I'm sure Eric Schmidt didn't mean to scare the pants off me with his keynote speech to Zeitgeist Americas 2012. All that was missing, though, was a cat and a broomstick.
In fact, he had some very bold predictions to make.
As Schmidt explains in the video, scientific discoveries now immediately become part of our zeitgeist. It's an "unalloyed good," he says, that "simultaneous science" is causing learning to grow faster. Connectivity will promote higher expectations in poorly run countries. The pressure on governments to solve problems will come to be the equivalent of a "forced upgrade."
It's naive, of course, to suppose that global connectivity alone can force countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, or Afghanistan to upgrade their systems of governance. There are pesky political, economic, and cultural barriers to overcome. Still, it's a good aim and a positive wish.
But, geo-politics aside, what are we to make of Schmidt's vision for our personal futures? One thing is for sure: Schmidt predicts that human existence will become saturated with data, with countless small decisions being driven by analytics -- and even automated.
His bed will wake him up when he cycles out of R.E.M. sleep. A driverless car will take him to work. Returning phone calls, scheduling events, and other routine tasks will be taken care of by devices using artificial intelligence. A microrobot he swallows will monitor his insides and alert his doctor if something is wrong. At night, a robot will go to parties in his place.
As I've often argued in this space, such potentialities are great for the enterprise. Indeed, boarding the analytics bandwagon could be make or break, especially for small to medium-sized businesses.
Enterprises need automated business intelligence to predict and respond to everything from operational breakdowns and supply chain surpluses, to security breaches and social media bonfires. The data is simply too large, and moving too fast, for humans to eyeball and handle.
But who ordered analytics for our personal lives? Is there anything appealing in having our interactions with others organized through AI? Do personal analytics present a threat to spontaneity and privacy? Do I really want to have doctor appointments made by an internal "microbot"? (A better neologism than "microrobot," I'm convinced.) Maybe it can also tell me when I'm hungry or thirsty, or what mood I'm in?
Will personal analytics really be able to tell us more about ourselves than we already know?
Maybe some people are thrilled by the prospect of consigning their lives over to data. Is this a version of "the singularity"?
Great article, Kim; certainly thought-provoking. I like Schmidt's term "simultaneous science". I think the fact that changes are taking place at the same time and multiplying the affect is making change different today, and with analytics.
I like the concept of eating constructive microbots a little more than eating crickets!
I think that the point may be that technology may advance to become more intuitive and useful in our daily lives, as has the internet, smartphones, etc. If it develops with the right proportions, it should make life better and further our quality of life.
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