Source: a16z | November 2018
Author: Frank Chen
This is a written version of a presentation I gave live at the a16z Summit in November 2018. You can watch a video version below:
Skynet is coming for your children — or is it?
In July 2017, I published a primer about artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning. Since then, I’ve been obsessively reading the headlines about machine learning, and in general, you will see two broad categories of articles on the front page. One category of headlines is “Robots are Coming for Your Jobs,” which predicts that we are headed inexorably towards mass unemployment. Even sober organizations like McKinsey seem to be forecasting doom-and-gloom scenarios in which one-third of workers are out of a job due to automation by 2030:
If that’s not scary enough, here is headline category number two: “Skynet is coming for your children.” In other words, AI is going to get smarter than humans at everything, and we’re going to end up the also-ran species on planet Earth.
But if you flip to the back pages of the newspapers or read more obscure journals, you’ll find stories of technology getting loans to first-time borrowers, delivering blood and vaccines to patients, and saving lives on the battlefield and on beaches.
So the counter-narrative I want to offer to the mainstream, front page accounts is that with careful, thoughtful, empathic design, we can enable ourselves to live longer, safer lives. We can create jobs where we are doing more creative work. We can understand each other better.But before I get to the many, many examples of where this is already happening today, let me share what’s happening in the AI ecosystem more broadly.
What’s happening in the AI ecosystem
The AI ecosystem is thriving, from universities to businesses to the halls of government around the world. Here are three anecdotes that illustrate how vibrant the ecosystem is. First up, here’s a fun fact from the world of academic AI research. The biggest gathering of researchers is a conference called Neural Information Processing Systems (recently renamed NeurIPS). It started meeting in 1987, and this past year (in 2018), the conference sold out in 11 minutes and 38 seconds. OK, it’s not quite Beyonce, whose stadium-sized concerts can sell out in 22 seconds, but we’re getting there.