Call me a nerd, but this is why I love doing what I do and why I’m excited about the future. For all the fun of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare (not to mention all the supposedly non-social technologies used by the search giant Google), the collective data our generation is creating has the potential to – finally – build the Jetson’s-like future we’ve been promised for so many years:
To understand where the combination of mobile sensors, cloud databases and computer algorithms augmented by human action is leading us, consider the self-driving car. Stanley, a driverless vehicle, won the US Darpa (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) grand challenge in 2005 by navigating a course of slightly over seven miles in a little under seven hours. Last year, Google demonstrated an autonomous vehicle that has driven over 100,000 miles in ordinary traffic. The difference: Stanley used traditional artificial intelligence algorithms and techniques; the Google autonomous vehicle is augmented with the memory of millions of road miles put in by human drivers building the Google Street View database. Those cars recorded countless details – the location of stop signs, obstacles, even the road surface.This is man-computer symbiosis at its best, where the computer program learns from the activity of human teachers, and its sensors notice and remember things the humans themselves would not. This is the future: massive amounts of data created by people, stored in cloud applications that use smart algorithms to extract meaning from it, feeding back results to those people on mobile devices, gradually giving way to applications that emulate what they have learned from the feedback loops between those people and their devices.