Article originally published by Microsoft.
The idea of computers taking over the human race has been the plot of one too many bad science fiction movies, and has perhaps made us wary of rapid advancements in technology. Fears of our own computers turning against us come to mind when talking about artificial intelligence and machine learning. But, when you examine what the invisible revolution really is, and how it can benefit the human race, it can be seen that we can only stand to benefit from this growth.
First of all, what is the invisible revolution? Think of it in terms of your favourite piece of technology that you own - your phone, laptop, or tablet. But go a little bit deeper. More likely, your most used and beloved piece of tech is that app you constantly use or are “addicted” to. Increasingly our phones and computers have just become the tools to accessing our favourite gadgets - from something you physically interact with to something that exists everywhere and nowhere at once. The invisible revolution is made possible by the most powerful and invisible computer there is; the Cloud. By having such a powerful computer available to us at any time in any place, it has created three opportunities to improve the quality of our lives.
Making More Time
How many times have you felt there aren’t enough hours in the day? People today have more on their plates than ever before and it almost seems impossible to get it all done. We get more emails, our work doesn’t end at 5pm, and balancing family commitments amongst it all makes us busier than ever. Thankfully there’s a solution. Microsoft is developing a tool called Graph, which is designed to make our workdays simpler and more efficient. As of right now, some of the functions of Microsoft Graph are available in Office 365 through a service called Delve. Delve is basically a virtual assistant that allows you to easily communicate with everyone in your office and work together on projects with everyone having access to the same file - no more constant emails with new revisions. Delve uses information form the Cloud and machine learning - another term for artificial intelligence - to learn more data and really customize its services to the person using them.
Expanding on the idea of artificial intelligence and machines actually learning, the new Cortana features help to keep you on track of your commitments both in the office place and in your personal life. The software picks up on any phrases or language that signal making a commitment, such as “I’ll finish this by the end of the day” or “Pick up eggs after work”. You don’t need to do anything special, Cortana keeps track of everything for you, and sends a helpful reminder when those things need to be done.
Doing More Good
Besides helping our work-life balance, the invisible revolution has the potential to solve the problems associated with fulfilling our basic human needs. By the year 2050, the human population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion, according to the United Nations. In order to feed this many people, there needs to be more sustainable agricultural systems. Taking advantage of opportunities like the white space of unused TV channels in rural areas for Wifi connections and solar power for energy, farming can use technology to be more productive and effective. This high-tech help can allow farmers to better monitor their crop and save money and energy doing so. The invisible revolution in technology is creating the possibility for a green revolution in farming.
Another pressing issue that needs to be addressed is the quality of air in urban centers. In Beijing specifically, air quality can be healthy and safe in one area while pollution levels can be at dangerous levels just a few kilometers away. By using a Cloud based server, the app Urban Air can gather data in real time and update citizens when they should take precautionary measures in regards to air pollution. Eventually, the data being collected can assist in understanding what the factors that cause the pollution and help prevent them.
The invisible revolution is also changing how we interact with technology, and not only in a way that focuses on list creation and reminders. More and more, people are interacting and having meaningful conversations with computer chatbots - like the 40 million people in China who talk to the chatbot XiaoIce. This trend represents a new way of interaction between people and computers that is more natural and less robotic.
Creating Faster Computing
One of the things that powers the invisible revolution is computing power. Recently, the speed at which computing power can grow over time has been decreasing and slowing down. In order to fix this, researchers have now been implementing a type of electronic circuit called graphics processing units (or GPUs) that can process complex algorithms and large amounts of data more easily than the traditional means used before.
One of the trade-offs that comes with faster computing is the need for more and more powerful servers. The servers are the physical version of the Cloud and require large facilities and air-conditioning to store and cool these powerful machines. A solution to the problem of storing these servers is to move them from land to under the sea. Doing this proposes several advantages: the servers can stay cool in the ocean water with minimal effect to ocean temperatures, there would be better service as about half the world’s population lives near the coast line, and finally, these underwater data centers can be produced much faster than the land-based centers. This is just the first step in improving data centers, as there is work being done to make them more sustainable with wind, solar, or even tidal-based energy.
To read in more detail about the about the Invisible Revolution and how it is going to help the human race, click here to access the original article from Microsoft.