Where will massively scalable artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) computer systems that can work tirelessly around the clock take us?

Nobody knows, in a similar fashion to when the internet was young and people started to discover what it could do as more and more people, and computers, connected to each other around the world.

You will hear the AI and ML abbreviations much more from now though, as the technologies seep into everyday life and business processes.

Everyone, including Google, is in learning mode, trying to figure out what AI and ML can do for them.


In Auckland for the Digital Nations 2030 conference, Google's director of Machine Perception Tomas Izo calls himself a "pixel interpreter".

That's one way to describe how to create search and pattern-matching functionality for images and videos as computers learn to recognise content and the context in which they are displayed.

That might not be what you would use AI/ML for, or even audio (which is also what Izo's group is working with) but there's nothing stopping those who are curious about the technology from exploring what it can do.

One problem here is the term: "Artificial intelligence is very vague," Izo said. "What's artificial about it?" As with any new tech, the biggest hurdle is deciphering the jargon AI/ML brings, because they're not yet clever enough to explain themselves to human users.

If you think AI/ML will have an impact on you and your business, now's the time to start figuring it out.


Whereas in the early days of the internet technical knowledge was a prerequisite to get things done, Izo said you can start off with AI/ML without having to code.

Much of Google's AI and ML efforts have been released as open source so that anyone can use them for free without being encumbered by licences; they also come with rule-set packages so there's no need to write them before starting to train models, a task that can be difficult to get right.

In fact, you don't even need a Google account, Izo said. The Teachable Machine made by Google's People and AI Research (Pair) initiative lets you train a visual model that distinguishes between three categories, using a web browser and your computer's camera. "Just tinker with it," Izo suggested.

That's good advice, because as Stu Christie, the chairman of the New Zealand Artificial Intelligence Forum, noted at Digital Nations 2030, just about every area of society and business will be touched by the new technology.

Some of it sounds scary, like automated, mass facial recognition in public places.

More positive manifestations promise an end to boring and repetitive tasks, and, we must hope, higher-paying jobs rather than humans being turfed out of employment by computers and robots.

Whatever happens, if you think AI/ML will have an impact on you and your business, now's the time to start figuring it out.