Machine Learning is often heralded as the next best thing in transportation, healthcare, logistics, to name a few. There are few industries not yet affected by Machine Learning.
But is it really the superhero of the tech universe? And why is it important to talk about Machine Learning in the context of cyber security? Let's find out!
How can Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence help you in your data security? In this whitepaper "Good cop, bot cop: the truth about AI, ML and your privacy" we give you the answer. Download it now!
Before we do, let's quickly recap what Machine Learning is. Take the good people of Superman's Metropolis as an example. They're very capable at telling the difference between a bird, a plane and Superman. But whenever Superman puts on a pair of glasses he's Clark Kent and no one suspects a thing.
The people of Metropolis are a bit like machines that way.
Give a machine large samples of birds and planes and it will eventually know the difference. Give a person a pair of glasses and a machine might not even recognise it as a person.
This touches upon both the pros and cons of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: they're both very advanced technologies, but at their core they are tools and as we'll see, tools are only as good as the person using them.
Machine Learning - the hero
One of the ways Machine Learning affects our everyday lives is the simple fact it has the ability to make our lives much, much easier. Think of Netflix being able to present you with the kind of content you like, or Google somehow "knowing" what it is you're looking for.
Take that predictive quality of Machine Learning outside and we see a world where self driving cars outperform human drivers. One study found the only accidents self driving cars get into are the ones where people accidentally drive into them.
Given enough data, it seems there's nothing a computer can't do. And often they prove better than their human counterpart doing the same job. After all, wouldn't you be a better driver if you could instantly access 1 million years of driving experience in a millisecond?
As the rise of self driving cars shows, Machine Learning is very apt at preventing human error, on the road, but equally so for the many jobs (still) done by people. Current technology is already capable of enhancing human output and increasing efficiency to levels unheard of a mere decade ago.
Aside from making our lives more comfortable, Machine Learning promises to be equally capable of improving our health and safety. The same principles that allow cars to tell the difference between a bird and a plane can be used in diagnostics, or even aid us in fighting climate change.
In many ways, it seems fair to deem Machine Learning the Superman of tech.
Machine Learning - the tool
No one blinks an eye whenever Lois Lane falls from a building, because we all know Superman will catch her in time. Likewise, we've come to depend on Machine Learning technology whenever we're able.
It's comforting to know a caped superhero will always be there to save the day, but it's not exactly empowering to depend on it as much as we tend to. While there's nothing against trusting technology, it can be a slippery slope if we forego too much of our own control. Being overly dependent makes us vulnerable.
The most infamous example is that of social media algorithms being used to influence election outcomes. Machine Learning, in that instance, was used as a tool that played into our shortcomings.
When we rely on something as much as we rely on Machine Learning, it will become more and more difficult for us to know if something we do is by choice or by design.
The underlying issue addresses the one big difference between us humans and machines. The more we rely on the latter, the less we use our own, uniquely human awareness.
And this is exactly where we enter the realm of cyber security.
Machine Learning and IT awareness
Awareness is still and will probably always be our biggest defence against people using Machine Learning against us. It's literally what sets us apart from any machine.
To reap the benefits of Machine Learning technology, we should always be aware of the fact that whenever we interact with a computer program, post something on social media or do something as simple as sending an email, we expose our most valuable asset each and every time: our data.
The truth about Machine Learning is that a computer that can tell birds from planes has the power to improve our quality of life. If we want to truly benefit from learning algorithms, we have to make sure not to stop learning ourselves, lest we lose our ability to make our own decisions. In other words, the truth about Machine Learning is that it's a tool, and we should prevent becoming a tool of Machine Learning.
To do this, we have to dive into the various ways Machine Learning is used to either steal or use your data.
In next week's blog, we'll show you the value of IT awareness and how you can use it to, quite frankly, spot bad bots from good ones.