The year the machines got smart
A lot happened last year in Tech; Apple released a watch. Mark Zuckerberg re-set the bar for philanthropy. And then got slated for it. The Space race 2.0 took off. Google and Microsoft kissed and made up. Jack’s back at Twitter. Ashley Maddison got hacked and 33m people had a bad day. Ouch. Google gave birth to a new parent Alphabet. VW diesel gate. Tesla launched autopilot for its cars and announced PowerWall. Hoverboards literally exploded onto the scene. Ellen Pao had a year to forget. Li-Fi was born. Slack broke new records. Uber was, well UBER. Taylor Swift smacked down Apple. The Unicorpse was born.
But 360 Leaders will remember 2015 as the year the machines got smart.
On Jan 24th 2016 Marvin Minsky passed away. A cognitive scientist and an early pioneer in Artificial Intelligence, he co-founded the MIT’s AI lab. Marvin was working on neural networks in the 50s, so AI isn’t new. But 2015 felt like the year AI came of age. Little illustrates this more than news this month that Google’s Deepmind team have demonstrated a system called AlphaGo that beat a 3-times European Champion at the ancient game of Go. Unlike other games like Chess or Jeopardy which have been conquered by computers, Go was considered far too complex a challenge to be won by current AI capabilities. It was thought we were a decade away from such a feat. Not so. Google’s system destroyed the human 5–0. What is remarkable is that AlphaGo didn’t learn from data spoon fed to it, it actually taught itself, learning from its own data using machine learning techniques.
This rapid advancement in AI has many worried; Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak and Elon Musk, not to mention hundreds of AI and robotics experts signed an open letter last year calling for an outright ban on the development of autonomous weapons. Why? Because we’re in the middle of a new arms race and it may not be long before someone gives the machines the power to decide. You’ve seen the Terminator franchise, right?
But whilst there are valid concerns about the application of this technology we are starting to see how AI will make a real difference to all our lives.
The big four (FB, GOOG, AMZN, AAPL) are investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning expertise, in fact most large enterprises will soon be looking to leverage the power of the technology. 360 has been supporting a wide variety of companies applying AI to their products and services. For example we are recruiting a CEO for benevolent.aI, a company out to dramatically improve the drug discovery process which is notoriously complex and inefficient. By utilizing AI to make sense of vast, disparate vaults of data this team has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people around the world. Another client, Swiftkey created the first neural network keyboard for smartphones that knows what you want to type before you do. Anki is another advanced AI client, this time operating in the Toy category. Anki is an entertainment robotics business that programs physical objects to be intelligent and adaptable in the physical world. You only have to witness their cars in action for the first time to understand why Anki was one of the biggest selling toys over the Christmas period.
Tech companies are locked in a war for talent in every tech hub around the world and AI is just the latest front opening up that will force companies to fight for this valuable expertise.