If you take a closer look at our day to day lives, you will notice that our lives are nothing but a collection of choices and decisions.
We chose to act, chose not to act, we chose to think a thought and share that thought and so on – every single moment of every single day in our lives is nothing but choices and decisions.
Our decisions are sometimes well-placed, and some other times misplaced.
But the one thing we all have in common, is that we would never make a choice or a decision without knowing that it has some sort of positive outcome one way or another.
Even criminals who make the worst of decisions, they make them for a personal gain or to make a point or a statement to the public.
Decisions become harder based on their impact and time range.
For instance, a decision to drink tea or coffee is much easier than a decision to go to war.
A decision to wear which color shirt in the morning is much simpler than a decision to prohibit the usage of cellphones in public transportations for instance.
The problem with our decisions, especially the more complex ones, is that they might be quite hard to predict their impact, not just in the near and far future but on the so many different levels of people these decisions affect.
We fail to make the best decisions simply because we can’t look into the future. There is no way for us to know what exactly is going to happen based on the decisions we make.
The best thing we can do today is speculate and predict what is expected to happen if one decision is made versus another.
But if we were to have a time-machine to allow us to leap into the future and see what our decisions in one direction or another may cause it would have been much easier for us to go back and make the right decision wholeheartedly without a doubt.
But even if we assume that time-travelling was a possibility, someone might need to go through the future in order for other versions to access that future.
In other words, the future has to exist first before we are able to travel to it – one cannot travel to a place (or time) that doesn’t exist or is yet to come.
Time-travelling to make the best of decisions is a complex problem physicist have spent centuries trying to solve.
And time-travelling in and of itself requires someone to have previously made one decision or another so we can evaluate the results, learn from them and adjust.
Some others might suggest a butterfly effect methodology to try different permutations of decisions to reach the right answer – and on the contrary there’s already a group of people today that would warn against breaking the space-time continuum.
These are all entertaining and exciting topics to dive into, but they are not practical for our age and time – and there’s much more understanding that needs to be invested in the universe and matter to come up with a plan.
A Difference Way
A different and more practical way to leap into the future is to develop a better prediction mechanism leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to calculate all the different variables and permutations to determine the impact of any particular decision.
This brings back the oldest topic in computer science – which is modeling & simulation.
Modeling is the art of extracting the most problem-relevant characteristics of an entity in our world and represent that entity in a computer program or a mathematical equation to solve for the problem the modeling was intended for.
Simulation is mimicking the interactions between multiple models to visualize a result out of that interaction.
In short, modeling creates entities, and simulations makes these entities interact with one another.
In reality, if we were to make a decision about determining the maximum speed vehicles should not exceed on a highway, we need to model a vehicle entity, calculate the average speed on any particular road for the vehicles and simulate what is the maximum speed possible on that road that would not result in accidents.
If the road modeled in that problem nears an intersection, then a speed of 70 m/h would almost definitely cause issues.
A simulation of the average time it takes for a vehicle to slow down then running different permutations of scenarios where the road is crowded, ill lit, rainy or snowy and all other modeling variables that may impact the outcome of determining what the maximum speed may be.
Some decisions can be calculated instantaneously with our brains, some others cannot.
For instance, you don’t need AI to tell you that deducting your payments to your subscriptions will result in the discontinuation of the services you are subscribed to.
But the question continues about a longer term and more complex problems that impacts larger range of individuals – so where do we stand today?
Where We Stand Today
Most of the prediction algorithms and machine learning investments are mainly targeting the financial sector.
There are more engineers working on the stock exchange markets to predict the next movement in a price for a particular stock than their investment in trying to understand what some decisions may result in on a much larger scale.
Or solving more critical problems like homelessness, poverty and addiction.
The main issue here is that solving homelessness isn’t quite as rewarding from a financial standpoint as predicting the next price more in some stock.
Solving addiction problems, psychological issues or simply depression requires funding and has almost no material ROI from a capitalistic financial standpoint.
There are decisions that are made on much larger scales around the world that can definitely use the help of A.I to visualize the potential impact of any decisions and work on adjusting the decision to match the best results that hopefully benefits everyone.
In the software industry today, the access to machine learning algorithms, high performing cloud instances and using A.I libraries is the easiest thing an engineer could do. And the materials to learn about these subjects and direct them towards more pressing issues than increasing the capital of some company is much more important from a humanity standpoint than anything else.
The access to the computation power and information today puts us in a very strong position to try to tackle these problems, the problems that threaten the survival of our humankind and its evolution.
This access might not allow us to travel through time, but it might help us visualize what the future would look like if we were to take one decision or another and then eventually help us make the best decisions based on that information.