Posted & filed under Industry Insights.

By Pat McNamara

This summer Sarah Connor was back on the big screen trying to save the world from the rise of the machines. The newest addition to the Terminator franchise may or may not be your favorite in the series, but it does come to us at a time when smart machines are more relevant than ever. While Skynet may not be a reasonable concern for those of us in the real world, smart machines are in fact on the rise in a variety of industries. If you read our recent blog “Welcoming the Internet of Things to Healthcare,” you’ll already be familiar with the advances in technology we can expect to see in the next few years in the medical field. The reach of smart machines goes far beyond healthcare, and will likely be having a deep impact on a variety of industries in the next decade.

What exactly are Smart Machines?

Forbes refers to them as, “an emerging ‘super class’ of technologies that perform a wide variety of work, of both the physical and the intellectual kind.” This means that not only will we be starting to see robots assist with laborious physical tasks, but also machines that are able to automate decision making and assist in intellectual knowledge based tasks. Some groundbreaking companies have already started to produce machines of this nature. Take for example robots like Baxter, which are able to manage scheduling and handle small objects by using sensors, cameras, and machine learning. Baxter is not programmed; it is trained, which its creators claim is so simple any in-house staff should be able to train the machine without any technical background. Similarly, there is IBM’s Watson, which is also able to learn rather than needing to be programmed. Watson is able to analyze vast amounts of data, from social media posts to corporate reports, and can be trained on how to interpret that data. IBM claims Watson is capable of “reading millions of unstructured documents in seconds” and can use that information to discover and offer “answers and patterns faster than any person or group of people ever could.” Watson is already being put to work in Healthcare with its Clinical Oncology Advisor. The Advisor is able to provide treatment recommendations based on a constantly updated store of research and data. The machine is able to access more information than the average doctor will ever be able to keep at the top of their mind, and in a far timelier manner.

Could Smart Machines become too smart?

Should we expect to see Chappie or a Terminator wandering the streets anytime soon? Unlikely. Gartner assures, “within the confines of currently known technology, the idea of machines attaining some level of ‘self-awareness,’ ‘consciousness,’ or ‘sentience’ is still the stuff of science fiction.” However, CIO’s do have a responsibility to ensure they are teaching and training their smart machines to behave ethically. Machines may not become self-aware, but they will be able to collect vast amounts of data without any human involvement, and provide analysis and decisions based on how they are trained to interpret that data. This may mean requiring CIO’s treat their new smart machines like pets or children, taking responsibility for how they adapt and learn, and for their usage within the company. Additionally, CIO’s will be responsible for ensuring their staff and colleagues are able to trust the smart machine technology in order to have their company accept and use the machines. To learn more about the ethical responsibilities CIO’s have regarding smart machines, take a look at Gartner’s newsroom article, “Gartner Says Smart Machines Require Ethical Programming.”

What do you think?

What do you think about the Rise of Smart Machines? Are you a CIO excited to bring this new tech into your company? As experts in IT staffing, Atlantic Associates, INC. is always keeping up to date on advances business technology. Tweet at us to let us know if you’re hesitant or excited about the potential of smart machines in your industry!

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