You may have missed it in all of the other important news, but there was a new Christmas Carol composed recently. It is definitely not White Christmas or Good King Wenceslas, but you’d be impressed if a 6 year old had written it.
So, what makes it noteworthy?
It was written entirely by a computer using Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) technology, in response to it being shown a picture of a Christmas tree surrounded by presents. You can even listen to the disembodied voice of the computer singing it here.
According to the article I read, this is the first time a computer has written the lyrics and composed the music to accompany it entirely unaided.
While at this stage this might appear to be just a neat party trick for a bunch of IT gurus, it will be interesting to see what commercial applications of this technology might develop.
Another area A.I. is rapidly developing is in image recognition ability. Over the last 5 years the power of computing technology to accurately ‘read’ an image has improved from 75% accuracy to approximately 97% accuracy. Humans by contrast have an accuracy rate of just under 95%.
The commercial applications of this are increasing as the accuracy has improved. Computers are now being used to ‘read’ medical images (x-rays, MRI scans, CT-scans). Computers being trained to detect some cancerous growths and are increasingly accurate, although at this stage a human is still required to confirm the computer’s assessment.
But today, you and I can use this same technology to simplify our lives.
Do you remember your photo library from the time when you had to load film into a camera? You’d shoot photos of a birthday celebration or a holiday away (being careful not to take too many photos because you only had so much film), then have to wait until the roll was finished before taking it to be developed and printed.
The photo library of your entire life could be managed with a number of big spiral bound photo albums that would sit on your bookshelf, and you could go and find a photo of a person or an event within about 5 minutes.
Since digital cameras came along we have become more willing to just point and shoot and worry about whether the photo is any good later.
With cameras in phones that rarely leave our sides, the opportunities for taking photos has expanded exponentially. And if your kids get hold of your phone and start taking photos…
The problem is, you end up with so many photos that you can no longer find anything.
But A.I. is available to help – for free.
Google Photos allows you to upload all of your photos into the cloud where they will store them for you – for no cost. I’m sure there are other applications that do this too.
But it is their search functionality that is where the magic lies.
Using image recognition technology it will allow you to group photos of one person all together – with one mouse click.
It will also allow you to search by location, by activity, by animal type – and I’m sure by many more options.
Finally then you can bring order to your collection and actually find things you want to see.
We can only imagine what the future will hold for this and other technologies.
In the same way, we spend a lot of time envisaging, planning and developing the future of our own lives and those of our family. It occurred to me recently though that I have possibly been guilty of spending far too much time focusing on the distant future of those that I work with at the expense of their life now.
This was rammed home to me over the past year where I have said goodbye for the final time to two lovely people I worked with for many years, while another five were diagnosed with serious health issues.
My one thought on hearing each of these stories was: ‘I hope they aren’t wishing they had done something when they had the chance, I hope they didn’t put something off because they were worried about the cost’.
It was a very strong reminder that although we need to plan for the future and take steps to protect against the unknown, this needs to be balanced against the reality that we won’t all reach that future.
For most of us, the idea of being financially secure in 20 years time is reassuring – it provides a feeling of security.
But it doesn’t get your pulse racing and your emotions running like walking the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu, dining at the French Laundry in the Napa Valley, or teaching your 7 year old granddaughter to sail on your yacht.
These are the things that we will remember, the stories we will share. They are the high points in our life.
So I need to spend more time with you focusing on the now, or the shorter term, while still working towards your long term objectives.
I would like to thank you for continuing to entrust me with the responsibility of helping manage yours and your family’s financial future.
I hope you have a fantastic Christmas and New Year, and I look forward to working with you next year.
If you are interested in regular musings like this, please go to a Facebook page I have set up specifically for articles like this.