I have spent 30 years now in the software and data businesses as an engineer, mostly on the painful cutting edge. The hype, and extrapolation to hyper-hype is nothing new at all. I laugh about AI because it was gonna-be-huge in just a few years…in 1984. Still waiting for Robbie the Robot. Alexa got me a step close to the final frontier.
Hype aside, all the semantics about AI and ML and titles and technologies are unimportant in the context of the broader conversation. While large corporations leap on the latest bandwagon, they usually don’t succeed with technology on the edge. So we see trends like big data, most definitely not ready for the masses, being adopted by the masses with predictable outcomes. And so the hype train goes.
However, it takes only a few really smart people to create quantum leaps in how we use technology, including the technology of data. Linus Torvalds gave us Linux, then git just because he was bored one summer. A few people codified Agile and changed software forever. Zuckerberg was horny one night and created Facebook. A few people at LinkedIn created Kafka. Somebody is out there figuring out something clever, right now.
These people tend to fly under the radar. They create stuff because that’s what brilliant people do. And they unlock massive social change. The Internet as democratization of information? Or the force that brought up the voices of hate from obscurity?
There is a lot of hype about AI lately because Elon Musk and a few others are rightly concerned about what the next few years of unbridled technology can do. He’s talking about AI in the broadest sense, of machines doing things that used to need people. This could be more broadly defined as “automation” or even just industrialization. In that light, look over the last 50 or 100 years.
My Mom is 92 years old, born in 1925. Consider not just the changes she has seen in her life, but the rate of change over time. Now consider what we have seen in just the last 10 years. LTE wireless data alone is transformative, to name just one.
We seem to be pretty bad at predicting how quickly things will occur — in 1968 in grade school we saw futuristic video-phones. In 2010 or so we finally got FaceTime. But we sure as hell didn’t predict the Internet.
My point is simply this: we have some incredible technology, including the techniques we use today to manipulate and analyze data. We can all see that it will produce something. Whatever we produce will be smart, perhaps even “intelligent” in some awesome way.
The problem is, the true meaning of awesome is closer to “terrifying” than it is to “gnarly, dude!”