Gartner’s job is to see the future.
Then they make money by renting access to their crystal ball to large businesses.
Over the years they’ve made some interesting predictions, but none moreso than yesterday’s stunner at Gartner’s Symposium/ITxpo event in Orlando, Florida.
“In 2020, consumers won’t be using apps on their devices. In fact, they will have forgotten about apps. They will rely on virtual assistants in the cloud, things they trust. The post-app era is coming,” declared Peter Sondergaard, Senior Vice-President of Research at Gartner.
No more apps? But I just set a high score playing Flappy Birds.
So apps are out, and according to Sondergaard, computer algorithms are in.
Sondergaard said that in the not-too-distant future it’s possible that algorithms will “make decisions that could mean life or death.”
Algorithms (at least today) are a set of rules that help solve a problem. Information goes in to the algorithm and then, based on the rules, an outcome is determined and you have data – an answer, if you will — which you can use to help you with whatever you’re trying to accomplish.
In the future algorithms will be able to adjust themselves by writing new rules on the fly.
The algorithms will also, apparently, multiply.
“Agents will create new agents and robots will create new robots,” explained Sondergaard, “So we have to get algorithms right.”
You don’t say.
“The algorithmic economy will power the next economic revolution in the machine-to-machine age. Organizations will be valued, not just on their big data, but on the algorithms that turn that data into actions that ultimately impact customers,” said Sondergaard.
Do not downplay the significance of this.
For example, we all know that self-driving cars are on the way. But in the future when multiple self-driving cars are about to collide, algorithms will be responsible for what actions each car should take to protect their passengers.
Or, even scarier, what if the algorithms quickly realize that in order to protect three passengers there’s no other choice but to put one passenger in serious danger?
Despite the ominous overtones and serious problems presented in science fiction movies about artificial intelligence, it’s still a better way forward and a sign of progress, Sondergaard insists.
“In a few decades we will not believe we let a 16 year old driver control a 4,000 pound object, hurdling down the road at 80 miles an hour,” said Sondergaard.
No, instead we’ll be letting a 16 year old programmer write computer algorithms to tell the 4,000 pound object what it should do if it’s about to get t-boned, or maybe how to prevent itself from running in to a tree on Griffin Drive near the 7-Eleven.
Gartner is based in Stamford, CT and employs nearly 1,000 people at its two buildings on Gateway Boulevard. The company is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol: IT.