Fiber Optic Cabinets, Cables, Pedestals and Terminals

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

We are in 2023, not 2001, and we are short of a lot of predicted technologies. We do not have space planes, a base on the moon, or an AI that is intent upon killing its crew due to a conflict in its basic programming. There is a long history of AI being just around the corner dating back to the predictions of Marvin Minsky in the 1970s, followed by cycles of overinvestment, disappointment, cutbacks, quiet progress, and then returning to just around the corner.

Despite these cycles, AI has made considerable progress in specialized areas like voice recognition and machine translation, making services like speech-to-text for transcriptions commonplace and affordable through cloud services. Specialized AI is helping find new drugs and chemicals and better manage supply chain issues by combing through data and identifying patterns and insights to help companies.

General-purpose AIs, such as ChatGPT and its variants being rolled into Microsoft’s tools, are still works-in-progress despite the current media hype. You can ask a question of ChatGPT and it will give you an answer, but you do not have any idea if the answer is correct because you do not know what sources it used to create it. Worse, if it does not have a sufficient knowledge base, it will “hallucinate,” literally making stuff up.

For AI to become pervasive, to really have an impact in the way we live, and not just with limited work applications or little applications we use to amuse ourselves, it needs to be everywhere, connected to everything, and able to interact with us at every touchpoint. Yes, I know that can sound overwhelming and a bit invasive but what if AI can be used to help elderly live more productive, safe lives and stay independent longer? What if it can help students learn faster and help shape curriculum based on the way their brains think and process information? That is possible but will depend on fiber broadband and the capacity and scale it offers to move from fringe to mainstream use.

We are at the start of a very pivotal time in our country as state broadband officers, legislators and community leaders look to ensure their communities are fully connected with the support of numerous federal broadband funding programs. While many will claim a technology neutral stance, what each needs to understand is that innovations and market shifts are not technology agnostic, in fact they are technology dependent. A choice to deploy anything other than fiber broadband is a choice to ignore this basic fact and to potentially leave their community behind. And while it is fun to explore the possibilities that innovative new applications can deliver, like AI, the choices made today will impact whether many opportunities remain science fiction, instead becoming part of our lives.

There is an old adage of “Garbage in, Garbage out,” but AIs take that phrase one step further by creating garbage out of thin air, resulting in amusing and sometimes frightening discussions between journalists and media. We are not even close to the point yet where we can trust a ChatGPT-like AI with life safety questions and answers, even though one managed to pass the bar exam – maybe that’s more reflective on the merits of the legal profession than any advance in software and systems.

Certainly, NASA or any Fortune 1000 business is NOT ready to trust an AI with mission-critical tasks. Ais can advise and do a nifty job of turning text into pictures, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before the predecessor to HAL or Skynet shows up to threaten our lives.

Kevin leads the marketing efforts for Clearfield as Chief Marketing Officer. He joined the fiber company in 2016, leveraging his extensive experience in advanced communications technology, fiber optic systems, and business product marketing. Prior to joining Clearfield, he spent two decades serving in various senior marketing positions at ADTRAN. Before that, he spent a decade at telephone operating company BellSouth, now a part of AT&T, where he worked as the lead broadband product evaluations resource in the Science & Technology department.

Morgan currently serves on the Fiber Broadband Association Senior Council Committee and has also held various leadership positions at the Fiber Broadband Association, including Board of Directors Chair for 2015, 2019, and 2022. Morgan holds an Electrical Engineering degree from Auburn University and an MBA from the University of Alabama.