A Cloud with a Mind of Its Own – Artificial Intelligence and Cloud Services

Even the cloud with all its compute power cannot reproduce the complexity, randomness and creativity of the human mind. Or can it? Ever since Alan Turing suggested his test, the line between human and artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly blurred. The idea is simple; Make a person interact with a computer. If the person thinks the computer is acting like a human being, then the computer is deemed to have a mind of its own. In other words, it is considered capable of thinking for itself. Eugene Goostman, a 13-year-old boy, seems to have passed the test. For Eugene is in fact a super-computer program that convinced enough people (33% of those participating in the test in 2014) that it was human. Now, if Eugene can do it, what’s stopping the cloud in general from doing it too?
Your Brain on a Chip
Other IT and Internet players have not waited for Eugene to come along. They have already been busy producing technology that could power an intelligent cloud. IBM recently presented a microchip that is a radical departure from conventional products. It has a million ‘neurons’ and ‘thinks’ like the human brain. IBM calls it TrueNorth in its press releases, while printing ‘Neurosynaptic System’ on the chip itself. An interesting capability of the chip is that it knows if something is out of place. Applications range from identifying people or physical threats, picking out suspect credit applications and finding parking spaces for cars – all of which could potentially be cloud services too.
Insights on the Way to Intelligence
A few years before Eugene, Google had already finalized its ‘machine learning engine’ (the cooler name is ‘Google Prediction API.) This artificial intelligence tool goes beyond the automation of the cloud that already gives it its scalability and resilience. The Prediction API helps companies using Google Storage to analyze their data to understand customer sentiment (‘financial positivity of customers’), detect customer churn (to win customers back before they leave), implement recommendation systems (‘You may also like…’), and identify suspicious activity. This may not yet be the cloud thinking for itself, but the Prediction API is nonetheless a step towards a cloud mind.
Where the Smart Money will be in the Future 
AI-based cloud services that could soon be available include:

  • Virtual assistants and robot helpers. Besides finding you a parking space, they can make doctor or dentist appointments for you, or run around the web checking information for you like prices or employee wellbeing. Their physical counterparts (robots) will be able to safely drive cars and help in the workplace, receiving longer-term decisional information over the net, and figuring out if people need help thanks to new neuronal programming.
  • IoT device collaboration. The fridge that orders online by itself when stocks run low is one example of the Internet of Things (IoT) to come. Cloud intelligence can then tie together the order, the logistics and the automatic opening and shutting of the garage door for the deliveries to be placed inside even if the owner is out.
  • Super-augmented reality. Already available as smartphone apps, the cloud AI version of augmented reality will help users to interpret what they see or hear as well. For instance, helpful hints about how to replace machine parts or address public meetings, in context and as you are doing it.

What else might a cloud with a mind of its own bring us? Whatever the services of the future, we can expect them to be increasingly smarter and arrive increasingly faster.