What You've Missed

Humans May Shape Technology, But How Does Technology Influence Us?

When asked to think about how technology affects our lives, most people reflect on smartphones and apps, faster computers and smarter cars.

But what really intrigues us are the less obvious ways that technology impacts our lives — in particular, data. We now know that data-driven insights are running behind the scenes virtually constantly, driving what we see, hear and even what we like.

Take Spotify, for example. Their ‘Discover Weekly’ feature delivers personalised playlists to over 40 million people every week, each song chosen through machine learning, creating ‘a modern-day version of a best friend creating a personalised mix tape.’

While in Spotify’s case, timely data analysis is critical to their product delivery, other companies are collecting data for future use. That little tracker on your wrist, FitBit, is not only keeping track of your steps and fitness progress; it's feeding an ever-evolving collection of worldwide health data. This year they’ve expanded into healthcare research with 400 projects — including studies of diabetes and heart disease. Their app-based data collection and learning are so promising that FitBit has been named one of only nine digital health companies to be selected for the US Food and Drug Administration’s pilot precertification programme.1

When it comes to marketing, data has long been used to target ads and reach new populations, and the most sophisticated platforms can now achieve this in real time across all devices, integrating data from multiple sources. But today big strides are also being made in predictive buying. Think delivering digital coupons and stocking warehouses near populations that buy select products. Check out this article by Interesting Engineering for 16 more hot AI trends.

Speaking of trends — while there’s no doubt that big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence are growing and shaping our lives today — innovators like Elon Musk and Steven Hawking caution that there are risks associated with this limitless opportunity.

‘I believe there is no deep difference between what can be achieved by a biological brain and what can be achieved by a computer,’ says Hawking. ‘It therefore follows that computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence – and exceed it.’

How do you view a future where data and AI reign supreme? We see opportunity but we’re committed to exploring that opportunity responsibly. After all, as Hawking says, without care and wise judgement, technology could become a ‘new form of life that will outperform humans.’

Paul Maraviglia, General Manager, Europe, Maxpoint

  1. http://www.nature.com/news/join-the-disruptors-of-health-science-1.22918