How to be your own robot?
A broad range of machines are considered robots these days. When we think of robots, we imagine the classic model with two legs, eyes and a brain connected to the cloud. But also the self driving car is considered to be part of the robot revolution. People are worried that we'll become obsolute and superfluous in a future world dominated by robots. But there's no need to worry, because we are the robots of the future! The current wave of ICT innovation applies to us, and how we relate to the world around us.
We've already morphed from analog beings into digital creatures, and there's no rolling back. The smartphone is already a part of our life, and smartwatches, smart fitness trackers and smart eyewear are going to be part of our life. With the easy of use and the powerful features they offer to enhance us as human beings, these devices are hard to resist. We'll be trusting these devices to monitor us patiently, look after us, keep an eye on our agenda, do the boring task of summarizing and analysing data and we will be viewing the outcomes and accepting any recommendations or tasks that are communicated to us. In the near future, these messages will pop up on a augmented reality wearable. We're told what to do, and perhaps we're asked what we like.
Integrated so smoothly into our lives, people tend to ignore or just accept the reason why these smart devices are so smart: the continous transmitting of data towards a few tech giants that aggregate all data from all available data to make the output even more irresistably perfect and valuable. We can all live a perfect and efficient life, as long as we agree to share every movement, our whereabouts, our plans, our communication.
Sitting at home, we're getting alerts that in order to be in time for our meeting, we have to leave now. By train, not by car, there's a major traffic jam halfway our journey. While in the train, we might get recommendations to study some more relevant documents, look at the online profiles of the people in the meeting. Stepping outside of the trainstation, our AR navigation brings us to the final destination. During the conversation, we'll keep getting push notifications and further instructions, tips and relevant data based on an analysis of the current situation in the meeting. We'll soon see even more apps that related to and integrate into our daily activity. We'll not be using smart software to do tasks, the smart software will instruct and use us to accomplish tasks.
Probably, these apps will be focussed on achieving efficiency, robot style. And in a continuous optimisation process, there's no limit to the amount of data these processes ask to absorb. And we've no choice. If we want the recommendations, the system needs to peek into our lives and study our behaviour. If we do not allow it, there's no service. It's a digital matter, either 1 or 0. And neither of those choices is favorable. Opting out of cyborg life is (will be) no option. But once we've surrendered, there's no way to find out why we need to do what we're being told to.
With the rapid and radical developments within the field of machine learning, these systems will more and more work like black boxes. We cannot study the processes inside them. We will not be able to follow their decision making. There's no openness, no human understandable trace of what's happening and why. But wouldn't it be good to influence the parameters, and choose which data to include in the automated decision making and what not? And do we have to stick to one decision making service, or should we be able to outsource certain data processing to a service of our choice?
A company or perhaps an open source script in the cloud or locally on our device? There is going to be a market for qualitative scripts, free, paid or freemium versions. To be able to make those choices and be in control, we need a configuration and settings tool, for ourselves. And an API to connect to the outside world and let the outside world connect to us. Be Your Own Robot is about researching and implementing a first prototype of such an API for humans.