In 2002, the movie “Minority Report” challenged our view of free will. In this movie, three mutated humans possessed the ability to foretell the future and identify crimes before they were committed. A new PreCrime police unit intervened and put the murderers away before they had a chance to act.
A great juxtaposition of determinism and free will, “Minority Report” successfully brings us into a world where the future is knowable. Like all outstanding science fiction, this story begs us to ask the question, “What if?”
And of course, some time later, the disappointment brought by outstanding science fiction will occur. The disappointment that occurs when you realize that mutated humans don’t exist in this timeline and that we won’t know anything about the future until we actually get there.
Well, it turns out that might not be entirely the case. Artificial Intelligence researchers at MIT are experimenting with a system that predicts human behavior. Their thesis postulates that with the proper training, an AI can predict how people will interact.
Armed with over 600 hours of sitcoms including “Office Space” and “The Big Bang Theory” (I’m not making this up), these researchers taught an AI to predict an interaction between two individuals based on a single image.
The result? The AI was correct 43 percent of the time. In contrast, real people got the correct result 71 percent of the time. Okay, so not the best…
…but not altogether bad, either. Maybe it’s not so farfetched that an AI could predict human behavior. To be effective, however, the AI probably needs better examples than “Office Space.” While humorous, I’m not sure that’s the kind of behavior we want to predict.
Fortunately, a ready source of video to capture our behavior already exists. Since surveillance cameras cover virtually every public space in America, wouldn’t it be straightforward to route all this traffic directly to our friends at MIT? The AI could observe our actions during our most candid public moments. All those times that no one thought anyone was watching would become training material for an AI Oracle.
In retrospect, this may not be such a great idea. With the full breadth of human personality on display, it’s hard to gauge what an AI would learn. And even if it did work, I’m not sure we are ready to know that 17 percent of our future involves picking our nose.
From the “When Heck Freezes Over” category, this week Microsoft announced the release of .NET Core 1.0 available on Windows and… wait for it… OS X and Linux! With this release, OS X and Linux become fully supported platforms within Microsoft’s development environment. Microsoft also released an update to Visual Studio — Visual Studio 2015 Update 3. This update is required to develop .Net Core applications within Visual Studio.
This release is a big step for Microsoft and, hopefully, for the development community at large. Visual Studio has always been regarded as a great development environment. However, Microsoft’s refusal to support non-Microsoft platforms drove developers to open source packages such as Linux and Java. By releasing an open source and cross platform version of .NET, Microsoft is attempting to bring developers back to the Microsoft environment.
Can’t wait to get started? Go to dot.net/core now and download the framework. Have fun!