Friends of mine sometimes accuse me of facilitating the rise of the machines, Terminator style, in my calling to assist the best Big Data talent in their career moves. Arnold Schwarzenegger would be coming back from the future to destroy me. It all started with you Matt.

I then go on to disappoint them by telling them that Big Data still has a significant amount of human input. Although the super computers spit out the numbers, there is no way that they could produce the analysis required for today’s business environment. Not yet, anyway.

However, the warnings about artificial intelligence have recently been sounding ever louder, and with prominent physicists such as Stephen Hawking sounding them, it would be foolish not to give them some thought. Hawking recently told the BBC “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Earlier this autumn, the entrepreneur Elon Musk called AI “our biggest existential threat” and compared the research under way to “summoning the demon.”

Hawking goes on to summarize: artificial intelligence “would take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate . . . Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”

I am sure that most of you are aware of Siri, the “intelligent assistant” from Apple. It can give you basic information and set your alarm clock for you, but that is where the intelligence ends. It is bound by the limitations of its creators. Now, much more interestingly, there is a team at a company called Viv Labs (who, coincidentally originally helped build Siri), who are claiming to go one step further. They are building a program, which will teach itself. They want the consumer to connect to the “global brain” and profit from its infinite knowledge and ability to organize. If they give it the voice of Scarlett Johansson (as in the prophetic film “Her”) then it will be truly dangerous.

This data is not only about the world around us. It is also about us.

With the advent of the Internet age and its Big Data explosion, large amounts of data are being collected about us, and then being fed to algorithms to make predictions. What would happen if a computer could make predictions so accurate that they could read minds? What if at some point in the future artificial intelligence worked out that people see it as a threat? Might it move to defend itself? Some perfectly sane scientists think that it is a distant possibility.

The futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil thinks true, human-level A.I. will be here in less than two decades. It may well be more than that, especially given how little progress has been made in computing common sense, and the challenges in building A.I. are huge. However, it remains a possibility.

Not a question of if, but when.

290662AMatt Reaney is the Founder and Director at Big Cloud. Big Cloud is a talent search firm focussing on all things Big Data and helps innovative organisations across Europe, APAC and the US find the talent they need to grow.

(Image credit: Hector Garcia)


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