Throughout history, inventions and new ways of doing things have changed the world:
- The magnetic compass, which was invented in the 12th century, helped people navigate the world.
- The printing press, which was invented in the 1400s, made it possible to mass produce books, democratizing knowledge.
- Electricity and electric lights changed the rhythms of everyday life in the late 1800s.
- Currency, which was first used in the ninth century, eventually led to monetary systems, banking, and credit cards.
It would have been difficult to understand or estimate the long-term value of these innovations. It’s possible some of today’s innovations could have similar impact. One is machine learning. Machine learning uses algorithms to turn a data set into a model that can improve our understanding of a topic. For example, machine learning is being applied to:
- Scientific research. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) “…have now developed a machine-learning algorithm that helps them identify multiple possible structures that a protein can take…The researchers are now using this technique to study the coronavirus spike protein, which is the viral protein that binds to receptors on human cells and allows them to enter cells,” reported Anne Trafton of MIT News.
- Smart cities. Data-collecting technologies are being deployed in a number of cities. Kim Hart and Aïda Amer of Axios reported these technologies include location beacons (which track smartphones), smart tolls, drone cameras, smart landfills, security cameras, streetlight sensors, and smart grids. While expectations for smart cities are high, public skepticism has slowed the pace of these projects.
- You, your friends, and your family. “Much of the most privacy-sensitive data analysis today – such as search algorithms, recommendation engines, and adtech networks – are driven by machine learning and decisions by algorithms. As artificial intelligence evolves, it magnifies the ability to use personal information in ways that can intrude on privacy interests…,” explained Cameron Kerry of Brookings.
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