Skip to Content

Humans and Computers Are Getting Even More Connected

The implications of pervasive or ubiquitous computing are still only beginning to be apparent.
November 2, 2015

What do we want from the smart machines pervading our world—and what do they want from us?

That question framed this morning’s opening of the EmTech conference at MIT, and it’s a useful way to think about where computing is heading.

As MIT Technology Review’s editor-in-chief, Jason Pontin, said in beginning the show, breakthroughs in computer science have made it possible for machines to understand more of the data that our devices and sensors collect “in ways that elude human perception.” As we become ever more reliant on these devices and their software, the companies that capture our data develop a competitive advantage over those that don’t. And in turn, the companies’ need for data collection and the ability of machines to influence our behavior “creates a kind of intimacy between the human and the digital” that makes automated systems even more powerful.

“We know that there is enormous utility in embracing machines that are smart and powerful enough to become part of who we are,” Pontin said. “They have extended our capabilities and enlarged our sense of what it means to be human. But we need to be conscious of what we want from these smart machines, our new intimates. Because sometimes, they are not solely loyal to our interests.”

We’ll explore these issues through Wednesday at EmTech. For more on these ideas and the technologies driving them forward, see “Teaching Machines to Understand Us,” “How Technology Is Destroying Jobs,” and “The Real Privacy Problem.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

AV2.0 autonomous vehicles adapt to unknown road conditions concept
AV2.0 autonomous vehicles adapt to unknown road conditions concept

The big new idea for making self-driving cars that can go anywhere

The mainstream approach to driverless cars is slow and difficult. These startups think going all-in on AI will get there faster.

biomass with Charm mobile unit in background
biomass with Charm mobile unit in background

Inside Charm Industrial’s big bet on corn stalks for carbon removal

The startup used plant matter and bio-oil to sequester thousands of tons of carbon. The question now is how reliable, scalable, and economical this approach will prove.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

AGI is just chatter for now concept
AGI is just chatter for now concept

The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it

Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.