Back to the Future: 2018 Big Data and Data Science Prognostications

It’s really hard to find predictions about the future made in the 1950’s. I decided to review the most popular sci-fi movies from 1950’s, and provide my perspective as to what these movies might tell us about 2018.

“We should study Science Fiction in order to understand what someday could become Science Fact.”

– Dr. Who?  Doc Brown?  Kodos and Kang?

This is the time of year when everyone makes his or her predictions for 2018.  I have my predictions as well, but wanted to do something a bit more fun.  So I thought I’d look backwards to the state of technology 50 years ago to gain some insights that we can use to make projections about 2018. That is, what “predictions” made in the 1950’s might tell us about 2018.

However, it’s really hard to find predictions about the future made in the 1950’s.  There was no Internet or Social Media or Reality TV, so I found the next best proxy…sci-fi movies!  I decided to review the most popular sci-fi movies from 1950’s, and provide my perspective as to what these movies might tell us about 2018.  Maybe drink a Tab or Fresca as you read this.


The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Earth stood stillIn the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, a humanoid alien visitor named Klaatu comes to Earth, accompanied by a powerful eight-foot tall robot, Gort, to deliver an important message about how we are destroying planet Earth.  And let’s not forget the important chant “Klaatu barada nikto” that stops Gort from destroying Earth when Klaatu gets shot.  I’m sure that catchy phrase is something you chant every morning while showering.  I do!

By the way, Gort had more character than Keanu Reeves in the 2008 remake, which I guess isn’t really that surprising.

2018 Ramifications:  Open source tools are driving rapid changes in data management and analytic tools, and those tools will continue to have names that make no sense.

The incessant march of open source will continue. The economics of open source are just too compelling for organizations not to embrace (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Source: “Tracking The Explosive Growth Of Open-Source Software

The unusualness of open source project naming (Linux, Hadoop, Ubuntu, Pidgin, GNU) might be able to exploit names from this movie.  I can already imagine a new Machine Learning framework called “Klaatu barada nikto” popping on the 2018 landscape. By the way, have some fun creating your own open source project names:

This site will probably save developers months of work coming up with open source project names that have nothing to do with the functionality of their projects.


Forbidden Planet (1956)

Forbidden planetA starship crew goes to investigate the silence of a planet’s colony only to find two survivors and a deadly secret.  Forbidden Planet was the first science fiction film to depict humans traveling in a faster-than-light starship. But more importantly, “Robby the Robot” is one of the first “real” movie robots (where real means more than a “tin can” on legs). Robby displays a distinct personality and plays an integral role in the film.

We also learn that Leslie Nielsen (of Airport and Naked Gun fame) can make movies that don’t make us laugh on purpose.

2018 Ramifications:  Devices of all types – from the little vacuum that scoots along your floor to the vehicle that knows how to park itself – advances in machine learning are creating “smart” devices, which more and more are performing like “robots.”

Machine Learning advancements will continue to advance the state of smart devices – or robots – and their ability to “learn and adapt” in everyday work and home situations.  And we’ll see those advances nowhere more than with autonomous vehicles (which really are nothing more than robots on wheels).

Check out “Hacking the Autonomous Vehicle” for more insights into some of the challenges faced by autonomous vehicles in 2018.  Then play the fun game “Moral Machine” game to find out how much Grand Theft Auto has influenced your autonomous vehicle!


Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

A doctor returns to his small town only to find several of his patients suffering the paranoid delusion that their friends or relatives are impostors. He is initially skeptical, especially when the alleged doppelgängers (digital twins?) are able to answer detailed questions about their victim’s lives. He eventually determines that something odd has happened and searches for the cause of this phenomenon.

Body snatchers

Heck, sounds no different than most of the Big Data conferences that I go to.  Wait, maybe it’s my presentations that are causing those reactions?!

2018 Ramifications: Leading organizations are realizing that artificial intelligence and machine learning will augment, not replace, human decision making.  We can also avoid having our lives “invaded” by Artificial Intelligence by investing the time to learn new data science, machine learning and, deep learning skills (which might require unlearning outdated skills).

We have to avoid the paranoia about artificial intelligence and machine learning taking jobs.  From the article “Instead Of Destroying Jobs Artificial Intelligence (AI) Is Creating New Jobs In 4 Out Of 5 Companies,” we get the following:

“All the signs are that those predicting the first wave of machine learning applications will be used to augment existing human workforces, rather than make them redundant, are so far on the money.”

AI and ML will provide customer, product, service, and operational insights that augment human’s decision-making.  From the same article:

“71% of organizations have proactively initiated reskilling employees with new skills to deal with the impact of AI”

Leading organizations need to re-skill their workforce to exploit the economic potential of these technologies.


War of the Worlds (1953)

War of the WorldsH.G. Wells’ classic novel is brought to life in this tale of alien invasion. The residents of a small town in California are excited when a flaming meteor lands in the hills. Their joy turns to H-O-R-R-O-R when they discover that the meteor has passengers who are not very friendly (the understatement of 1953).

By the way, the Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg remake (2005) should be sent to all neighboring planets to show them how unworthy of conquest Earth must be to have allowed such a horrible movie to be remade.  Let’s pray there’s no remake of “Mars Needs Women!”

2018 Ramifications:  There is a Great AI War forthcoming, and 2018 will be the year when fortifications are built and strategies set.

Russian president Vladimir Putin stated that the nation that leads in AI “will be the ruler of the world.”  To quote Putin, “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind.”

China has very clear AI ambitions: to become the world’s leader in AI by 2030, with  many natural ingredients that give them an advantage in this upcoming Great AI War: government funding, massive population, strong research community, and society primed for technological adoption (see Figure 2).

AI Maturity Level
Figure 2: AI Maturity Level, Source: Infosys

2018 will see more collaboration between government, business, and universities to ensure that the United States wins this all important war.


Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956)

A 400-foot dinosaur-like monster is awoken from undersea hibernation off the Japanese coast by atomic bomb testing, and storms Tokyo.  The movie features an award-winning performance by Raymond Burr and one of history’s worst audio translations.


2018 Ramifications:  We must combat the paranoia that we’ve unleashed an Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning monster that will destroy us all.

I do believe that AI and ML will lead to a bifurcation of America, but that divide will be defined by those who understand and embrace AI and ML versus the luddites who try to regulate it to the point of irrelevance.


2018 Predictions Summary

2018 will continue to see the continuing march of economics that drive innovation and market adoption of Big Data, Data Science, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.  It’s a great time to be in the data and analytics business, and 2018 will just reinforce that!

Original. Reposted with permission.