In our much discussed 21st century, the 21st VINT Symposium is a milestone event. Its theme, Computer Says No, named after the famous BBC tv series, is even more intriguing. Many of the digital developments today can be characterized as science fiction coming to life – to everyday life that is. Like in the early days of the Internet, military applications of machine intelligence used to dominate the discussion but that has started to change. The 2015 VINT Symposium addresses critical ethical questions while focusing on the business relevance, impact, and challenges of cognitive computing and autonomous machines, guided by these five leading questions: Why now? What tomorrow? Who cares? Where is the money? How do we get there?
What leading information technology research company Gartner calls “The Next Big Thing,” eminent scientist Stephen Hawking and Tesla’s Elon Musk envision to be “Our Biggest Existential Threat.” Controversy about digital technology tends to heat up whenever the notion of intelligence – or autonomous decision-making – is involved. It may just be a matter of time for autonomous machines to determine the development of our world and what is best for mankind. Already we must face the facts. Only 70+ years after Alan Turing’s World War II Enigma project, computers like IBM’s Watson have started to not only aid us in tedious tasks but even to gradually take over control with superior or at least super fast artificial intelligence, based on vast structured and unstructured knowledge repositories.
Businesswise, the acquisition, aggregation, and analysis of big and fast data today is following its success in eScience fields. Socially however, ongoing automation is not a no-brainer at all. The accelerating replacement of jobs by autonomous machines for the sake of productivity has a long history of societal turmoil. Nevertheless, organizations’ ability to compete over the centuries has been dependent of new technologies and infrastructures. Digital intelligence and decision making are no exception. We must help shape this advancing man-machine reality, and the impact of cognitive computing and robotization, instead of trying to fight it!