CXO investigate

My laptop is so dumb - why can't technology give me something smarter?

The technological advantages we have enjoyed year on year are starting to top out because of our human limitations, but there are some clues about where the next phase will come from.

The IBM Watson artificial intelligence system is probably the first glimpse of tech's next phase in augmenting human brain power. Photo: IBM

Written in the Channel Islands and dispatched a day later from a coffee shop in St Helier, Jersey, via a free wi-fi service at 20Mbps.

Decade after decade IT has supported us with faster speeds, bigger data storage, better networks, super-fast search engines and a raft of apps that have improved our efficiency and efficacy. But we might just have reached a new limit.

I don't know about you but I can't assimilate information any faster. I can't process it any faster, and I certainly can't output any faster. I'm at my limit of creativity - I can't solve problems any faster. Give me a computer 10 times more powerful and my output will remain static or at least only improve marginally. I need something more.

I have always seen spanners and screwdrivers as muscle amplifiers and computers as amplifiers of the mind. However, the human I/O is limited and so is our processing power, and we increasingly need machine augmentation.

If only my laptop wasn't so dumb. If only it had a modicum of intelligence so it could correct my errors, anticipate my needs, recognise the direction of my investigations and work, and help me model and solve complex problems.

Even at a search level it's so limited. What use is there in searching a topic and receiving a response in 0.18 seconds with a message that says there are about 187,000 results and here are the first 10?

None of these issues are likely to be solved within the confines of my laptop, iPad or iPhone, but the answer looks to be coming fast in the cloud. When our terminals are given access to supercomputing power and the new intelligences being developed, then we might just see our human brain power augmented with what we need for the next phase.

The IBM Watson artificial intelligence system is probably the first glimpse we have seen of what might be possible. IBM has created a video explaining how IBM Watson appears so smart. You can also gain an idea of what the technology might mean for medicine and healthcare. For another take on the subject, you could also watch my 10-minute presentation on machine intelligence.

It doesn't take too imagination and extrapolation to see what this technology might mean for engineering, science, technology, construction, or you and me, while Apple's Siri is an indication of the natural language possibilities for future interfaces.

These are the technologies many of us need right now. Perhaps for the first time in our IT history we are waiting for the technology to meet our needs, rather than IT waiting for us to catch up to exploit its capabilities fully.

And for the first time it might mean we don't have to learn some new convoluted interface. Generalised intelligences combined with natural language interaction would empower us for the next phase of innovation and business.

Hopefully, they will also help us deal with the growing complexities associated with globalisation including the diversity and speed of trade.

About

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

17 comments
peter
peter

When you have worked until you are exhausted, when you have leveraged all your technology to the limit, when you have tapped the combined skills, experience, energy of friends and colleagues, and when the workload is getting away from you - then you need help - then you need smarter technology - then you need things that work with you instead of against you...Peter

Regulus
Regulus

Jersey, huh? The place that the origin of Boston Baked Beans links to, as well as the Salem Witch Trials. (Love it) Regardless, Laptops, software etc., are marketed to Airheads With Money (to throw away). Marketing to anything else results in 'belly-up'.

david_crocker54
david_crocker54

I would hope that our current computing power would help inspire young minds rather than hold them back. I do agree about the learning process of new technologies. I myself have been working since the inception of the PC and was asked by Steve Jobs to come onboard and help when they where still in a garage. I was too near sited at that time and missed a golden opportunity. I would hope that doesn't happen to our species as a whole. Embrace the next generation of computers and invent new ways to utilize them.

jonrosen
jonrosen

More whining that so many of the younger generation do. They want something to do the work for them, not do the work themselves. (yes, a generalization, but one I've come across so much that I think it fits). It shows in the lack of writing or even ABILITY to write. The lack of the ability to spell. We need computers to be enhancers to what we do, not rely on them to do it for us. That is a large leap in the wrong direction. Rather like putting a finance director in charge of IT.... And look at how that's been working out in so many places.

trent
trent

This is not true, if new drastic technological advancements came out say every 3 months; A. we would not be able to keep up, B. Businesses would not get return on investment ROI for developing the technologies. C.The Military of most 1st world countries develop a lot of technologies, thus not publicly available for years. D. Cost of production.. if we were to live as a Utopian society instead of a capitalist society people would work to better humanity not the wallet. the monetary system need to be removed as well as greed before we as a species can really forge forward.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Peter, I'm going way off-topic here, but what should I find significant about the 'Written in / dispatched from' paragraph that leads all your articles? Maybe I'm the only one who finds it annoying, but maybe I'm not understanding why you think it is worth relating or why I should care. Yeah, I'm picking nits; otherwise, this was an interesting post. As you noted, this isn't really a problem that is going to be solved by the device on your end of the Internet. If you feel you can't assimilate information any faster, it's time to take a weed-whacker to your sources. Ask yourself, do I really need to know this source's information right now? Can the football scores wait? What happens if I don't know what the market did until the next morning? Do I require the latest changes to my favorite author's book-signing tour schedule?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

You mention: " I'm at my limit of creativity" I suspect if you query even a few psychologists you will see the error in that line of thought..

SKDTech
SKDTech

That is the ultimate end of any "Utopian" society. By its very nature a utopian society has no need to advance, it is just fine the way it is. Greed is wanting more than you need. Wanting more than you need causes people to try to find new and better ways to do things, to discover new things and ideas. After all if your needs are taken care of and you have no wants (greed) then you will have little or no drive to discover, explore, or invent.

peter
peter

Palmetto_CharlieSpencer = Well over 400 Blogs ago I was appearing on the Silicon.com site and there was a voiced opinion by editor and readership that my travels and online habits were of interest....so i started to include it...and that has migrated over to TechRepulic......in short - it is historical!

Ndiaz.fuentes
Ndiaz.fuentes

I was about to write a comment when I saw yours. I, too, have windered about the written/dispatched labels. Perhaps they serve some sort of purpose? The people (or at least two of us) want to know, Mr. Cochrane! :)

peter
peter

Michael Kassner = Not many psychologists are in business or the creativity game....and what I was trying to get over is that I can't solve are create any faster...my mind is the ultimate limiter...only with augmentation can I do more....

bboyd
bboyd

Interest and bias in thought patterns. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_retention "A person may gradually reflect more positively on their time at school as they grow older" Maybe his creative limits are self imposed? Mine sure are. Long continued use of computers and information systems may have lead to a creative dead end. Perhaps an bout of creative limitation is in order. Try doing without that laptop to accomplish the task and find a new solution from doing so. I hear people tell others to be open minded and the reality is that they are the ones with the confirmation bias. My hammer is so dumb, why can't industry give me a smarter hammer?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

What does this mean: "Not many psychologists are in business or the creativity game." That makes no sense. And, if you feel your mind is the limiter, you have lost. I feel sorry for you.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I've long held that the 'best' music was written when the listener was between the ages of 15 and 30, regardless of who that listener is or his / her current age.

bboyd
bboyd

That article has a real positive message!

bboyd
bboyd

Sometimes I think that P Cochraine is baiting us to have a conversation by picking a view on topic that will generate alternate views. As alternate to your view, I give the music we most hate comes from the preceding decade. On topic I'd say that the problems with laptop happened because form factor and lack of flexibility are the causation to bad laptops with no fundamental improvements. Most animals put on fat in the easy years and become smarter in the lean years. Maybe some lean years are in order. Or the lean years could be avoided by a return to modularity and competition.