four-way Twitter exchange, with Professor Adam Rutherford and two other science-minded friends The subject, frequently regarded as a delicate one, genetics and whether there could exist an unknown but contributory genetic factor(s) or influences in determining what we broadly understand or misunderstand as human intelligence.

I won’t discuss this subject in any great detail here, being completely unqualified to do so, but I’ll point you at the document we were discussing, and Rutherford’s excellent new book, ‘A Brief History of Everyone.”

What had sparked my own interest was the story of my own grandfather, Edmond Greville; unless you are an expert on the history of French cinema, you are unlikely to have ever hear of him but he still enjoys an almost cult-like following for his work, half a century after his death.

I've been enjoying the series "Genius" on National Geographic about the life of Albert Einstein. The four of us ha…
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…