Meet the future – he's called Steve

picture of tin foil hat
tin foil hat time

I’ve  just come across IBM’s 5 in 5 predictions for the next five years. A neat idea where they share their vision of in the future “everything will learn” and how their cognitive,cloud based systems will impact on five key areas:

I have really mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand,it is really exciting to see what would be deemed Star Trek technology actually becoming part of our daily lives.  But on the other, particularly with the emphasis on big data and intelligent systems I am have some serious concerns about data ownership and use.  Particularly by the digital guardian prediction,  who in the accompanying video is turned into a ‘Men in Black’ type security agent, called Steve. Steve knows my habits so well he can predict my every move and detect any abnormal behaviour in my spending habits and so for example notify me of any abnormal behaviour in my bank account and so prevent online banking fraud.  Hmm . . . actually I think even Steve might be a tad confused by my shopping habits but that’s another story.

So “the system” will keep me safe and secure. But who owns the system? What else are they going to do with my data? Who else will have access to it ? How can I set my privacy and notification levels? Who pays for all this? Who really benefits?  The banks and business who want to know us all better to sell us more stuff personalise our everyday experiences? I’m not convinced it is such an obvious win win situation.  I’m afraid this vision makes me want to put on my tin foil hat and not engage with the system the answers to these questions are more transparent.

Or as Mark Power put it (feel free to sing this part)

@sheilmcn “It sees you when you’re sleeping. It knows when you’re awake…IBM Digital Guardian is coming…to toooown” #festive #tinfoil — Mark Power (@markpower) December 18, 2013

6 thoughts on “Meet the future – he's called Steve

  1. I hope Steve likes shoes, is all I’m saying 🙂

    Seriously, this seems like a very technology-led prediction of the future… “given big data is TEH AWESOMES, then…”. The predictions that engage me start with cultural trends.

  2. Totally agree Sheila, more questions need to be answered. This vision is a prediction of the future and work is happening with our partners and clients towards these visions as evidenced in the case studies. Still it’s the questions you raise that will help us shape the eventual outcome in whatever form that may come. I’m sure we are all feeling the pressures of online security, protecting our data and navigating free will, these visions in my view are to help us innovate through those challenges. Raising the debate lets us take in more perspectives and ensure collaboration brings out the best future. Look forward to chatting more on this and watching the visions develop.

    1. Thanks Cailean, and good to know that IBM folks are asking these questions too. Who owns data and where/how/when it is accessed is a key question and increasingly access to data should be seen as a fundamental right. Let’s hope the conversations start addressing this.

  3. Mike Caulfield has done a brilliant job in surfacing the unease I and I’m sure many others have in this area in his Short Notes on the Absence of Theory post. In this he highlights Morozov’s idea that “Big Data is very useful in situations where you don’t care what the cause is (Amazon cares not a whit *why* people who buy german chocolate also buy cake pans as long as they get to the checkout buying both), where you do care about cause things are a bit different”

    So the problem for all good educators is we care and hopefully we’ll never stop caring …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *