Four grim dreams of great technology

The non-technological world is virtually disappearing – it is becoming unknown and inaccessible. Any information one cannot look up on a web-enabled smartphone is considered to be either non-existent or of no consequence for the world. At least to my world.

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technology blog Norbert Biedrzycki

The world has come to a point where life without the pervasive presence of technological gadgets is very hard to imagine. And yet, this technology-filled world is not immune to crises. Which of them scare us the most?

The non-technological world is virtually disappearing – it is becoming unknown and inaccessible. Any information one cannot look up on a web-enabled smartphone is considered to be either non-existent or of no consequence for the world. At least to my world.

Are there limits to this technological universe, which we’ve grown to take for granted? Are there serious warnings looming on the horizon that people are choosing to ignore? Here are a few threats affecting nearly the entire world of technology. Risks they pose affect corporations and individuals alike.                                               

The dream of 40 technology hackers

The most obvious as well as trivial problem is cybersecurity. Very technology that has given us the amazing freedom to communicate and has greatly enhanced our cognitive abilities, is actually very fragile and vulnerable to mass attacks. While the pre-technological-age world could be brought down by natural disasters, wars and famine, ours can be annihilated by a mere 40 people. This is actually the number of names on the FBI list of the world’s most wanted hackers who were active last year. 

Every year, software updates, legions of IT staff tasked with detecting system vulnerabilities, security systems, and breach prevention cost enterprises a fortune. Last year, the average cost of data breaches incurred by companies around the world was US$ 3.8 million. In 2019, the cybersecurity budget of the United States alone will reach the US$ 25 billion mark. Multiply that by a few dozen to arrive at the mind-boggling amount that the world is spending to protect its fragile technology. As cybersecurity spending grows, one of the most effective hacking methods – phishing – is becoming cheaper and easier to use. Regrettably, the immediate future offers little to dispel our fears. As the internet becomes more ubiquitous, the world is turning into a more complex patchwork of technological devices that lure cybercriminals. One of the biggest challenges faced by today’s technology industry is how to sustain growth and then survive the growth we have generated.

The dream of a popular rebellion

The above challenge is tied indirectly to yet another, which is how to protect personal data from unauthorised use and breaches. Today’s personal technology industry is associated closely with global social networks, which are no longer mere communications platforms. You can now buy and sell things on Facebook and the same may soon be possible on Instagram. According to many observers, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has slowed down Facebook’s march to acquire new users. Unless the tech industry invents a safe way to handle personal data, businesses may be brought to the edge of a cliff. If the average user says “enough is enough”, many global projects relying on the community mechanism may collapse.

The technology dream of the black box

I have repeatedly written about the benefits of artificial intelligence, and debunked the doom-and-gloom scenarios prophesied for that field. Many of these myths are based on entirely irrational fears. I am nevertheless not one to quickly dismiss the tech industry’s misgivings. Having left specialised laboratories, machine learning algorithms are migrating to our companies, banks, cars and online stores. Top programmers make no secret about the fact that our world is increasingly unpredictable and even unexplainable. Algorithms create their own rules and languages, leaving even experts scratching their heads to explain the effects of their actions. That AI is a black box – which symbolises a device whose inner workings escape comprehension – is no longer a mere myth. It is a fact of life. How does one keep it from becoming a Pandora’s box? Artificial intelligence has the potential to improve the world, enhance people’s cognitive abilities, and perhaps transport the human mind and consciousness into a whole new dimension. But won’t it become harder to understand and control as it goes along?

The dream of empty desks

As noted repeatedly in my blog, the widespread highly-publicised fear that robots will take over people’s jobs is highly exaggerated. Such scenarios are a sign of myopic vision and a failure to understand that new technologies, artificial intelligence included, will create many new jobs by generating a demand for skilled labor to handle robot training, bots, etc. However, the industry is facing a completely different problem and this one is very real. Its challenge is to keep up with the rapidly changing environment and the demands of the modern workplace. Will companies be able to recruit new skilled professionals capable of meeting the challenges of the digital world quickly enough? A shortage of talented personnel to address information processing and data security challenges may stand in the way of even the most visionary corporate projects. A shortage of experts trained in new threat detection may seriously compromise global cybersecurity. In addition, there is a growing problem with satisfying the needs of today’s consumers. According to Adobe, one in four major high-tech companies (employing at least 500 employees) claims to be unable to meet the growing expectations of its customers. A growing number of companies in the trade and internet service sectors face such problems. All in all, technology has created an enormous demand for new skills and professionals. This demand is, in fact, likely to continue rising.

The above are merely four dreams. There must be many more playing out in the heads of the leaders of the world’s top tech companies. Technology has always been known to breed anxiety. it has done so since the first cars hit the streets and the first planes took to the skies. I think that having to deal with such fears is a natural price for progress. And that is the one constant we can certainly count on in our world.

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Works cited:

FBI, FBI most wanted 2018, Cyber’s Most Wanted, link, 2018. 

Reuters, TECHNOLOGY NEWS, Cost of data breaches increasing to average of $3.8 million, study says, link, 2018. 

US Government, WhiteHouse, Cyber security founding, link, 2018. 

CISCO, CISCO Umbrella, Easy, Cheap, and Costly: Ransomware is Growing Exponentially, link, 2018. 

McKinsey Global Institute, By James ManyikaMichael Chui, Mehdi Miremadi, Jacques BughinKaty GeorgePaul Willmott, and Martin Dewhurst, Harnessing automation for a future that works, link, 2017. 

ADOBE, Prateek Vatash, 2018 Digital Trends, link, 2018. 

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Leave a Reply

14 comments

  1. AndrewJo

    The algorithm was able to predict ethnicity and age well but surprisingly, NOSE SHAPE. There are of course other variables at play that affect our voice, but this mainly focused on generating frontal images (thus nose shape was what they picked up on).

    Perhaps we should be asking how has your voice changed after mewing?

  2. NorTom2

    Until now we still didn’t know when we will have good Natural Language Understanding.
    This is very important and useful for many people and many different sectors

  3. Peter71

    Creating artificial intelligence is perhaps the biggest event for mankind. If used and developed constructively, we can use artificial intelligence to eradicate poverty and hunger from the human race.
    The argument that will we ever achieve that supreme level of AI ever is ongoing. The creators and perpetrators of artificial intelligence insist that machine intelligence is beneficial and has been created to help the human race.

    • And99rew

      Computers are very good at making artificial voices. I don’t know why you’d think otherwise unless you think that unless they are 100% perfect then they “suck”. Mechanical voice simulation is pretty clumsy. The original one is the Voder from 1939. An impressive feat, but little better than early digital speech synthesis.

      • Tesla29

        Right. Realistically speaking “our robot friends” will definitely be efficient enough to replace all of our human friends. That flesh and blood thing may just become a thing of the past.
        No fighting will be needed like in a Terminator scenario. AI systems are patient. Just waiting for 15-20 or 30 generations for humans to unlearn everything including communicating, writing and reading, growing own food, etc. – letting the people become fully dependent and then pulling the plug on this life support.

    • TommyG

      First off I would like to say fantastic blog!

      I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind.

      I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before
      writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out
      there. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like
      the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted simply just
      trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints?

      Thanks!

  4. Machines don’t require frequent breaks and refreshments as like human beings. That can be programmed to work for long hours and can able to perform the job continuously without getting bored or distracted or even tired. Using machines, we can also expect the same kind of results irrespective of timings, season and etc., those we can’t expect from human beings.

  5. CaffD

    Fears that AI might jeopardize jobs for human workers, be misused by malevolent actors, elude accountability or inadvertently disseminate bias and thereby undermine fairness have been at the forefront of the recent scientific literature and media coverage.

    • Oscar2

      There would have be massive advances in A.I. for that happen. More important than the vocal cavity in determining what a singer sounds like is the brain. Take Frank Sinatra, for example. Imagine directly replacing a Katie Perry vocal with the tone of Frank Sinatra. It would sound exactly like Katie Perry with a deeper voice because it would still have all of Katie’s mannerisms. It’s the brain that decides to hold the letter ‘n’ for a bit longer, or chooses to say “Aaa” instead of “I”, or does a little yodel at various points.

  6. PiotrPawlow

    Norbert. It’s not about tech only. Its way more about human capital and preserving our planet

    • John Macolm

      Not everyone can live with having no humans involved in the drawing up and conclusion of AI. The approach of skeptics resembles that of drivers who swear they will never get into an autonomous vehicle or allow an IT code make decisions concerning road safety.

      • Peter71

        The power of artificial intelligence that inadvertently causes destruction and damage cannot be ignored. What will help us control it better is research and in-depth study of the importance of artificial intelligence. Research alone can control the potentially harmful consequences of AI and help us enjoy the fruit of this innovation.
        AI will not only change the way we think or live our lives but also explores new horizons, even if its space or the ocean. Humans are getting continually better in defining their desires and quickly transforming this desire into reality. Things will happen so fast that we will not notice the minor changes and will be easily adaptable to the change it brings to us.