THE BLENDING OF artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) in the future could signal the end of civilisation as we know it, John Lewis' IT chief has warned.
Paul Coby, speaking at the IoT Summit in London, cited Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk, all of whom have warned of the dangers associated with developing computers that can think for themselves.
"When [Hawking, Gates and Musk] all agree on something, it's worth paying attention," he said.
Coby explained that the possibilities are already with us in terms of AI and that we ought to think about how "playing with the demons" could be detrimental to our future.
"If you think about putting the IoT and connectivity in almost everything with AI is it going to be like Einstein and the splitting of the atom?" he asked.
"Machines being able to at least mimic human consciousness and mend themselves. Is it the end of human civilisation or the next great evolutionary step forward?
"It's a very interesting point in terms of development which opens some big questions and it's exciting and frightening."
Coby also noted that John Lewis is concerned about the ambiguity of data attached with the rise of the IoT in retail, for instance the rise of wearables and connected home appliances.
He highlighted two aspects. The first is spotting the right data in a data-saturated society, for example coping with all that information and still being able to pick out the data that matters, and acting on it in a way that saves or helps customers.
"The key thing is that, in this tidal wave of data, what is the bit that matters? Doing something in an automated way that makes a difference will be the key in a corporate environment," he said.
The second aspect is dealing with customers' concerns about giving away their home data to this "thing" that many do not understand, as well as not knowing who owns it.
"Being open enables a retailer to give me better service, but there are people who just don't want to go there, so as a retailer this is something John Lewis is concerned about," he said. µ
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