Training a New Neural Network

I’m excited to share a bit about the greatest neural network I’ll ever get to train. It has over 100 billion nodes, and each minute 60 million new connections are made. Over the the next year, this network will scale to 1,000 trillion connections and master tasks more advanced than any cutting-edge digital competitor. The network is not AI – it is my two week old son Teddy.

I spend a lot of time thinking about near-term and medium-term change as I help clients tackle data and analytics challenges. Now I’m thinking a lot about the long-term and the kind of world that my son will grow up and go to work in. Automation will be everywhere. AI will replace any task that we might think of today as “manual effort” or routine. Teddy won’t need to spend weeks on data entry or document review for his career. No two days of his job are likely to be too similar. Redundant and repetitive tasks will be automated. He will instead need to sift through more data and insights than any generation in human history. He will need to be constantly aware of the curation of information in his life; some will help to sort through mountains of data while others will need to be challenged to enable higher-level thinking. Teddy also might not ever need to learn how to drive. (Although dad will be happy to teach him the ancient ways of the manual transmission if he asks!)

Teddy will face a different working world than his parents did, but it is my great hope that he will find opportunities by using his own neural network to things that AI can’t do. Success in 2029 and beyond will be based on doing human things better, for example: deploying emotional intelligence, building trusting relationships, inferring cause and effects, matching mental models to problems, and so on. Today and even tomorrow’s AI isn’t even close to replacing the humanity of our challenges and opportunities. 

As I think about how I can help my son succeed in life, I found another parallel to machine (and non-machine) learning: He needs really good training data, and that’s a huge effort! It’s on me, my wife, his caregivers, and teachers to provide ample opportunities to learn about the world in a supportive way. We need to make sure our input data is clearly labelled to optimize empathy, morality, and curiosity. Repetition of positive actions should cause the weights between network nodes to strengthen and increase the accuracy of his interpretation of future signals. Model training won’t be linear and will continue to optimize every day. There are many components his ensemble brain will need to master – spatial awareness, coordination, language, logic, math, and so on. Machine learning models are able to do a lot of these components, but he will surpass many of them easily in matter of months. 

It is incredible to behold the significance of change and development happening every day, and humbling to know that the next few years are the most critical to set the foundation for a lifetime of learning. Training the incredible neural network in our heads is a journey of a lifetime.

TLDR: I’m very excited to announce the birth of my son. He’s going to have to get used to a very proud and nerdy dad.

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