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Monday, January 02, 2017

‘Artificial Intelligence’ was the Fake News of 2016 | The Register

"Putting the 'AI' into FAIL" summarizes Andrew Orlowski.
Photo: The Register

“Fake News” vexed the media classes greatly in 2016, but the tech world perfected the art long ago. With “the internet” no longer a credible vehicle for Silicon Valley’s wild fantasies and intellectual bullying of other industries – the internet clearly isn’t working for people – “AI” has taken its place. 

But almost everything you read about AI is Fake News. The AI coverage comes from a media willing itself into a mind of a three year old child, in order to be impressed.

For example, how many human jobs did AI replace in 2016? If you gave professional pundits a multiple choice question listing these three answers: 3 million, 300,000 and none, I suspect very few would choose the correct answer, which is of course “none”.

Similarly, if you asked tech experts which recent theoretical or technical breakthrough could account for the rise in coverage of AI, even fewer would be able to answer correctly that “there hasn’t been one”.

As with the most cynical (or deranged) internet hypesters, the current “AI” hype has a grain of truth underpinning it. Today neural nets can process more data, faster. Researchers no longer habitually tweak their models. Speech recognition is a good example: it has been quietly improving for three decades. But the gains nowhere match the hype: they’re specialised and very limited in use. So not entirely useless, just vastly overhyped. As such, it more closely resembles “IoT”, where boring things happen quietly for years, rather than “Digital Transformation”, which means nothing at all.

The more honest researchers acknowledge as much to me, at least off the record.

"What we have seen lately, is that while systems can learn things they are not explicitly told, this is mostly in virtue of having more data, not more subtlety about the data. So, what seems to be AI, is really vast knowledge, combined with a sophisticated UX," one veteran told me.

But who can blame them for keeping quiet when money is suddenly pouring into their backwater, which has been unfashionable for over two decades, ever since the last AI hype collapsed like a souffle? What’s happened this time is that the definition of “AI” has been stretched so that it generously encompasses pretty much anything with an algorithm. Algorithms don’t sound as sexy, do they? They’re not artificial or intelligent.

Source: The Register

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