The value to a creative professional, like Schneier, who has published close to 20 books in his career, or this reporter, who has review film published zero but keeps trying just in case, is clear.
But the applications of this theory go way beyond generating a useable first draft of a book, or a letter to a politician. What if you could train an AI assistant on the venues you checked into on Facebook, or the photos you posted to Instagram? Maybe you’re into street food or good beer; if you find yourself in a new city, your AI might be able to recommend some excellent food trucks or real ale pubs. Did you enjoy that one band at Glastonbury? They’re playing near you tonight.
This is already done to some extent – Amazon trains its algorithms on your data all the time, but for its own benefit, not yours. “It’s to the user’s benefit if they coincide, but if they come in conflict, Amazon wins because they own the Echo,” says Schneier.
Are you ready for this?
The advent of a version of Alexa that has any utility beyond providing you with a weather update before leaving the house, setting a timer, or accessing the BBC Sounds app, is certainly an interesting prospect to consider.
But even if you’re onboard with that, there will be other prospects to consider, not least the idea of moving beyond the walled gardens of the tech giants that, for all their failings, we have become used to over the past 15 years.
Many may fear that setting up and running their own AI assistants and Pods will be beyond their technical capabilities, a factor Schneier acknowledges, but does not think will necessarily prove to be a huge issue.
He says: “Sure, you could run your own Pod. Just like you could run your own email server, but you don’t – you use Apple or Google or Microsoft. Most likely, your Pod will be hosted by someone else.”
Precisely who these hosts will be is yet to be decided. Your Pod could be supplied as part of your broadband or mobile package. If you want to buy your own physical storage device, it could sit there. It could even be offered as a service by a tech giant.