So Apple released a bunch of new stuff today (read most of it at http://apple.com/hotnews), but of most interest to me is iTunes 8, and more specifically, the Genius mode. The Genius is supposed to investigate the information in your library (playlists, track played counts, ratings, etc), upload it to the 'Genius in the iTunes Store' and receive some sort of information back. This information is used to match up songs you have that are supposed to go well together. For example, my laptop has a (somewhat) small library consisting of some speedy rock, some techno, some classic rock, some metal, a bit of Apocalyptica (a band that plays metal cellos), and various other songs. When I play one of the heavier songs and ask the Genius for recommendations, I get more metal, and some of the heavier versions of my speedy rock (and the heaviest songs from Apocalyptica). It's actually pretty impressive.
This idea is also used by radio services like Last.fm and Pandora to match like songs together. Last.fm has always been pretty good at recommending music I like, and while I haven't used Pandora enough to give it a fair shake, the people who use it swear by the accuracy of it. Upon watching the keynote speech, however, I realized just how powerful this iTunes Genius could be. With at least 63 million users/libraries, Apple has tapped into the largest collection of music ever amassed. Jobs made multiple references to the Genius getting smarter as time goes on, and as more and more people add their collective music information to the database, it will get better at recommending music.
It depends on how Apple has implemented their Genius algorithms, but this is probably one of the larger Artificial Intelligences with gobs and gobs of data to pick through. If AI's are getting this good, it's going to be an interesting future. Google's algorithms consistently find the pick of the Internet litter, and if iTunes Genius is going to do the same with music, it stands to reason that other forms of information could be as easily integrated, categorized, and processed to find the most relevant information for any one situation. This high level of semantic awareness is quite the stuff of Science Fiction.
Since the iTunes Genius is primarily built to sell songs on the store (which it does with aplomb), one doubts it will have the stereotypical self-awareness moment and strike against humanity. in 20 years from now though... it's definitely going to be interesting