The Future iPhone: Making Suggestions We No Longer Understand

More and more, computational devices are making suggestions, even making decisions for us. As the algorithms get more and more sophisticated, human beings could start to lose the ability to evaluate and call into question those suggestions and decisions. Worse, machines have the potential to learn and self-improve much faster than humans, leaving us even further behind. What happens next?


More and more, computers are making decisions for us. The good news is that, in 2015, in most cases, the human being who is advised has adequate tools to evaluate the quality of computer suggestions. How long will that last?

Recently, the point has been brought home about how the direction provided by a computational device isn't always properly questioned. For example, there have been stories about people who blindly follow a GPS device, providing turn-by-turn directions, and get into big trouble. "8 drivers who blindly followed their GPS into disaster."

This general problem isn't going away.

Unable to decide what to watch, many TV viewers increasingly rely on suggestions from algorithms. In fact, the failure of traditional TV services to provide good suggestions is leaving them at a disadvantage. "Survey: Lack of Content Recommendation, À La Carte Options Help Drive Cord Cutting."

Our iPhone increasingly wants to make proactive suggestions, leaving our minds, presumably, more free to concentrate on how to pay for all the services used.

Smart homes with home automation systems will squeeze every penny out of our utility bills. Will they, at some point, interfere with or conflict with our body rhythms or human needs? Will home owners just give up questioning recommendations?

Autonomous (self-driving) cars will, someday, take over the task of getting us where we want to go. What if we don't know where to go for dinner? Could it be that the car will also optimize by insisting that it take us to the nearest, highest rated, best department of heath scored, least expensive Italian restaurant? Gotta always be optimizing.

Research into Superintelligence suggests that super learning machines could, soon, produce results, analysis and decisions that human beings no longer have any insight into. Does following the suggestions of such a Superintelligence, that's on an ever increasing learning curve, lead to the abrogation of our own social responsibilities? Could human beings, with the help of such rudimentary algorithms in our future smartphones, start to make decisions that are so divorced from casual understanding that the results are puzzling— yet spectacularly successful? By whose standards?

A few of these ideas are discussed on page 2 below, some interesting news debris that starts to paint a picture. Human beings are, more and more, guided by computer decision making. At what point do we no longer understand why we do certain things?

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of October 26.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of October 26


First, some unrelated news debris.

We waited and waited for the iPad Pro. I have argued that it would be an essential business tool. And so, it's a very natural thing to compare the new iPad Pro to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (and 4). That's exactly what Ryan Faas says and then proceeds to do the comparison. Mr. Faas has extensive experience with the technologies and needs of the enterprise, so this is one of the best possible writers to analyze the competition between those two products. "Can the iPad Pro take on the Surface Pro at work?"

iPad Pro. Image credit: Apple

As an aside, if you're interested in a review of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, this is the best possible one to read. As always, AnandTech does it better.

As we know and as photographic experts have pointed out, squeezing more camera pixels into a CCD isn't always a Good Thing. More megapixels sounds good, but when CCD pixels get smaller, they lose their dynamic range, making them less able to handle high ISO ratings. And, in fact, the iPhone 6s suffers from that a little, although Apple has worked to lessen the impact. Low light photographers, read about it here: "Apple iPhone 6S Plus – Extreme Low Light – Photography Special."

I"ve seen conflicting reports about the adoption of Apple Pay. It's a complex situation, almost beyond our ability to quantify. Right now, a year after launch, one cannot just look at how many Apple Pay activations have taken place on the 6s and draw a conclusion. Still, ... "Apple Pay Is Our Best Hope To Stop Online Fraud."

Incredibly, October 1 is behind us, and some merchants still haven't implemented the more secure EMV techniques for secure credit card transactions. They're either scrambling, debugging their POS terminals or, for smaller businesses, looking for fast, simple, secure and low cost answer. This article at Quartz delivers an even-handed picture. "Apple CEO Tim Cook’s wild prediction about 2015 is looking less and less absurd." The fact that Apple Pay is imminent in Canada and Australia is also going to help a lot.

On to modern cars.

When a giant company needs talent, it can be tough on smaller companies trying to do something new. Case in point: "Apple's auto ambitions sideswipe electric motorcycle startup."

Even without shipping a car, Apple may well have the automotive industry on pins and needles, and it's showing up on new technologies from Tesla and others. Here is some of that thinking.

The Toyota idea is absolutely brilliant. In fact, so many new ideas for cars are going to be emerging over the next few years, we'll have to start pondering which ones Apple should embrace and which ones to pass over. The company can't do everything and be everything to everyone. How Apple decides what to implement will be instructive.

What will happen when a research team figures out how to build an intelligence algorithm that can learn much faster than humans? And then it accelerates the learning process? At some point, we no longer understand the intelligence that's been created. Worse, it could actually pose a danger to human beings. This is called Superintelligence. Read about it here: "Superintelligence Now." I bring this up because, someday, what we call a "proactive mode" today in our smartphones could morph into suggestions that we no longer have the capacity to assess, either with respect to the course of action or the morality. It could happen.

Meanwhile, what happens when customers are upset, just greatly annoyed or even mad as hell—and then a great alternative solution comes along? There is a natural shift. What's deceptive is that the shift starts out slowly, then it snowballs, as with any technology revolution. And so, diagnosing a new technology trend on the foot of an exponential curve doesn't work. To that end, I present "How subscription video on-demand services like Netflix are contributing to the demise of pay-TV." You just know this is where Apple is headed with the new Apple TV and apps. Watching it all unfold will be the fun part.

The TV industry's executives see it coming. Here's what some are saying today.

Finally, if you've had your doubts about the new Apple MacBook, it will help shed some light on this amazing product by looking at the technologies, under the hood, that have been implemented. In this fabulous article, Mashable's Lance Ulanoff's provides a guided tour of the MacBook's spectacular technologies with the help of Apple's Phil Schiller. What's cool is that without a good insider perspective like this, the advantages of the device are lost on the casual customer. Have fun; I saved the best for last. "Inside Apple's perfectionism machine."


Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.