Thursday, April 21, 2011

Could AI and RIM Cure Blindness?

Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer
What if there was an artificial intelligence that helped us distill the collective knowledge of the Internet into a Blackberry device that enabled a blind girl to see?

Let's say that this AI could see through any firewall and had unlimited access to everything on the Internet. It claimed that its primary intention was to improve the net happiness of the world. Then it demonstrated its goodwill by comparing the results of every study and presented a cure for cancer?

Big Brother?
That AI would be immensely powerful. More powerful than any government. Would the benefits outweigh the risks? I wonder.

Wonder is the title of a novel I just read by Robert J. Sawyer. It's the third book in Sawyer's WWW series. It's a sci-fi page-turner with philosophy, politics and Canadianna. Much of the action revolves around the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics in Waterloo.

The heroine is a blind teenage girl who regains her sight with the help of an AI named Webmind, a Japanese doctor, the Perimeter Institute and a Blackberry (nice plug for RIM). Caitlin goes through some of the typical teenage things like high school dances. But her connection with Webmind puts her in front of the United Nations and at the center of a major world transition. Need I say more? You gotta read it :)

Who Really Controls the Internet?
This book makes you question the limits of technology, smartphones and who really controls the Web. I kept asking myself, should somebody or some organization control the Internet?

The Internet as a Political Force
This novel reminds me of how often social media has headlined in the news lately. Facebook recently signed a deal with the largest social networking site in China. How about President Obama's appearance at Facebook HQ for a Town Hall meeting. Many countries are attempting to limit or control information flow but people still find ways to coordinate protests online.

WWW Equals Hope
What I liked most about Wonder is how it explores the potential of the collective of the World Wide Web to make the world a better place through crowdsourcing. What would happen if the Internet woke up and became a conscious of itself? Let's hope that AI would be a synthesis of the best that Web has to offer.

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Written by:
Tim Collins, President and Owner, Stafflink Solutions

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