Artificial intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), autonomous vehicles, and battery development are the near future (not investment advice, but there’s definitely money here!). All four fields are seeing a rapid and exciting increase in research and funding, and the technology in these fields will almost certainly improve exponentially from the fledgling systems we are currently seeing to sophisticated devices in the next few years or decades.
AI and Google
Google’s Deepmind (which recently won four out of five games of ‘Go’ against a human counterpart, thus hailing a watershed moment from the science world) in conjunction with Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute has recently published a document (Safely Interruptible Agents) investigating disabling or turning off AI if a human operator doesn’t like the AI’s actions. A kill switch or ‘big red button’, in effect. But would that really be necessary? Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking think so.
However, a number of others, including Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, feel that super intelligent computers or robots, where the AI reaches human levels of cognition allowing exponential improvements without human interaction are never actually likely to be released, certainly in any near future involving our children or grand-kids. Eric Schmidt points out rather bluntly that Musk and Hawking are not computer scientists, and as such do not have the facts and knowledge to make such statements with any certainty.
Google and Patents
Though, that hasn’t stopped Google filing some interesting sounding patents to such things as ‘neural network training’, ‘parallel convolutional networks’, ‘reinforcement learning with a neural network’ and ‘classifying data objects’. The patents help protect Google’s financial investment in this rapidly-developing field of research, and it would be assumed much of this technology may ultimately find its way into such things as autonomous cars and other vehicles, which are currently a hot topic. But from the general overviews above, you can easily appreciate the focus on the development of at least semi-self-aware data networks which allow the forming of at least rudimentary AI.
Is it a good thing that Google is tying up or trying to tie up areas of this technology? A patent is used to control the use or implementation of your technology or development. If an organisation with less than honest intentions (and I’m not suggesting this is Google’s case – I’m a fan and hugely impressed with what Google has achieved in a relatively short space of time) was to develop an AI technology and patent it to better control or utilise it with less restriction or interference, would that cause a problem?
The assumption is that Google, whilst being a hugely successful commercial entity and requiring a revenue stream, is aiming to improve the World for everyone, and as such by protecting its financial interests through the use of patenting seems wholly right and sensible. But who actually has a ‘kill switch’ for Google, just in case?
p.s. If you do have a tech- or software based patent, you can submit this to Google for review and possible purchase. 28% of submissions have been made a purchase offer, at an average of around £20,000.