All innovation is being developed to solve a problem. Some find larger and unintended uses…for good and for evil. WD40’s greatest use was not it’s developer’s intention, nor was the atomic bomb. Some years ago thru retirement I began a new (part time) career in digital marketing. Much of what I read and research has to do with “machine learning” and “AI” (artificial intelligence). You may think that neither is important to your daily life until that point in the future where cars fly. However, the reality is you intersect with both during your morning coffee and then all day long….every day.
Machine Learning – is a computer algorithm that improve automatically through experience. Since all computer science is based off of a yes or no…a plus or minus…a zero or one, it is a binary language. Algorithms tell the program what to look for and you teach the program with your choices. If you choose a Facebook post about baby goats…you will get other stories about them and a few about dogs and cats. You will reinforce your preference by watching a cat video or dog posting. The machine now has a fix on your animal preferences…AND WILL SERVE YOU ADS that you will consume.
Artificial Intelligence – is often used to describe machines (or computers) that mimic “cognitive” functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as “problem solving”. So a booking program for your travel plans will work you thru the available flights and then will offer to rent cars and hotels…it will charge your credit card and put the itinerary on your calendar. All of it’s actions are based on the way a human would handle the transaction. In all cases there is a limit to it’s intelligence and for some problems it will call a human to move forward.
I think of the two, machine learning impacts our daily lives without us truly understanding it’s effect. All social media is based on learning what we like and making sure that is what we see. When you look at the current political season and the division between family, friends and workmates…I think we can lay the intensity of that division at the feet of Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. When we give positive feedback to stories, videos, etc, we teach the machine that is what we want…so it gives us more…until the whole feed is slanted that way and we assume that is the way everyone feels…except the “morons”. Civil discussion never happens and we all “silo up”.
Many blame the developers of the platforms for pushing their personal social agenda. In fact, most improvements to the algorithm are made simply because they give correct results. The programmers are trying to get one step further thru the transaction with the correct answer. They are improving the product. Like much innovation, how it is used determines good or bad.
After all the answer the computer is looking for is not “blue or red”…it is “blue or not blue”.