Cutting Through the AI Hype

For most of us, when the words Artificial Intelligence are in the story headline, news or in a movie, there is the image of some magical silicon brain that performs incredible feats of intellect. Problems solved and it is connected to everything so it can offer all kinds of sage advice. The reality is something quite different. I’ve done over 15 briefings on AI to C-suite executives this year alone. So what is the state of AI today really?
The Artificial Intelligence Industry is a Hot Mess
The sector of the ICT industry that is focused on AI is really quite a mess. And that’s exactly where it should be right now. There are hundreds of startups and multinationals (i.e. IBM, Google, Microsoft) working on various approaches and solutions. Consumers may see IBM Watson, Siri and Alexa at the forefront, and they are good products for sure, but they are the ones with big marketing budgets behind them too. Investment into AI is across almost every industry from retail and banking to insurance and the energy industries. All with different approaches, viewpoints and technologies.-
AI is Nascent. So Are The Technologies it Relies On
As an industry sector, AI is fairly new, only really popping into the forefront in 2011 when heavy investments and venture capital started to get involved. The technologies that Artificial Intelligence relies on are the Cloud, Big Data, Internet infrastructure and data sciences. All of which are still fairly nascent.
AI is comprised of a number of sub-disciplines such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), machine learning, data mining, predictive analytics and several others. Most of which are nascent.
There is No One Big AI Brain
Although it makes for great science fiction, there is no one big AI brain tucked away in a dark basement with awesome mood lighting. There are some very big computing rooms with massive air conditioning and energy usage though. But right now, companies like IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google and so on are very proprietary and very secretive for competitive reasons. Very few AI systems connect with other AI systems.
Artificial Intelligence Is Very Single Task Oriented
Just like men, AI is terrible at multi-tasking right now and for the next several years. Siri and Alexa are quite powerful, IBM Watson is amazing (disclosure; I use IBM Watson regularly for text analytics research projects and love it.) But when someone says to you “we have really cool AI in our product” they probably do, but it’s most likely only really good at doing one or two things like ordering a product or completing an information task. That’s it.
So What About The Big Brain?
For the next while, AI is going to be a hot mess. A very fractured industry with a lot of competing ideas. Some of the AI tools out there are really very, very good and they’re doing some truly amazing stuff with AI. Over the next few years, some jobs will be supplanted by AI and some cool products and companies will come along. But it’s going to be a while yet before theres any Big AI Brain out there.
What do you think?

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