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The Three Breakthroughs That Have Finally Unleashed AI on the World

#artificialintelligence

A few months ago I made the trek to the sylvan campus of the IBM research labs in Yorktown Heights, New York, to catch an early glimpse of the fast-arriving, long-overdue future of artificial intelligence. This was the home of Watson, the electronic genius that conquered Jeopardy! in 2011. The original Watson is still here--it's about the size of a bedroom, with 10 upright, refrigerator-shaped machines forming the four walls. The tiny interior cavity gives technicians access to the jumble of wires and cables on the machines' backs. It is surprisingly warm inside, as if the cluster were alive. Today's Watson is very different. It no longer exists solely within a wall of cabinets but is spread across a cloud of open-standard servers that run several hundred "instances" of the AI at once. Like all things cloudy, Watson is served to simultaneous customers anywhere in the world, who can access it using their phones, their desktops, or their own data servers.


The Three Breakthroughs That Have Finally Unleashed AI on the World

#artificialintelligence

A few months ago I made the trek to the sylvan campus of the IBM research labs in Yorktown Heights, New York, to catch an early glimpse of the fast-arriving, long-overdue future of artificial intelligence. This was the home of Watson, the electronic genius that conquered Jeopardy! in 2011. The original Watson is still here--it's about the size of a bedroom, with 10 upright, refrigerator-shaped machines forming the four walls. The tiny interior cavity gives technicians access to the jumble of wires and cables on the machines' backs. It is surprisingly warm inside, as if the cluster were alive. Today's Watson is very different. It no longer exists solely within a wall of cabinets but is spread across a cloud of open-standard servers that run several hundred "instances" of the AI at once.


How advances in AI will transform online but won't translate in-store

#artificialintelligence

Even now, all you have to do is Google search'AI 2017' to find headlines like these: '2017 laid the foundation for faster, smarter AI in 2018' 'All the creepy, crazy and amazing things that happened in AI in 2017' AI took the tech industry by storm. Swarm AI correctly predicted TIME's Person of the Year to be Donald Trump, AI moved into the household through the Amazon Echo and Google Home, and Google's DeepMind AlphaGo Zero conquered the 2,000-year-old board game'Go' through machine learning. If you didn't already know: AlphaGo literally recreated itself without the help of humans, using reinforcement learning to surpass the abilities of world champion Le Sedol and become the best Go player in the world. In 2018, poker bot Libratus was the first to beat 15 top human players, and American technology company Nvidia created AI that could mimic your facial features, handwriting, and voice. They created'celebrities' that don't even exist. Though it didn't impress everyone, with comments like: The iceberg that would later reveal the all-conquering and all-powerful force reckoned to control our entire lives – otherwise known as artificial intelligence.


Cognitive collaboration

#artificialintelligence

Although artificial intelligence (AI) has experienced a number of "springs" and "winters" in its roughly 60-year history, it is safe to expect the current AI spring to be both lasting and fertile. Applications that seemed like science fiction a decade ago are becoming science fact at a pace that has surprised even many experts. The stage for the current AI revival was set in 2011 with the televised triumph of the IBM Watson computer system over former Jeopardy! This watershed moment has been followed rapid-fire by a sequence of striking breakthroughs, many involving the machine learning technique known as deep learning. Computer algorithms now beat humans at games of skill, master video games with no prior instruction, 3D-print original paintings in the style of Rembrandt, grade student papers, cook meals, vacuum floors, and drive cars.1 All of this has created considerable uncertainty about our future relationship with machines, the prospect of technological unemployment, and even the very fate of humanity. Regarding the latter topic, Elon Musk has described AI "our biggest existential threat." Stephen Hawking warned that "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." In his widely discussed book Superintelligence, the philosopher Nick Bostrom discusses the possibility of a kind of technological "singularity" at which point the general cognitive abilities of computers exceed those of humans.2 Discussions of these issues are often muddied by the tacit assumption that, because computers outperform humans at various circumscribed tasks, they will soon be able to "outthink" us more generally. Continual rapid growth in computing power and AI breakthroughs notwithstanding, this premise is far from obvious.


Cognitive collaboration

#artificialintelligence

Although artificial intelligence (AI) has experienced a number of "springs" and "winters" in its roughly 60-year history, it is safe to expect the current AI spring to be both lasting and fertile. Applications that seemed like science fiction a decade ago are becoming science fact at a pace that has surprised even many experts. The stage for the current AI revival was set in 2011 with the televised triumph of the IBM Watson computer system over former Jeopardy! This watershed moment has been followed rapid-fire by a sequence of striking breakthroughs, many involving the machine learning technique known as deep learning. Computer algorithms now beat humans at games of skill, master video games with no prior instruction, 3D-print original paintings in the style of Rembrandt, grade student papers, cook meals, vacuum floors, and drive cars.1 All of this has created considerable uncertainty about our future relationship with machines, the prospect of technological unemployment, and even the very fate of humanity. Regarding the latter topic, Elon Musk has described AI "our biggest existential threat." Stephen Hawking warned that "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." In his widely discussed book Superintelligence, the philosopher Nick Bostrom discusses the possibility of a kind of technological "singularity" at which point the general cognitive abilities of computers exceed those of humans.2 Discussions of these issues are often muddied by the tacit assumption that, because computers outperform humans at various circumscribed tasks, they will soon be able to "outthink" us more generally. Continual rapid growth in computing power and AI breakthroughs notwithstanding, this premise is far from obvious.