Later this week will cross into not only a new year but a new decade.
Time is a funny thing, marching on continuously oblivious to whatever is happening at the moment. Wars, technology, even climate change (ask the dinosaurs). But the one thing for sure, no matter how smart we think we are, the future will always be unpredictable.
At the turn of the 20th century, many thought technologies rendered war fruitless. The invention of the airplane would allow scouts to fly over troops formations and record their positions and movements making field maneuvers useless. Technology would finally end the scourge of war forever – or so was the original thought.
Then, as legend has it, a reconnaissance pilot took a firearm up and shot at another observational pilot and the rest is history. Bombing was introduced in 1911 during the Italo-Turkish War and soon became fully an offensive tool during the Great War of 1914 – 1918. Technology, in a story as old as time, was again weaponized.
Fast forward to the development of the internet – a remarkable network of connections between scientists to share information. Tracing back to 1983, the idea was to flatten the world of scientific research and accelerate the speed of developing solutions for the benefit of mankind. A decade later the door to commercialization began trickling in and quickly compounding its intrusion into our daily lives at a head-shaking speed. Today’s economy and even how we contact our dear old aunt two time zones away is unrecognizable to a shoulder-padded citizen of the 1980s.
The original promise of easy sharing of opinions and information and allowing everyone to make informed decisions based on trusted information quickly came off the track. While commercialism prospered, so did the attraction of bad players with a different set of goals – to use the platform for their gain. Thieves will always find a way into a room full of gold and political forces will always show up where a group of people is hanging out. And in the blink of a historical eye, the internet became stained with residue of bad actors using the platform for their gain.
As we sit on the cusp of a new decade we are staring into the eyes of AI or artificial intelligence. And today’s narrative sounds remarkably familiar, one filled with ultraistic potential: the ability to make your life easier without any sacrifice on your part. Self-driving cars are no longer science fiction. Limitless server space gathers and indexes everything you do and say. We even now have digital devices in our homes, aptly named ‘digital assistants’, serving as little more than fancy tools to tell us the temperature outside in exchange for hearing and capturing every word we say.
AI is fueled by Big Data. And as much as the caretakers in the clouds assure us that the collection of our information harmless, I can’t help but be skeptical of their promises whenever I see a plane fly overhead.