The Rise of Machine Learning and the Triumph of Learned Individuals: A Digital Milestone

For all the talk about a new era of fintech, in which digital currencies will supplant fiat money and the blockchain will be immune from subterfuge and an independent network unto itself, it seems as if there is a leap—and thus a missing link, so to speak—to the evolutionary process; as if the blockchain suddenly became not only intelligent but wise, rendering all other forms of artificial intelligence redundant and the role of humans remedial in the extreme. Such a scene reads more like a doomsday scenario than the dawn of a 21st century period of enlightenment. Fear not, dear reader, because smart technology is our ally—and artificial intelligence is our associate—provided we pair the two with human capital.

Which is to say the blockchain is a platform, not a panacea. Its strengths are many, and its future is strong, but that does not mean investors and financial institutions will not need professionals to advise them and advisers to analyze the intelligence at their disposal. If anything, the demand is greater—and the sense of urgency is grander—because of the popularization of the blockchain and the proliferation of digital currencies.

According to Nick Chini, Managing Partner of Bainbridge, these events require experts who can evaluate what is most significant by using technology that reveals only what is most suitable to a particular situation. He says:

Fintech is a catchall for many things, including Bitcoin and blockchain-related products and services. Regardless of the means of finance, the technology responsible for the financial industry as a whole is increasingly complex. Not even the most sophisticated algorithm can eliminate risk and produce the right results all the time, unless it isolates itself to a simulation. Judgment is, therefore, the most potent—and personal—variable; because it takes a person of substantial experience, equipped with exceptional technology, to review the output before offering his input. The latter is the best way to mitigate danger by maximizing one’s ability to think.

Welcome, in other words, to the coupling of machine learning with learned individuals.

Welcome to a union that will reverberate beyond fintech, revolutionizing everything from healthcare to the manner by which business advisers care for their respective clients. This is less a partnership of equals than a way to equalize or balance results, based on what technology can do better than any man and what the most skilled men—and women—can do for the betterment of any business.

At the center of this transformation of new and old is humanity itself. Or: Technology is no guarantee that we will not seek to better ourselves by trying to beat others; but the one guarantee against the use of good technology for bad reasons—to do bad things—is to humanize it with the insight, guidance, and wisdom of actual human beings.

Such is the world of fintech, where the coin (or Bitcoin) of the realm is a combination of artificial intelligence and flesh-and-blood wisdom.

Lewis Fein: