Is it yet another AI hype cycle? This question was posed by Vinnie Mirchandani over on deal architect and it’s a good question.
AI has been the dream since the 1950’s when computing was just beginning and Alan Turing defined the famous Turing test (which is, sadly, not necessarily enough anymore because parallel computing and wide-scale sampling of real conversations can be used to pass the Turing test in many situations), but we’re not there yet. Enhancements to computing power, storage, and algorithms have made automated reasoning programs exponentially more powerful than they were sixty years ago, and today’s predictive capability is essentially unmatched … with many algorithms outdoing the best human experts.
But they are still not intelligent. They’re all based on data and trends which, for the most part, are predictable, and that’s where they excel — but where they are not, or where those trends can change on a dime, they still fail … some times spectacularly. Plus, if the data is incomplete or bad, they don’t always see this … and predict a wrong outcome. Human experts, on the other hand, can see missing data, outrageous trends, and when trends are inflecting in unexpected ways.
We’re nowhere near the point where we can even truly start using AI with a straight face, and, as per a quote from Yann LeCun, the director of AI research at Facebook, as quoted by the deal architect, despite these astonishing advances, we are a long way from machines that are as intelligent as humans — or even rats. So far, we’ve seen only 5% of what AI can do. And I’d say that 5% is an overstatement.
But, as the deal architect has indicated, we are seeing a huge increase in they hype about AI. As indicated by the deal architect, IBM has been marketing Watson since before it should have been announced, technologists are claiming that AI can replace entire fields, and Cambridge University has created a Center for the Study of Existential Risk to study extinction-level risks that can emerge from technological advances (like AI). Apparently, the hype is back … but the reality is that it never went away. It’s a continuous wave that crests and troughs and crest and troughs … it never goes away. The believers, for better or worse, won’t let it. There hasn’t been a decade where the hype hasn’t increased unnecessarily since the 50’s, and we’ll never see the end. Because until someone makes a true quantum leap, it will continue to be gradual progress, decade after decade, and the hype will continue ad-nauseum.