Biff, Vlad, Irma, and AI

Biff%2BTannen%2B Biff, Vlad, Irma, and AI
In the movie, “Back to the Future II,” bad guy Biff Tannen uses a time machine to visit his younger self and deliver a book from the future containing sports statistics. Using the scores of future games, younger Biff is then able to place sure-fire bets and become an extremely rich tyrant. 

Vladimir Putin recently warned about the emergence of an individual like Biff who might be able to predict the future, but using Artificial Intelligence instead of a time machine. Putin said, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

Just imagine a powerful, Biff-like global ruler, building gaudy, gold-plated Tannen Towers in every country. Scary.

But could Biff have predicted the future using AI? Not really, since even the best AI algorithms and big data would have been able to give him a list of future games and scores in order to cheat bookies.

Instead, AI is more like Hurricane Irma’s “cone of uncertainty.” Weather experts can study an existing storm and provide a tentative timeline for it getting bigger or smaller. They can guess its direction, estimating the probability of it traveling straight or veering to one side or the other. Experts with the best weather tools and data still can’t actually predict the specific details; they can only provide probabilities of what might happen.

So a Biff-AI “know-the-future” scenario is very unlikely. That’s not to say certain people will not get rich with AI; there is a very high probability of that. You only have to look at the positioning of the most powerful companies in the world (Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook) to see the race for AI dominance. Mark Cuban said the world’s first trillionaire would be somebody who “who masters AI and all its derivatives and applies it in ways we never thought of.”

If you are interested in AI, consider going to the upcoming Predictive Analytics World conference in New York City at the end of October. I have attended in the past and found the event to be a great opportunity for learning and networking.

What about you? Are you concerned about powerful people controlling AI?