I have been following the CIA tweeter handle from day one as I was curious to know what the secretive and for-your-eyes-only agency has to tell the public. I was not disappointed, they’ve been tweeting declassified information from their archives and it has been an eye opening and interesting read up till now (Skyhook anyone?).

But something caught my eyes today as follows:

Second-highest award of CIA to a 14-y/o girl? I have to know what went down, so naturally I followed the link to the PDF file. Of course I wasn’t stupid, opening a PDF file from CIA is asking for troubles so I did what any InfoSec-conscious geek would do, I opened the link and file on my honeypot.

I was expecting lights and fireworks, a girl-genius that set CIA world of fire, but it turned out to be a family tragedy story of a brave girl who was able to save her CIA family from certain death in the jungles of Congo. You can read all about it in the link.

But what has this to do with Cortana you asked? Exactly! See, I live and die in problem and solution world, I earn my living by finding solutions to problems. I believe every existential issues are there to be resolved. So, the incident of the CIA girl took place in the 60s, I fast forwarded it to today in the 21st century. Imagine a typical home of today if they are faced with the same incident depicted in the story. Group of buglers or bad people break into your home and threaten to wipe everyone out. How can you use Technology to combat this. How would CIA protect it’s own today anno 2014.

My thoughts went of course to the connected home. I don’t know about you but my home is a veritable extension of myself and the internet. What if a looser is holding a gun to my head and that of my family, how can I survive that in the 21st century. Solution is Cortana of course, or any semi-AI implementation you might have at home.

The person holding the gun to your head would not want you to make noise, nor will he/they allow you to make a phone call. What if your Cortana/AI is connected to your home with Cameras and Mics all over the place. I envisage a StarTrek situation shortly where we will all be giving instructions to our virtual-assistants anywhere in our home, including the bathroom. What if the virtual-assistant can detect chaos and life-threatening situations?

There are already automated fire alarms that can dial 911 etc these days, what if Cortana is able to “see” that bad guys are in my home with guns and knifes? Cortana will know every member of my family by face-recognition, it will know my friends and extended family by face. It will know the guy with the gun is a stranger and the gun means existential threat. Since I cannot make a noise, what if Cortana can automatically dial the police and 911, send them my address and a link to a YouTube or Ustream channel with the Video and audio of what is going on in my home. The thought of every home with a form of AI will make home crime fall dramatically in the future because you know as a criminal you’ll be apprehended while you’re perpetrating the deed.

Brings me to the second question, and this is where AI is going to distinguish itself. What about inter-familial existential threats. What if a husband holds gun to his wife’s head or vice-versa? Or the kids threatening their parents (yeah it has happened before ya know)? What should Cortana do in such a case. Could I as a geek be allowed to tweak my AI to allow me to commit crime? I think this is the area where dialogs and Law has to take place in the future. How far will our Home AI be allowed to manage us? And vice-versa of course.

I see a greater role for Cortana and other form of Personal Assistants in the future. Not just for nice gimmick they are at the moment on our phones. Kinect is already here, and Cortana IS coming to an Xbox console near you. What if I have Kinect installed in all open spaces in my home? Why should we limit Cortana’s use to just dumb planning of my schedules and voice-dialing via Skype. She could be more; she WILL be more. How far remains to be known. But the debate can start right now.

Let me know what you think.