Technology Changes Outpace Perspectives

March 9, 2017
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The network is the message as machine learning takes the reins.

Lewis Shepherd, executive consultant on advanced technologies for Deloitte Consulting, had one word for people trying to predict the future: don’t.

Speaking on emerging technologies at AFCEA’s March 9 Army Signal Conference in Springfield, Virginia, Shepherd said change is happening too dynamically for people to be able to foresee what lies over the near horizon. Growth in network capabilities is growing exponentially, and no one can predict where it will lead any more than the founders of the ARPANet could have foreseen today’s Internet.

Shepherd displayed graphs showing how many types of capabilities grew rapidly while others declined precipitously. Many of these trends were unanticipated. “It’s not easy to predict the future,” he said. “You shouldn’t even try. You should do what the ARPANet team did and just start building.”

One ongoing trend is network functions virtualization, and it will have unpredictably revolutionary outcomes. “Software is the new hardware—because the rest of the world believes it and is rapidly moving out,” Shepherd declared. “The network is providing computational services.”

He continued that the revolution in virtualization is being mirrored by the revolution in artificial intelligence and machine learning. “If you use neural networks on top of virtualization, you have the capability of self replicating via child networks,” Shepherd said.

The Defense Department’s third offset, which will combine artificial intelligence and machine learning with personal warfighting, is one example of how a rapidly coming future will prove revolutionary. “The third offset is the way the Defense Department and the U.S. Army are going to fight and win the wars of the future,” he stated.

“Don’t try to predict the future of networks. Build and deploy networks today."

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