Tag Archives: singularity

Would You Like a Robot on Your Board of Directors?

Groundbreaking (for its time) computer ENIAC being operated by two women

Back in its day, ENIAC was pretty darn advanced, too. [Photo credit: PD image of ENIAC. Two women operating the ENIAC’s main control panel while the machine was still located at the Moore School. “U.S. Army Photo” from the archives of the ARL Technical Library. Left: Betty Jennings (Mrs. Bartik) Right: Frances Bilas (Mrs. Spence)]

I’m geeking out over this article.

While the title of that piece is a little misleading (the artificial intelligence tool in question, called VITAL (from Aging Analytics Agency), will be used to create comprehensive reports but humans will still be making the decisions), this is the kind of piece a sci-fi junkie salivates over. One more step on the way to the singularity, Skynet is just around the corner, etc., etc. A venture capitalist firm called Deep Knowledge Ventures, where board members wait for reports from a robot before making decisions? I can already see the film rights getting optioned.

As the above article points out, of course, this isn’t the first time machines have been entrusted with making decisions that affect the course of human business. Remember the Flash Crash of 2010? The Dow Jones lost around 1000 points within a matter of minutes, all because a computer algorithm misfired. (As far as I’m aware, the issue quickly self-corrected when the programs in play recognized the sharp drop and shut down trading.)

While one likes to think that VITAL won’t have that kind of access to major markets, it isn’t hard to see where it might have deeper repercussions for both venture capital firms and the field of life sciences research. It will be interesting to see how other venture capital firms react. If the machine works as advertised, the firm will be able to make safer investment bets on new companies, operating less on human emotion than on raw data. If one VC firm is able to make decisions that pay off with more regularity, it’s almost guaranteed that others will want to use this technology as well, just to remain competitive.

Think about it as a data arms race between private companies. Where could it wind up? And what does it mean to the life sciences companies? (And what consequences could it have for disease and other biological research?)

I’d like to know more about how VITAL will calculate an investment with the potential for success – in knowledge gained? In jobs created? Or (as I suspect) in terms of the most profitable bottom line?

It’s definitely a story I’ll be trying to stay informed on.

Additional Reading:

THEATER/FILM DISCUSSION: “127 Hours” and “Hello Hi There” (Contains Spoilers)

127 HOURS, by Scottish director Danny Boyle, plays on themes that have resonated throughout his filmography. Through manipulating our experience of Aaron’s ordeal, Boyle reminds us of the same unsettling truths that can be seen throughout his body of work, mostly revolving around the frailty of human life and civilization in the face of disaster. Boyle regularly creates high-concept storylines that force his audience to appreciate the joy of being alive while at the same time showing them the brutality and messy ugliness that is inherent in being human. He forces his audience to consider their relationship to the natural, external world – while at the same time maintaining a focus on the tormented inner stories of his characters.

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