Back to the future
To go forward, let’s first look backwards. AI has been a popular subject inscience fiction for decades, often running alongside robotics to createsome of the most original storylines of all time. These stretch from theutopian (Star Trek, Her and I, Robot*) to the dystopian (BladeRunner, 2001, The Matrix and The Terminator), and everywhere inbetween. As a result, the term has become attached to the future, framingexpectations around the art of the possible in the present.
As with all science fiction, it serves as inspiration for the people working onreal-life applications. We still have a way to go before we catch up withfiction, but actual developments have, in their own way, been no less notable.
The Bombe that helped to decipher Enigma in WW2 meets the definition ofAI, and it wasn’t the first of its kind. Machine learning has been aroundsince the 1950s, growing alongside the development of computers, andheld back mainly by computational power. More recently, as processorgrowth has followed Moore’s Law, the high-profile milestones have comethicker and faster, from Deep Blue beating Garry Kasparow in 1997 toWatson winning Jeopardy (and now trying to cure cancer), to Google’sDeepMind beating Lee Sedol at Go, through to Facebook’s Bots unveiled at F8.
When developments in the real world start to mimic science fiction, thisgets a lot of attention. Apocryphal headline grabbers such as the MicrosoftBarbie Bot will gradually be replaced by the exceptions-that-prove-the-rule,such as the recent incident with Google’s self driving car (a.k.a. JohnnyCabs).
But the really big advances will come when we crack somethingcalled general artificial intelligence.Experts concur we’re many years awayfrom that, but in the meantime we can expect an array of intriguingdevelopments.
There’s a clamour of investment taking place, usually a good sign of firebehind the smoke. From 2 per cent of VC investment in 2013 to 5 per centin 2015, interest is significant and growing. Google, Facebook, IBM, Apple,Salesforce, Cisco, Intel and many more have invested hundreds of millionsin this space over several years, particularly in the adtech and financefields. Our parent group, Publicis.Sapient, has bought a minority stakein Lucid.ai. Wired luminary and all round good guy, Kevin Kelly, says: “Thebusiness plans of the next 10,000 startups are easy to forecast: Take X andadd AI”.