I would like to give a brief update of how much effort (money) is being put into artificial intelligence by hugely wealthy companies. First, let’s look at Apple. Just this month Apple purchased Percptio and VocalIQ. Perceptio makes image recognition technology for smartphones. VocalIQ is developing technology that helps computers understand everyday human speech. Does Apple want these companies’ expertise to help in the development of their rumored self-driving electric car that is supposed to come out in 2019?
Apple is not alone! In a 10/12/2015 event in San Francisco, IBM hosted a meeting to discuss AI. In this meeting IBM was blowing their own horn, emphasizing that they were working on every element of AI, with Watson and the TrueNorth chip offered as evidence. They also discussed how they can get insights from unstructured data. Earlier this year they noted that in the healthcare industry, much patient information is saved in text format and seldom used in analysis. Some estimates are that 80% of health information is unstructured (like in physician notes and patient surveys) and therefore not used. IBM Watson Content Analytics addresses this source of unused information to give a more complete view of patients’ needs and appropriate treatments.
Google recently invested in DFKI, a German AI lab. In 2014 they also paid $500 million to buy the UK company DeepMind. DeepMind’s Mission: “Solve intelligence!…We build powerful self-learning general purpose algorithms.”
Musk, Zuckerberg and Kutcher are investing in a company called Vicarious, which has raised over $100 million. Vicarious’ goal is to build a system that will have general intelligence matching a human.
Many of these companies would pursue AI even more aggressively if they could hire people with the required abilities. Google has publicly stated that their biggest challenge in AI is finding people with the right digital skills.
The last thing I want to emphasize is that despite all this effort by well-funded firms, I believe that there is at least an equal chance of AI breakthroughs coming from a quant playing with his computer in his basement and using the cloud for his required computer power. His motivation for developing self-learning AI programs will be the same that many hackers have of breaking into “secure” computer systems. It’s an ego thing!