Skip links

Machines in school: One more version of “free”

Blog: “If it’s free then you are the product”. This statement normally applies to consumers paying for online services with their data. Another version of this is developers using big industry machine learning technologies for free to build and create services they don’t own the real value of.

There is a growing start up community in apps and services based on machine learning technologies that can correlate, analyze, recognize, predict and act on data. Personality tests based on twitter feeds, career matches and toys with personality. All the largest players in the machine learning industry, Amazon, IBM, Google etc. today offer tools to developers and start ups to use their machine learning algorithms for free (or almost free) (note: they offer tools to use the algorithms, they don’t offer the very algorithms, the recipes. The exact behaviour of the algorithms is unknown to the developers and everyone else).

Amazon Web Services (AWS) opened for example in 2015 a new service for developers that in a 12 month free period can use Amazon’s algorithm tool to analyze and predict patterns in the data from their various services and applications. The IBM Developer Cloud offers “free, or pay as you go for all Watson APIs” to independent developers. You can also become a partner in “the IBM Watson Ecosystem”. Just “Tell us about your idea”.

It is of course only “free” in the normal online business sense of the word. Right now all the world’s machine learning algorithms are in school. The more data they are fed with, the more they learn and the better they get at recognizing patterns and act on data.

Developers are offered these free services, so they can think of innovative new applications of the machine learning technologies and they can help feed these with data, but the end value is not their own. The algorithms, the very recipes for creating the core meaning out of the data these services act on, belong to someone else. This is just one aspect of the “Algorithmic Economy”

The machine says “thank you”