Can’t we just all get along?
You may remember the legend of John Henry – the post-Civil War railroad worker who put his muscle and sinew-powered hammer against that new-fangled technology: the steam hammer. Or maybe “The Matrix,” where the world as we know it was turned into something looking like Detroit – victim of “the Robot War.” And then there’s “Rocky IV,” which though never nominated for an Academy Award, but did have some pretty cool scenes of Rocky working out like John Henry in the snow, while the evil Ivan Drago pumped iron and chemicals in a laboratory with more wires and electronics than a bad Frankenstein movie.
In each of these stories – and there are hundreds more – the theme is the same: when will these pathetic lumps of flesh and bone – i.e., humans – be replaced by the superior strength, speed, and intelligence that can be delivered by the technology of machines?
In the early years of the 21st Century, US intelligence agencies spent years crawling through billions of bits of data in what would be the forensics of 9/11. Their conclusion: had this data been processed – and patterns recognized – in seconds, not years, 9/11 theoretically could have been prevented.
There’s not much debate that when it comes to crunching massive amounts of data, a computer will clean a human’s clock -all day long. And when it comes to drinking oceans of data, consider this: it is estimated that 90% of all the world’s content has been created in the past two years. From Fred Flintstone painting on cave walls to Plato and Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Emily Dickenson and George Lucas, all of these brilliant folks and thousands more in between account for only about 10% of the world’s content. Now, that is a statement of volume.
Machines have the ability to sift through massive amounts of data at light speed, recognizing patterns and ultimately delivering to you the content you want, so trying to use a human in the process is as outdated as asking old John Henry and his hammer to knock down Yosemite’s Half Dome, right? Well, maybe, but not so fast. Apart from the still nascent science of neural computing, machines today are binary. They are great at breaking information into elemental bits – ones and zeros – and crunching through streams of these bits really quickly, making comparisons, recognizing patterns which can eventually lead to recommendations. But despite the science fiction of “Terminator” and Schwarzenegger and Skynet, computers can’t think – at least not yet. Consider the battles between spammers and anti-spam filters, or the whole concept behind “Search Engine Optimization” – SEO – that really isn’t about optimizing your search at all, but rather about fooling machines into delivering you content that somebody else wants you to see. Machines can be fooled by rather simple structural elements of the non-digital language – for example, it would be easy to envision a story about a bird watchers club in Maryland getting delivered to a fan of The Baltimore Orioles – a mistake a human would not likely make.
Point is, while maybe Schwarzenegger may come back from the future some day as a killer android, that’s not today. Machines are awesome – manhas created remarkable technology that has improved our standards of living, dramatically increased leisure time, and enabled the Kardashians to become international icons. But, science fiction notwithstanding, machines are the tools of mankind – not the other way around. At Trapit, we love technology, we live on the Internet, and we’ve built our business around “Artificial Intelligence” and “Machine Learning.” In fact, remember that 9/11 project a couple of paragraphs ago? Well, from that, Trapit was derived! And so was Apple’s Siri! But we understand enough about machines to know that they are not ready – yet – to fully take on the task of curating content – of storytelling. For while machines do a wonderful job of quickly crunching billions and billions of bits of data, they don’t really understand nuance yet, or fully appreciate context, and semantics, even though great strides are being made in these areas.
In our Trapit business application, we offer the option of “assisted curation” to our customers – that is, allowing a human to intervene in the last mile, making the final decision on which of the stories recommended by Trapit will actually be posted. For any topic Trapit can provide an accurate pool of content to choose from, from millions of articles are selected dozens (try that on your own). But perhaps one article’s take is a little bit too bullish on a competitor. Or a blog post focuses on a region where you don’t do business. There could be hundreds of reasons that relevant content doesn’t quite fit. But Trapit can do the heavy lifting, saving time and money, while leaving subtleties of storytelling—selecting the best of the best content to capture your unique message—up to you.
So Skynet – what’s the beef, man? We come in peace – we’re not looking for a fight. Can’t we all just be friends?
Trapit CEO and Co-founder