HUAWEI CLOUD CONFERENCE, SHANGHAI: Moving to artificial intelligence (AI) will be essential to make sense of and use the massive amounts of data that will run over future cloud networks, claimed Wired Magazine co-founder Kevin Kelly.

Kelly (pictured), who gave the keynote at the event today, said the move to cloud-based computing and applications is driven by three factors: the huge expansion in data, bandwidth and computational power or intelligence.

Data consumption is growing 66 per cent annually, and he said we’re moving into the “zillionics” realm of data and starting to run out of terms to measure the amounts. Everyone now is in the data business, no matter what business they’re in, he said.

With the data being served on the cloud, Kelly said, it can become “IQ as a service.” Just like people don’t generate their own electricity, they’re not going to generate their own AI – they’ll just plug in and purchase as much AI as they want.

“The more people who use AI, the smarter it gets, so there is this compounding power brought by AI being on the cloud. It’s the killer app for the cloud and will be the main driver for the next 20 years. The next 10,000 startups will essentially be taking something and adding AI to it and make it smarter. That will be the new service served from the cloud – that’s the new formula.”

Cloud-based services have many advantages, he said, such as scalability, low-capital requirements, the ability to support instant startups and fast prototyping, device independence and shared risk.

He said that data, bandwidth and intelligence have come together to form a new ecosystem that allows hardware to behave like software. This has led to the creation of new types of services that weren’t around just a few years ago, such as Uber which doesn’t own any cars, Airbnb which does have a single property and Alibaba which doesn’t have any inventory.

“We’re seeing a shift away from ownership to access, which is more valuable, more potent than ownership and that is a huge difference in our capitalistic society.”

The cloud reduces the benefit of owning things, he argued.

Distributed connections
We’re also seeing the rise of peer-to-peer communication at the edge of the network in a completely distributed way, he said. The Firechat app used by protestors in Hong Kong a year ago is an example of this sideways communication.

“This entails a new generation of technology, algorithms and of thinking and legal construction.” The idea, he said, is to have different parts of the city communicating directly with different entities.

He predicts that 50 per cent of cloud computing will happen at the edge of the network in five years rather than going to the server farms.

There is a huge opportunity, he said, to take jobs or services and see how they can be offered not just as cloud services but make them decentralised, meshed versions. “How do you do insurance without a central insurer, how do you do capital funding without a VC?

“We have to believe in the impossible more often and loosen our minds. We are at the beginning, day 1, of this cloud evolution. So you are not late,” he declared.