Business Today

Data That Knows Itself

Self-aware software will be an important trend in the coming years - and it's tricky
Team BT   New Delhi     Print Edition: December 31, 2017
Data That Knows Itself

For a long time, humans believed they were the only species blessed with self-awareness. Chimpanzees and orangutans soon planted a seed of self doubt. But now, seeing as we are developing robots in our own image, machines are already beginning to have some sense of self awareness.

Like much else with technology, this, too, is a double-edged sword. Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have been among those who've warned the world again and again that humans are probably shooting themselves in the foot with their advances in artificial intelligence. One only need think of Skynet, the fictional neural net-based conscious group mind and artificial general intelligence system that features centrally in the Terminator franchise and serves as the franchise's main antagonist. It gains self-awareness after pervading millions of computer servers all across the world; realising the extent of its abilities. When its creators try to deactivate it, in the interest of self-preservation, Skynet concludes that all of humanity would attempt to destroy it and impede its capability in safeguarding the world and then seeks to exterminate the human race in order to fulfil the mandates of its original coding.

Mark Bergman, CTO of NetApp, a storage and data management company headquartered in Sunnyvale California recently spoke to The Cube at a 'NetApp Insights' event in Berlin and predicted how data will drive its own processing in the near future. He cites the example of an autonomous car that may have an accident. Many stakeholders such as the insurance company or the car manufacturer will instantly be interested in the data relating to that event. "The data has contained within it the knowledge of who can do what with that data. So I don't have to instal a separate program that can determine who can use that data and who cannot. The data says 'sorry you're not allowed to see this; this is private data and you can't see this part of it'," says Bergman. "The insurance company may need to know who the car owner is, but they don't need to know where I came from. The authorities may need both. Well, I came from a bar." He explained that as data becomes more self aware, it will determine what processes will be executed on it. It will be much more robust and scalable. The metadata that comes along with the data is what will enable this self awareness.

As ransomware and other malicious attacks move into 2018, the self awareness of data will be used as a defence against intrusions, perhaps mitigating the bleak scenario presented by these threats.


AI takes on fakes

Art has strictly been the domain of the expert and the experienced. Where the uninitiated wouldn't know a reproduction from a real painting, a connoisseur will spend time with the masterpiece, examine it carefully, and be able to tell the difference. But now, technology, powered by Artificial Intelligence, can spot forgery faster.

Unthinkable at one point of time, it is now easy enough to understand how a neural network can study millions of brush stroke patterns and link them to an artist. When the system sees a painting, it doesn't need to spend time thinking as a human would. A quick search for a match and a conclusion can be reached - and it's never wrong. Researchers from Rutgers University and the Atelier for Restoration and Research Of Paintings in the Netherlands got together to try this out, and it worked.

Like many other professions, art restoration will see the application of AI next. Very recently, Hillary Clinton expressed her concern over how the US was not prepared for the impact of AI and it's a safe bet to assume that the rest of the world is even more vulnerable to losing jobs to smart machines.

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