Reviewing last year’s AI-related forecasts

Robodamus 3

This time last year I made some forecasts about how AI would change, and how it would change us. It’s time to look back and see how those forecasts for 2017 panned out.

A bit rubbish, to be honest – five out of 12 by my reckoning.  Must do better.

  1. Machines will equal or surpass human performance in more cognitive and motor skills. For instance, speech recognition in noisy environments, and aspects of NLP – Natural Language Processing. Google subsidiary DeepMind will be involved in several of the breakthroughs.

A machine called Libratus beat some of the best human players of poker, but speech recognition in noisy environments is not yet at human standards. DeepMind made several breakthroughs. I’ll award myself a half-point.

  1. Unsupervised neural networks will be the source of some of the most impressive results.

Yup.

  1. In silico models of the brains of some very small animals will be demonstrated. Some prominent AI researchers will predict the arrival of strong AI – Artificial General Intelligence, or AGI – in just a few decades.

Not as far as I’m aware. No points.

  1. Speech will become an increasingly common way for humans to interact with computers. Amazon’s early lead with Alexa will be fiercely challenged by Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple.

Yup: Alexa is very popular, and the competition is indeed heating up.

  1. Some impressive case studies of AI systems saving significant costs and raising revenues will cause CEOs to “get” AI, and start demanding that their businesses use it. Companies will start to appoint CAIOs – Chief AI Officers.

There have been fewer case studies than I expected, but they do exist, and it is a rare CEO who is not building capability in AI. CAIOs are not yet common, but Dubai has a minister for AI, and the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on AI has called for the UK to have one. (Disclosure: I’m an adviser to the APPG AI, and I support that call.) Half a point.

  1. Self-driving vehicles (Autos) will continue to demonstrate that they are ready for prime time. They will operate successfully in a wide range of weather conditions. Countries will start to jockey for the privilege of being the first jurisdiction to permit fully autonomous vehicles throughout their territory. There will be some accidents, and controversy over their causes.

Investment in Autos is galloping ahead, and they are clocking up huge numbers of safe miles, and generating huge amounts of data. States and countries are competing to declare themselves Auto-friendly.

  1. Some multi-national organisations will replace their translators with AIs.

Not as far as I’m aware. No points.

  1. Some economists will cling to the Reverse Luddite Fallacy, continuing to deny that cognitive automation will displace humans from employment. Others will demand that governments implement drastic changes in the education system so that people can be re-trained when they lose their jobs. But more and more people will come to accept that many if not most people are going to be unemployed and unemployable within a generation or so.

The Reverse Luddite Fallacy is proving tenacious. If anything, there seems to be a backlash against acceptance that widespread mass unemployment is a possibility that must be addressed. No points.

  1. As a result, the debate about Universal Basic Income – UBI – will become more realistic, as people realise that subsistence incomes will not suffice. Think tanks will be established to study the problem and suggest solutions.

Nope. No points.

  1. Machine language will greatly reduce the incidence of fake news.

Sadly not yet. No points.

  1. There will be further security scares about the Internet of Things, and some proposed consumer applications will be scaled back. But careful attention to security issues will enable successful IoT implementations in high-value infrastructural contexts like railways and large chemical processing plants. The term “fourth industrial revolution” will continue to be applied – unhelpfully – to the IoT.

There was less news about the IoT this year than I expected. It was all blockchain instead, thanks to the Bitcoin bubble. But there was plenty of fourth industrial revolution nonsense.

  1. 2016 was supposed to be the year when VR finally came of age. It wasn’t, partly because the killer app is games, and hardcore gamers like to spend hours on a session, and the best VR gear is too heavy for that. Going out on a limb, that problem won’t be solved in 2017.

Yup

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4 thoughts on “Reviewing last year’s AI-related forecasts

  1. Interesting, looking back at your predictions.

    Regarding #12, I bought an Oculus Rift on Black Friday. I have no issues at all with the weight of the gear. Things that prevent me from using it for long periods of time:

    – My eyes get tired (I understand this doesn’t affect everyone, and I may just need to configure it or get used to it)
    – Nausea (only happens with driving games)

    It can also get hot, so the lenses can steam up, but a fan resolves that. I’ve also ordered one of these: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/732999278/blo-the-worlds-first-wearable-cooling-device-and-d

    Other than that, it’s a pretty amazing experience, and I haven’t played a non-VR game since.

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