AI is poised to become one of the most important forces shaping our world. Unlike more specialized innovations, artificial intelligence is becoming a true general purpose technology. In other words, it is evolving into a utility — not unlike electricity — that is likely to ultimately scale across every industry, every sector of our economy and nearly every aspect of science, society and culture.

In the conversations I carried out for my new book Architects of Intelligence, I discussed how AI technology will grow and improve in the coming decades with some of the most brilliant minds in the AI community. The first consists of advances in the specialized types of artificial intelligence and machine learning that we already have.

Advances in industry-specific AI and machine learning.

Systems that are designed to extract valuable information from raw data are going to get much better and are likely to revolutionize many areas of the economy. For example, radiology systems may soon start to outperform human doctors at recognizing cancer in medical images. Facial recognition will get better and more ubiquitous. Self-driving cars will begin to share our roads, although they will likely initially be limited to specific areas and routes.

Businesses of all kinds and sizes will learn how to leverage AI for a competitive advantage, or they will quickly fade away. The tools for creating AI/machine learning applications are getting better and will make the technology more accessible to less technical people.

In Architects of Intelligence, I spoke with Fei-Fei Li who was the chief scientist at Google Cloud, and she talked about her vision for democratizing AI — and how this might lead to a “Cambrian explosion” of AI applications for all kinds of purposes. Think in terms of how the number apps for the iPhone has exploded since the device was first introduced with only a few apps available. The same thing will happen for AI as the development tools become more accessible to more people.

The path to human-level AI, or artificial general intelligence (AGI).

Artificial general intelligence is in other words, a true thinking machine. This is (at least for me) the most exciting question in AI and has really been the holy grail of the field right from the beginning when Alan Turing published his famous paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” which proposed the Turing Test — basically a test that would deem a computer intelligent if it could carry out a conversation in a way that made it indistinguishable from a person.

I talked about the path to AGI in every conversation in Architects of Intelligence, and I think this is one of the most fascinating parts of the book. I also asked everyone for a prediction of when AGI might be achieved, and there was a huge range of answers. Ray Kurzweil thinks it will happen in 2029, or just 10 years from now. This is a very aggressive prediction. Rodney Brooks believes it will take 180 years; the others mostly fall somewhere in between.

There is also a great deal of disagreement about the particular approaches which will someday get us to AGI. People in the deep learning camp believe it will be neural networks all the way. Others think other more traditional approaches to AI, such as symbolic reasoning, which have lately been pushed aside by all the dramatic progress in deep learning will have to be brought back into the mix in order for real progress to occur.

The upshot is that no one can predict the future. However, the conversations in Architects of Intelligence provide a wealth of “insider” information, but is highly varied with many sharply conflicting opinions and predictions.

Originally published on Quora.


  • Martin Ford

    Futurist and NYT Bestselling Author Focused on AI, Robotics and the Future Economy

    Martin is a prominent futurist, NYT bestselling author and leading expert on artificial intelligence and robotics and their potential impact on the job market, economy, and society. His new book, Architects of Intelligence: The truth about AI from the people building it, was named Best Technology Book of 2018 by Financial Times. His book, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future won the 2015 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award and has been translated into over 20 languages. Martin Ford speaks frequently to industry, academic and government audiences on the subject of technology and its implications for the future and is the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm. His TED Talk on the impact of AI and robotics on the economy and society, given on the main stage at the 2017 TED Conference, has been viewed more than 2 million times. Martin has over 25 years of experience in the fields of computer design and software development and holds a degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a graduate degree in business from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.