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Think about this question for a minute. If, five or ten years ago, you could have predicted where you are today, would you have made different decisions about your life? Grammar junkies, feel free to go wild with that mixed conditional.  

Admittedly, these kinds of questions are almost impossible to answer. Well almost impossible, because very often they do trigger a response in us, sometimes a strong one. Perhaps, had you known how much you enjoy the freelance life, you might have gone into it a whole heap earlier. Or, maybe you’re resigned to the fact that the only reason you are so confident and good at your job is that you learnt it at the coalface. Those years working under a mentor, in that salaried position led you to where you are today. It might be that some of the decisions you made haunt you still to this very day and you would do anything to undo the legacy they left.

Frank Sinatra once sang “Regrets, I’ve had a few… but then again too few to mention”. There’s probably very little good to come out of living a life of regret, but what if, just for a moment, you could sneak a peek into your professional and personal future. Would you do it?

Well, according to scientists based at Griffith University in Australia and Nanyang Technical University in Singapore, we are one step closer to being able to do just that. To see all the possible outcomes of one decision and where they might lead.

Don’t get too excited just yet. At the moment Dr Mile Gu and his team are applying the science to tiny light particles called photons. He said: “When we think about the future, we are confronted by a vast array of possibilities. These possibilities grow exponentially as we go deeper into the future. For instance, even if we have only two possibilities to choose from each minute, in less than half an hour there are 14 million possible futures. In less than a day, the number exceeds the number of atoms in the universe.”

The teams were able to predict the location of photons across 16 possible timelines and even weigh the probability of the most likely outcome.

Mind. Blown.

But there is another application to these tests that interests us more than philosophical conjecture and the morals of sneaky peeking and that is how quantum experiments, like this one, will affect Artificial Intelligence.

At the moment our AI technology is pretty awesome. We have all our interconnected gadgets and tech; we have voice and face recognition technology and we have digital customer assistants dealing with our inquiries through chat functions. There are many more of course.

The development of a machine that can predict possible future outcomes is a game changer for AI. Imagine the nuances a machine could learn, imagine how this might affect the Stock Market, weather prediction, traffic patterns even.

And for us? How does enhanced AI impact us, the freelance community? It simply means that AI is set to get smarter; that all the clever, mind-blowing functions delivered to us at the moment will become more and more geared towards our needs as AI learns.

Siri, for example, Apple’s personal assistant on your phone, currently uses machine-based learning tech to answer questions and better understand voice patterns and accent. Imagine what Siri could do if it had access to powerful algorithms that could predict a host of outcomes. But, more importantly, could we use these learning capabilities to predict which one is the most likely one to meet your needs?

Is there a bad side to all this? If you’ve seen any films about Dystopian futures, including of course Blade Runner and The Matrix, then AI gone rogue is a well-known vehicle for expressing our fear that one day we’ll be answering to technology instead of technology answering to us. It’s worth bearing in mind that while we still have plugs in the wall to pull out and batteries that run down, we’re probably quite safe.

The real bad news is that for a while at least we won’t be jumping into our DeLoreans and heading Back to The Future to check out all the possibilities and make smarter and better choices that benefit us in business. Instead, we’ll still have to use what’s right in front of us: our good judgement and common sense to make those tough life decisions.

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