I’m very excited about Google’s “Project Glass”. It seems like it certainly can be revolutionary, more than just a glasses version of a Smart Phone or iPhone. Having data proactively pushed literally in my face is completely different from how I utilize my Smart Phone. For the most part while walking the physical world, I only resort to my Smart Phone after my brain realizes it’s missing a few tidbits of information required to make a decision. I’ll pull it out of my pocket and search for something whether it is a Google search or an old fashioned call to someone. It only supplements my brain. I decide when I need to know something. It doesn’t make me smarter, just more efficient.
When information is pushed to us in a useful manner as we traverse the physical world we are smarter. It’s the equivalent of enhanced senses, a greater ability to multitask, and it optimizes our actions. (But it doesn’t give us super-human strength … darn!) It goes a long way towards resolving the “all I know is all there is” problem with the quality of our decisions. Meaning, often our decisions are naive to some degree because what we know is such a miniscule percentage of what there is to know. All decisions that we make are based on just what we know (or at least believe). This is more than brain supplementation. It’s much closer to the integration of human and machine intelligence.
Unfortunately, although human intelligence is pretty good (it can always be better), machine intelligence still isn’t all that great. Business Intelligence has done a very good job of getting machines to do what they certainly do better than our brains, which is to crunch larges amounts of data making it available to us when we figure out that we need it. But that’s not machine intelligence. That’s just easy access to information. Machine intelligence should cast a wider net for possibilities beyond the confines of our brains’ experiences. That is, without paralyzing us with information overload.
It’s more than just information overload though – which can take the form of too many valid options or massive false positives. When I’m at home or in my office viewing a Web page with a dozen ads vying for my attention, I can fairly easily ignore them since I know the ad can’t physically harm me. But doing this in the physical world means that I’ll make physical decisions based on information pushed to me. Being wrong has greater potential negative consequences.
There can also be false negatives, which is actually the juiciest type of information problem to solve. False negatives are the major weapon of the bad guys. They hope to lure us into a trap by getting us to fail to recognize danger. Can these glasses actually help you avoid very stupid actions? False negatives also can mean we fail to see an opportunity.
Machine intelligence doesn’t have to be exactly like human intelligence. It doesn’t need to be at the AI levels of Commander Data. It should be like a team of advisors each of whom knows something better than the advisee and should proactively point out issues; not just be a team of “yes men”. The sum of the advisors isn’t necessarily as effective the advisee, but the advisee plus the proactive contributions of the advisors is a significantly superior beast.
I could avoid all that and not take in any pushed information and use it in the “brain supplementing” mode as just the glasses version of my Smart Phone. But then these glasses would only represent an evolutionary step.
Anyway, I’m excited about Project Glass because the integration point between human and machine intelligence is what I’m after for Map Rock. The potentially ground-breaking nature can force the problem I’m trying to solve with Map Rock to the top.
Building the information infrastructure (Internet, Hadoop, Complex Event Processing, Data Warehouses) and the hardware for this consumer-wide application for real information is in many ways the easier part. The art of delivering the right information at the right time (and hopefully with some novelty as a “Whoa! I never would have thought of that!”) has a long way to go. We still make a lot of bad or at least suboptimal decisions. Map Rock isn’t a quant’s tool. It is a UI for users to better deal with false positives and false negatives.