Silicon Valley is out to disrupt entire industries – because that’s where the big money is to be made. How long before we lose our jobs?
In 1960, IBM realised that its own customers were alarmed by its new data-processing equipment. If these machines really were as clever as advertised, wouldn’t they threaten the jobs of the office managers buying them? In response, IBM came up with a phrase that still expresses what many of us think of as a central technological truth. “Computers,” it assured its clients, “can only do what they are programmed to do.”
Well, not any more. As both Jerry Kaplan and Martin Ford, old Silicon Valley hands, explain in highly readable books that are somewhere between the complementary and the almost entirely overlapping, computers have long outgrown this quaint summation. Instead, they can now work things out for themselves, proceeding by trial and error to develop their own programs according to their needs – in what Ford calls (I don’t think metaphorically) “a process of Darwinian natural selection”. They can also take a scientific interest in the world around them. In 2009, a computer at Cornell University faced with a double pendulum took only a few hours to formulate Newton’s second law of motion – considerably less time than it took Newton.Continue reading...
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