Are Machines Taking Over?

June 2, 2017

Christine Young  By: Christine Young
 Blogger, Maxim Integrated  


In The Matrix series of movies, humans are controlled by machines equipped with artificial intelligence (AI). Is this storyline close to becoming true? As smart, connected products gain greater intelligence, will they eventually take over?

Not if today's internet of things (IoT) developers deploy new technologies to enhance what humans do—and do so with consumer privacy, security, and ethical considerations in mind. "Technology will not overtake us," said Ed Abrams, VP of Enterprise IoT at Samsung, during IoT World in May at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Abrams was part of a conference panel, "A Big Picture Look at IoT 10 Years in the Future." Technologists on the panel explored themes including AI, machine learning, blockchains, and augmented reality (AR). 

Artificial intelligence
With the combination of IoT and AI technologies, we'll see products with more predictive capabilities.

Experiments are happening now around machine/human interactions. If the entities running these experiments can't regulate themselves, then government will have to do it, based on public pressure, said Gaia Dempsey, VP and co-founder of DAQRI, which develops AR technologies. That's why, she noted, developers must approach new technologies in a manner that would allow users to feel safe with them. 

Ultimately, those who survive in the currently crowded IoT landscape will be companies that respect the privacy of the data that their devices are collecting, said Kumar Srivastava, VP of Product and Strategy at BNY Mellon's Silicon Valley Innovation Center. As a more diverse array of devices gathers increasing amounts of data, that data will help train computer vision algorithms that will provide more valuable insights. But while the combination of IoT and machine learning is a powerful one, developers need to ask themselves what challenges they are really trying to solve, said Abrams. "Things need to be transparent, (consumers) need to feel in control," said Sait Izmit, Philips Hue R&D Director for Americas at Philips Lighting, adding that vendors need to show consumers how they can benefit from these new IoT technologies. Indeed, many consumers are now only on the verge of trying their first IoT gadget, he noted, so we're not exactly at a point of mass adoption.

On the security front, Dempsey pointed out that the blockchain, decentralized and immutable, is transparent and secure "in a radical way." Still, there are questions over whether quantum computing could break the cryptography used in blockchains. Possible, said Dempsey, but then the same technology will be able to build new security mechanisms. 

Cyborgs on the Horizon

Privacy and security concerns aside, smart and connected products have the potential to change our lives in unexpected ways. Ismail Malik, CEO of Blockchain Lab, painted this picture: 

  • People will have more free time and will need to be trained in new skills
  • Today’s typical errands and chores, like shopping and bill paying, will become obsolete due to the blockchain, which will make choices and take actions on our behalf
  • Universal basic income will become the norm

"Ten years from now, it's going to be very natural for us to think of our things as having their own decision-making processes," said Dempsey. "As these different technologies come together, they are actually going to be accelerating one another. They're going to be creating synergies and confluences that will take us much farther."

In Scott Amyx's view, the conversation a decade from now will center on the internet of humans. Amyx, founder and CEO of Amyx+, calls himself an IoT futurist. He forecasts a world where people have AI chips embedded in their brains, becoming supercharged cyborgs, like we’ve seen in science fiction. "It's not something you like to hear, but that is the direction we are going," he said.

Intelligence is already around us today – e-commerce sites recommend future purchases based on past activity, for example. Predictive behavior will only become more sophisticated as things get smarter, noted Srivastava. Dempsey brought up the concept of intelligence augmentation, where systems are smart enough to predict the impact or outcomes of our actions—how might this impact our behavior?  

Solving Customer Problems

Five years from now, said Abrams, the IoT discussion won't be around devices, sensors, and capabilities, but will instead focus on integrated solutions that solve problems for customers. Developers will continue to integrate cognitive technology with speech and other inputs, and using these technologies will become more natural for us. Your voice in the blockchain, said Malik, could become an element in three-factor authentication.

The technologists at the IoT World painted a fascinating picture of future human/machine interactions. What do you anticipate will happen as connected things become more intelligent?