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Artificial intelligence needs your data, all of it

Mike Elgan | Feb. 23, 2016
Today's concerns about giving up privacy will seem quaint in the coming years. A.I. will need everything, and we'll happily give it.

The artificial intelligence revolution is clearly happening. And it's super exciting. A.I. will transform medicine, give us all super-smart virtual assistants, fight crime and a thousand things more.

But there's a catch. In order for A.I. to work its miracles, it's going to need data. Massive amounts of data.

And I'm predicting that we'll willingly give that data. In fact, we're already starting to.

Do you use Siri, Google Now, Cortana or Alexa? They work by recording your voice, uploading the recording to the cloud, then processing the words and sending back the answer. After you've got your answer, you forget about the query. But your recorded voice, the text extracted from it, and the entire context of the back-and-forth conversations you had are still doing work in the service of the A.I. that makes virtual assistants work. Everything you say to your virtual assistant is funneled into the data-crunching A.I. engines and retained for analysis.

In fact, the artificial intelligence boom is as much about the availability of massive data sets as it is about intelligent software. The bigger the data sets, the smarter the A.I.

One important area of A.I. innovation is: How do you get enough data?

Here's how Andy Rubin wants to get it.

Andy Rubin's Free Dash Cam

Remember Andy Rubin? He is the co-founder and former CEO of Android, which Google got its hands on by acquiring his company in 2005. He ran the Android group at Google for years before heading up its robots division and then finally leaving Google less than a year and a half ago.

Rubin now runs an incubator and consulting firm called Playground Global. He's using that company to work on a variety of projects. One of these is reportedly a dashcam that will be given away for free. In exchange for the free dashcam, users would allow the video and other data to be uploaded and used to feed a massive A.I. system, a "real-time visual map of the world."

That's an incredible vision for multiple reasons, and one that has to be taken seriously because Rubin is someone with a track record of bringing his visions to reality on a massive scale.

First, video is the biggest kind of user data. A single user driving around is likely to generate at least 4 gigabytes of data per hour. There are 253 million cars in the U.S. If only 1 percent of these cars is driving with one of Rubin's dashcams at any given time, that's more than 10 petabytes of data in the U.S. alone. Per hour! That's impossible to process now, but by the time this scheme gets off the ground, it could be possible.


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