Opportunity in an Artificial Age

Happy new year! Welcome to 2011, this year the tools and services we use on the internet will enrich our lives in ways we didn’t know were possible only a few short years ago. The strength and power of computers has grown significantly over the past decade. The internet has grown to dominate the personal and professional lives of those who use it regularly. Growing in parallel with this technological revolution is the perception that human intelligence is less robust than artificial intelligence. I strongly believe that opportunities for innovation on the internet lie in the human sphere.

The notion of artificial intelligence is hardly new but it has also rarely been implemented successfully online. The primary manifestation of the failure of artificial intelligence on the internet has been its lack of widespread adoption. A few companies, notably Pandora and Netflix, have struggled to produce an accurate and profitable customer recommendation system through the use of artificial intelligence. Just think how many times ‘Sex and the City 4’ has appeared in your Netflix recommended box. The old proverb, “Man must be smarter than the tools he operates” stands true. Merely gathering more data has failed to make computers more compatible with our emotionally-driven lives.

Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the Y-Combinator Startup School 2010 about our limited knowledge of the human brain. As he explained, medical research has yet to uncover the many mysteries of human thought processes. For example, doctors have only speculated on the origins of our dreams and their possible influences on our thoughts. If we humans are not truly aware of what causes the thoughts in our head and the decisions we make, how can we expect a computer to predict the outcomes of equivalent thoughts and reactions? Consider a dating site; how can computers match us with an ideal spouse when we do not truly know how or what we find attractive? We do not yet have the answer to that question. Instead, I feel that we should ask how the internet can meet, not simply interpret, the needs of an interconnected global population. One area in particular that has yet to be exploited is education. In the age of widespread communication through internet connections, video technology can be leveraged to teach knowledge-based courses online and empower internet users in the earliest stages of their academic careers. By taking an alternative approach to the implementation of technology, modern educators can use the internet to improve the quality and distribution of education.

Now you may ask: Where could I possibly be going with all of this, especially if your aim is to create disruptive technology? Essentially, I feel that there is an abundance of opportunity to meet the needs of an interconnected population. Even among the established industries, there are opportunities for disruption that even the smartest computers could not identify. The next generation of the web will require future-focused disruptors with an entrepreneurial drive to build relevant and useful technology. By encouraging entrepreneurship through the sciences in high school and college, students will be more adept to take on the challenge of advancing the capabilities of technology.

Also published on HunSchool.TV. Edited by David Merfield.

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01 2011