HP CTO Robots will become smarter than humans by 2029

The ‘singularity’ event that scientists talk about in artificial intelligence (AI) — when robots would outsmart human beings in reasoning — has just been moved up, according to a top scientist at HP Inc.

The progress in AI and machine learning has been so rapid that scientists have upped the estimate for the ‘singularity’ to happen in 2029 from 2040, shaving off 11 years of development time, says Shane Wall, Chief Technology Officer at HP, who also heads the HP Labs which is at the centre of innovation within the company.

Mr. Wall, who was speaking at the HP Reinvent Partner Forum here, said there may be some who watch with fear for that event to happen but taken adequate precautions, this change would bring in much good for everyone — be it in manufacturing, health, innovation or elsewhere.

He said AI handles huge amount of data and can discern patterns to take decisions.

“Machine learning uses AI and big data to learn and it can find things that no humans can see,” Mr. Wall noted.

According to him, already there are massive data farms which are crunching big numbers and there are research labs and companies where machines are taught how to use data to managing things around us.

Mr. Wall, who joined HP over a decade ago, drives the company’s technology vision and its strategy and helms the innovation community within.

According to him, machines have become smart enough to predict failures within a system and 3D manufacturing is a massive revolution in the making.

“Already, 3D printing is handling intricate products and in the future this will bring about a disruptive change,” Mr. Wall said.

Much of the manufacturing at present is done by transporting the raw materials, parts and designing to various places in the world.

“When machines are able to print or manufacture whole systems, this transportation would be limited. Machines are today making their own parts and in tomorrow’s world, this would become much more refined,” the HP executive noted.

In this context, he said, it was interesting to see what had happened to photography in the last 30 years. Pictures were taken on films and then sent for processing and you would get the results after a while.

“Today, you cannot find film anywhere. Not in Africa. Not in India. Something similar would happen to the $12 trillion manufacturing worldwide,” Mr. Wall added.

The rapid changes in AI will further accelerate, but everyone had to exercise caution on cyber security against malicious operators.

In this context, he pointed to the cyber attack on Equifax, the credit reporting agency in the US which had compromised sensitive information of over 140 million people.

“I have been affected by the Equifax hacking and almost half the people in this hall have been,” Mr. Wall said, adding that robust systems would have to be developed to protect data.

Despite the threats, the potential for AI was so great that it would have profound impact on all sections of the society.

Mr. Wall gave the example of DNA editing being done through AI which will bring about revolutionary changes in tackling diseases.

“Technology can be used for all sorts of things good and bad,” he said, “but one had to focus on security and how to develop a new model of safety.”

The blockchain technology, used in cyber money like bitcoins, was bringing changes which would have an impact on the political scenarios of countries.

“This money is not being controlled by any person or government. Blockchain technology basically ensures the ownership of money in the cyberworld which cannot be changed or attacked,” the HP CTO stressed.

At the same time, Mr. Wall said, quantum computing would make it possible to take the work which takes years to do in computers and reduce it to minutes.

“This would be a fundamental challenge to cryptography and blockchain technologies,” he said.

In the future, the ‘battle of bytes’ would be tackled with cyber resilience. That would include making it possible to protect, detect and recover systems from malicious attacks, Mr. Wall said.

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