The Most Surprising Thing About AI: This Is Just the Start

    The stunning capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) may obscure the reality that we are only at the beginning of its evolution. It is bound to grow to be something that makes today’s capabilities look quaint.

    The Economist makes clear that the excitement no doubt will continue to build, painting the picture of an industry segment on the rise. Big name companies, including Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft, are deeply in the game. China is pushing hard on AI as well. The story quotes PitchBook numbers that say that, this year, companies worldwide have spent $21.3 billion in mergers and acquisitions in AI, which is about 26 times the amount spent in 2015. One certainty is that nothing will be the same:

    As with past waves of new technology, such as the rise of personal computers and mobile telephony, AI has the potential to shake up the businesses of the tech giants by helping them overhaul existing operations and dream up new enterprises. But it also comes with a sense of menace. “If you’re a tech company and you’re not building AI as a core competence, then you’re setting yourself up for an invention from the outside,” says Jeff Wilke, chief executive of “worldwide consumer” at Amazon, and adjutant to Jeff Bezos.

    One important future use of AI is cybersecurity. Info Security points out that there is a shortage of people working on the good side of the cyber warfare battlefield. AI can relieve some of the pressure by simply automating much of the work that humans must do today. It can also use machine learning algorithms to more effectively keep up with advances that are being made by cyber criminals. AI is faster, better and doesn’t leave the organization for better paying jobs elsewhere.

    The MIT Technology Review points to one of the next steps for AI. Today, AI only recognizes static images. Video is not understood as video. It is assessed by the distillation of static images from individual frames. This week, IBM and MIT released three-second snippets of video “painstakingly annotated with details of the action being carried out,” a step necessary for the AI platforms to understand them without needing to cull static images. This could be used in conjunction with new technology from Google that enables the recognition of images in video without the use of static frames.

    This and other dataset projects seem to be a big deal that puts AI on the precipice of significant new capabilities:

    The next challenge may be teaching machines to understand not just what a video contains, but what’s happening in the footage as well. That could have some practical benefits, perhaps leading to powerful new ways of searching, annotating, and mining video footage. It also figures to give robots or self-driving cars a better understanding of how the world around them is unfolding.

    People were amazed when trains and automobiles first appeared. Now we have bullet trains and racing cars that can go more than 200 miles per hour. The same arc of progress will drive AI to places we can’t image today – and, perhaps, don’t want to.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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