In a 1970 Life article, this appeared: “The human brain is just a computer that happens to be made out of meat.”
Forward 50 years to 2020, and now we can say: “The computer is just a brain that happens to be made out metal”.
An new era of artificial intelligence (AI) is on the horizon that will dwarf our fascination with the technology and even make humans look dimwitted in comparison.
AGI will make AI look like a relic.
AI’s first Robot
Developed at the Artificial Intelligence Center of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) from 1966 to 1972, SHAKEY was the world’s first mobile intelligent robot. According to the 2017 IEEE Milestone citation, it “could perceive its surroundings, infer implicit facts from explicit ones, create plans, recover from errors in plan execution, and communicate using ordinary English.
Where is AI today?
AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) was always a research project. It was never a business plan—until now. But that’s still waiting for AI to fully develop and take its rightful place among us.
Big tech companies, from retail to agriculture, are leading the AI charge, but there is an acute shortage of AI talent.
This combination is fueling a heated race to scoop up top AI startups, many of which are still in the early stages of research and funding.
Tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, & Apple (FAMGA) have all been aggressively acquiring AI startups in the last decade.
Apple leads the way, making 20 total AI acquisitions since 2010. It is followed by Google (the front-runner from 2012 to 2016) with 14 acquisitions and Microsoft with 10.
Apple’s AI acquisition spree , which has helped it overtake Google in recent years, was essential to the development of new iPhone features. For example, FaceID, the technology that allows users to unlock their iPhone X just by looking at it, stems from Apple’s M&A moves in chips and computer vision, including the acquisition of AI company RealFace .
Since 2010, there have been 635 AI acquisitions.
2018’s record of 166 AI acquisitions was up 38% year-over-year.
In 2019, there were 140+ acquisitions (as of August).
Under cross-industry applications, Speech, NLP/(G), and Computer Vision has been a leading area of focus. The category, which includes startups working on computer vision and natural language processing, has seen 66 acquisitions since 2010.
Need for more AI regulations
In a Sunday opinion column in The Financial Times (FT), Google and Alphabet chief executive officer (CEO) Sundar Pichai wrote about the importance of having government oversight regarding artificial technology (AI), warning about the many possible negative consequences of technology, particularly when it comes to AI.
“Now there is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. It is too important not to. The only question is how to approach it,” he wrote, pointing to historical examples that “technology’s virtues aren’t guaranteed.”
AI job offerings by the bucket load
Go to LinkedIn and search for jobs with this title and you’ll get 47,747 job openings, while Monster.com has 53,216 jobs.
In LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, its ranking of the top 15 emerging jobs, artificial intelligence ranked at the top.
According to the report: “Hiring growth for this role has grown 74% annually in the past four years.”
AGI: AI or Sci-Fi?
Last July, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, one of the world’s most valuable companies, with a market capitalization hovering above $1 trillion, made a $1 billion investment in the San Francisco–based startup OpenAI.
OpenAI was founded in 2015 by, among others, Altman and Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Tesla.
The Mission of OpenAI is to develop artificial general intelligence, broad A.I. systems that can do a lot of tasks at superhuman level.
Microsoft officially entered in a technological arms race against Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and a handful of others competing to develop technology that could radically reshape the business world.
Microsoft will commercialize any technology it develops and chooses to license on the path to AGI.
The term “general” in the name Artificial General Intelligence is meant to differentiate it from more prosaic “narrow” artificial intelligence.
Narrow A.I., though very valuable, is only good at a specific skill, like recognizing speech or identifying faces, and today it requires many thousands or millions of examples to learn that skill well.
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the application of narrow A.I. will add some $13 trillion to the global economy by 2030, an amount that it says would make the technology more impactful than the steam engine was in the 1800s.
But AGI would be many times more valuable still. If it ever happens, it would make all the technological wonders of today’s narrow A.I. look as quaint as Stone Age ax heads. AGI promises a single piece of software capable of learning almost any task at human or superhuman level—a system that can master new skills quickly, perhaps by watching a single demonstration or just by reading, with no training at all, and maybe entirely at its own initiative.
Imagine that rather than assign a 15-person task force to decide where your company should build a new factory, you simply ask your company’s AGI. The system would immediately begin researching decision factors: proximity to suppliers and customers, transportation links, land-acquisition costs, local labor markets, tax incentives, etc. It would make a recommendation and produce a report explaining its reasoning. And it would do all this in minutes, not the weeks or months it would take the human task force.
Big Tech has begun spending big bucks in its quest for AGI. Microsoft and Alphabet each sponsor not one but two separate R&D entities largely dedicated to developing advanced A.I. Facebook has invested in a blue-sky A.I. lab. Chinese search giant Baidu has one too. And smaller labs exist at Uber, Salesforce, and others. Investment in AGI is forecast to reach $50 billion by 2023, according to a report from Seattle-based research firm Mind Commerce.