In my last update, I showed how IBM is investing billions of dollars that almost guarantees that a high level of artificial intelligence is going to happen, and it is going to happen soon. The IBM TrueNorth computer chip will give much faster computer speeds at much lower energy use, and it accomplishes this by mimicking much of the parallel processing of the human brain. And while the programming of this chip is evolving, downsized Watson (the computer that won on Jeopardy) clones are being expanded into many fields and being filled with broad knowledge bases. Once TrueNorth is fully operational, it will be relatively simple for IBM to marry the systems together.
To see the eventual effect of all this on the US economy, and on potential investments, we have to look at its broader effect. I already mentioned that fields like law will change dramatically since so much legal history will be so easily obtainable once that information is in a system like Watson. The need for lawyers will be greatly reduced. Doctors and teachers will be focusing on those relatively few far outside the norm, because the majority of patients and students will be well served by programs that are customized to their own needs, drawing from huge data bases. The interaction with the computer will be much different than most current computer programs, because the computer voice will not be discernably different than if the user were interacting with a live human. This indeed is the Turing Test criteria; that someone should not be able to tell if they are taking to a computer or a person! This will eliminate the need for many of the call centers often located in India!
This machine intelligence explosion will affect many products. Already mentioned are robots that are far easier to train and can interact more easily with multiple sensors. But perhaps less obvious is its effect on automobiles. Look at any major car manufacturer and how they are stressing their new driver-assist systems. Cars are becoming increasingly smart. Tesla has indicated that they will likely be making their own maps based on each of their vehicles communicating to each other and back to Tesla. This will make roads, road conditions, and traffic issues close to real time.
Apple is hiring people that have automotive backgrounds, and they may use some of their massive financial strength to enter the automotive business now that it is becoming so software and computer driven. Electric vehicles seem destined to become a bigger part of the industry since they are so easily controlled by electronics and are “greener” than their internal combustion engine competitors. Certainly there is a lot of speculation of Apple and Tesla somehow combining. Perhaps Tesla will supply the vehicle drive, batteries, and base structure to Apple; and Apple will design their own body and electronics for their own car. This would enable Apple to get into the business easier, give Tesla some needed cash, and better utilize and expand the charging infrastructure that Tesla has already started. Again, the growth of intelligent cars is making this whole thing relevant. And what will this do to manufacturers like GM, Chrysler, and Ford that are largely still designing vehicles like they did ten years ago? I don’t think that I would like to own their stock!
Already mentioned in earlier updates was China’s economy slowing as robotic manufacturing enables lower cost production of volume goods in the US. Recent economic data indicates that this is already happening. Sadly, as China slows they may become more combative, which also seems to be the case. Artificial intelligence gains will definitely hurt counties whose economies are driven by volume products produced by cheap labor working in poor working environments. The US economy is likely to continue to grow at its slow but consistent pace. And the stock market will reflect that growth, especially in companies like robotic manufacturers and those companies making smart systems for teaching, medical care and the legal profession. Most computer products are likely to gain from the greater efficiencies and downsizing that AI gains will enable. For example, a computer watch will only be limited on how data can be displayed efficiently, not in its computing power or ability to communicate.