I just finished Kevin Kelly’s new book The Inevitable. Kelly’s writing is inspiring, and optimistic. His version of the future is nuanced a keen understanding of business forces, projections of technological developments and the human motivations that bind the two.

Kelly dedicated a full chapter to the topic of AI. In Cognifying (more on YouTube) he speaks to a future where AI will be as ubiquitous as electricity.

The AI on the horizon looks more like Amazon Web Services—cheap, reliable, industrial-grade digital smartness running behind everything, and almost invisible except when it blinks off. This common utility will serve you as much IQ as you want but no more than you need. You’ll simply plug into the grid and get AI as if it was electricity.”

Excerpt From: Kevin Kelly. The Inevitable.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/RWcH-.l

This view of an all–encompassing, easy to access, server side intelligence API reinforces the idea of single purpose over a general machine. IBM is already letting developers parse questions to their Watson APIs, similarly open–source initiatives can allow small business to build their own cognition (for the lack of a better term) APIs.

Very soon now we’ll live in a world where we can ask the cloud, in conversational tones, any question at all. And if that question has a known answer, the machine will explain it to us. Who won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1974? Why is the sky blue? Will the universe keep expanding forever? Over time the cloud, or Cloud, the machine, or AI, will learn to articulate what is known and not known. At first it may need to engage us in a dialog to clarify ambiguities (as we humans do when answering questions), but, unlike us, the answer machine will not hesitate to provide deep, obscure, complex factual knowledge on any subject—if it exists.”

Excerpt From: Kevin Kelly. The Inevitable.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/RWcH-.l

What is it that we are making with our question-and-answer machine? Our society is moving away from the rigid order of hierarchy toward the fluidity of decentralization. It is moving from nouns to verbs, from tangible products to intangible becomings. From fixed media to messy remixed media.

From stores to flows.

And the value engine is moving from the certainties of answers to the uncertainties of questions.

Facts, order, and answers will always be needed and useful. They are not going away, and in fact, like microbial life and concrete materials, facts will continue to underpin the bulk of our civilization.

But the most precious aspects, the most dynamic, most valuable, and most productive facets of our lives and new technology will lie in the frontiers, in the edges where uncertainty, chaos, fluidity, and questions dwell.

The technologies of generating answers will continue to be essential, so much that answers will become omnipresent, instant, reliable, and just about free. But the technologies that help generate questions will be valued more.

Question makers will be seen, properly, as the engines that generate the new fields, new industries, new brands, new possibilities, new continents that our restless species can[…]”

Excerpt From: Kevin Kelly. The Inevitable.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/RWcH-.l

It seems that Kelly just articulated a very realistic version of the future of collaboration between humans and machines: Humans will drive progress by asking creative questions. And machines will respond with omnipresent, always–on and all–knowing factual knowledge base.

July 11, 2016