Artificial intelligence has slowly transitioned from the realm of science fiction into real life. From banking to the entertainment industry, it is finding new applications every year. Many experts believe this technology to be at the cusp of explosive growth as it moves to the forefront of the global innovations market.
According to International Data Corporation (IDC), worldwide spending on cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI) systems will reach USD 12.5 billion in 2017, an increase of 59% over 2016. This growth will continue through 2020, when the investments will increase to USD 50 billion. UBS forecasts that by 2030 the spending will hit the USD 100 billion mark.
CB Insights reports that AI startups saw an increase in the number of deals from 160 in 2012 to 658 in 2016.
Google, IBM, Microsoft, General Vision, Intel, NVIDIA and other IT giants are leading the AI revolution with their new technologies and software solutions.
Banking, retail, healthcare and industrial production are often cited as the most promising areas for AI application.
For example, Microsoft Research is working to “solve” cancer using AI by reprogramming affected cells back to the healthy state, which will put an end to this disease for good.
The UK has launched its Cities Unlocked project to help the blind or partially sighted: they are provided with a headset and an application that sync with sensors installed in city streets. These devices guide users, make them aware of their surroundings, signal bus arrival and even inform them of the situation on the roads.
Certain AI elements have already entered the daily routine of bank clients, mainly in the sphere of mobile banking.
AI-based assistants in smartphones – Siri, Cortana, Ok Google from Apple, Microsoft and Google, respectively, – can help users find their way, get a weather forecast and compose messages, and they can even order food from the user’s favourite restaurant or call a cab.
AI enables communication between people of different nationalities. For example, Skype Translator can translate conversations in real time into a chosen language.
Russian IT companies also utilise AI technology and research new ways of its application.
Yandex is working on a neural network that will evolve online search to a new level. The new technology will find the necessary information even when the query has no matching word with the result. Right now, Yandex Browser uses AI to personalise searches in accordance with the user’s interests.
ABBYY has developed a number of text recognition, data capture and translation software solutions. ABBYY Compreno technology is capable of analysing and “understanding” text.
One of the fastest-growing technologies is face recognition, which is where Russian developers show the most promise. In 2015, NtechLab, a Russian startup, outscored Google at a facial recognition algorithm competition and is currently developing public safety, retailer and banking solutions. Skolkovo IT Cluster resident VisionLabs has developed one of the world’s top three facial recognition systems, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
However, the obvious advantages of AI come with a handful of risks, with experts fearing that smart machines may force people out of jobs.
Reform, a British think tank, claims that in 15 years 250,000 jobs within the UK's public sector could be taken over by artificial intelligence systems. The ones most affected will be the people who work in call centres and those who update datasets. At the same time, these changes could save the UK GBP 4 billion per year.
Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Alibaba Group, expects the first CEO robots to arrive in 30 years.
There are those who believe the threat of AI-induced unemployment to be overblown.
For example, Vint Cerf, who is recognised as one of “the fathers of the internet”, says that “historically, technology has created more jobs than it destroys”. According to him, there is no reason to think otherwise in the case of AI.
In any case, the development and application of AI should not go completely unchecked. Stephen Hawking, a world-renowned British scientist, has recently said: “The rise of powerful AI will either be the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which.”