Machine Learning has been one of the most exciting developments to come out of computer science and artificial intelligence in a very long time. Of course, Machine Learning began its long road to its present form many decades ago. But it’s only recently that we’ve seen Machine Learning getting widespread application to the extent that it’s actually changing the way that society is operating. Understanding these changes is going to be one of the most important things going forward for the data science community and society at large. I try to stay optimistic, there are some reasons for concern, but I have to keep believing that Machine Learning is going to provide many tools that are going to help improve people’s lives. Every tool development Machine Learning doesn’t have to be the most dramatic and breakthrough development of that man has ever seen. We can probably go through history, and I would have to say that people like Nicholas Tesla or Thomas Edison we’re probably a lot more impactful on society than a lot of the new technologies that we see today. I would say that’s the truth for any given individual technology. However, when you take a look at the sum total of the changes that we are seen from Machine Learning, society is going to be transformed a great deal in the coming decades.
One of the things that we are definitely going to see is there are going to be a great deal of jobs that are eliminated. We have already seen the development of robots that can stack and manage warehouse just as well as any human worker. They haven’t yet been deployed in a real situation, but the fact is it’s only a matter of time before that happens. Second, we’ve already seen the developments of robots that can do many menial labor jobs. The most famous of these is a robot which is able to cook hamburgers in a fast-food restaurant. This may be unfortunate for those pushing for a $15 an hour wage for that type of work because right now, the robot is too expensive to be practical. But if you keep pushing it at some point, the robot becomes a cost-effective investment. Regardless of what happens, regarding the wages, the downward pressure on costs that usually happens with technology almost ensures that robots that do menial labor are going to be taking a lot of jobs over the next 5 to 10 years.
Remember that this is nothing new, however. I hate to bring it up yet again, but people in the 18th Century had great fears of losing their jobs to the new machines that were then making their way throughout society. The concerns of those people turned out totally misguided. In fact, they were dead wrong. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we should mock anyone who has concerns about these lost jobs now, nor does it mean that we should dismiss them. We can’t assume that because jobs were created in much larger numbers in the past due to technological changes that this is always going to happen. However, if I have to been on it, I would definitely suggest that that’s probably the case. One thing that people are really good at is finding new things to do. Look around you and observe all the things that we do now that were even existing as a mere thought 50 or a hundred years ago. As an example, consider the video game industry. Today it generates billions of dollars, and it employs tens of thousands of people. Every time that human labor is liberated, new uses for it are quickly found.
It’s hard to say where the future Machine Learning lies, but one thing it’s going to do is allow people to have a more personalized existence. We’ve already seen great strides towards this over the past decade or so. Now everything is personally curated from music to videos. This process is in their early stages of development. It’s only going to accelerate in the coming decades.
Another thing we likely see, is the application of Machine Learning to more and more areas throughout life. The growth of data science and Machine Learning has been explosive in the past 10 to 15 years. That trend is likely to continue.
When I was in college one of my computer science professors what at the time seemed like a completely ridiculous proposal, he said that in the future you could eliminate the need for a programmer. He did envision this system of black boxes where you built up a layer that reduced the complexity and moved away from having to talk directly to the computer, replacing it with something extremely simple that practically anybody could understand. So people will be able to program just by moving around objects on the screen and connecting them with lines. This dream is already being realized. One example is a product named build box. This is a simple example that you should check it out online to understand the power behind it. It’s a tool that allows people to develop video games without using any programming whatsoever. The selling point of this product is that it eliminates the programmer. All you do is drag and drop objects on the screen like you are using PowerPoint or keynote. It’s really something else. And while it is used primarily to develop mobile games, the general principles behind it can be used for any type of programming.
One very important factor which I will call the Ace in the hole is Quantum Computing. It’s unclear at this point whether Quantum Computing is something that will become practical or remain in the realm of theoretical investigation. If practical and functional quantum computers are ever built it will be a game-changer on the scale of the Industrial Revolution. How Quantum Computing is merged with Machine Learning could be one of the most interesting intellectual challenges in the coming century. There is no question that if Quantum Computing becomes practicality, life is going to be very different afterwards. The changes that we’re experiencing right now are going to seem incredibly trivial.