Machine Learning in the Cloud and the Real Life ‘Minority Report’

In the movie called ‘Minority Report’, which starred Tom Cruise and was directed by Steven Spielberg, three prescient human beings foretold the immediate future. These three ‘Precogs’ helped the ‘Precrime’ law enforcement agency to stop violent crime before it even happened. Author Philip K. Dick’s visionary novel (from 1956, no less) still seemed highly futuristic when the movie was released in 2002. However, cloud computing has accelerated developments since then to a point where the ‘Minority Report’ style of predictions has started to become a reality.
At Last, Enough Resources to Crunch the Data
Prediction of the future, as well as immediate recognition of objects or situations, is what machine learning promises. Computers process data, pick out patterns and use these to make suggestions about what is or will be. To do this with reasonable accuracy requires processing large amounts of data, more than many organizations can cope with. In the cloud, things are different. Scalable and pay-as-you-go, cloud computing resources make machine learning a much more viable possibility. As you might imagine, machine learning isn’t just about keeping crime rates down. It is also, for instance, useful for making enticing suggestions to get online shoppers to spend more at the time of a purchase.
Vendors Already Leveraging Machine Learning
Large players in IT have already been using machine learning internally. Microsoft is one example. The company has integrated machine learning technology into its cloud services to automatically tag users’ photographs and to boost performance of the language translation facilities of its Skype service. It also offers a ready-to-use cloud platform to customers via its Azure Machine Learning services. An API lets them upload data (like big data and IoT/Internet of Things data) to feed machine learning programs and continually update the ‘training’ process to keep the output from their programs relevant and accurate.
Precogs and Minority Reports in the Cloud
The three Precogs or prescient human beings in Minority Report generally concurred on what would happen in the near future. Now and again, however one of them would not agree with the two others. This gave rise to a report indicating the disagreement – a minority report, and hence the name of the movie. Machine learning offers linear, neural network, and deep learning techniques for different angles and ways to reach a conclusion. PayPal, the online payments system, uses all three to detect fraud with a ‘voting system’ to see what the majority verdict is.
Hey Phil, What’s Next?
Philip K. Dick already inspired other science fiction movies, such as ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Total Recall’ and ‘Through a Scanner Darkly’. Are there more of his novels that could point the way to new cloud computing applications? For the moment, machine learning seems the hot, new item, with Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM all offering customers ways of integrating machine learning into their applications. Let’s hope both the processes and the outcomes are happier than those depicted in ‘Minority Report’ however.

CloudWedge