When British Prime Minister Theresa May bigged up AI at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, it was as if she had nothing better to talk about.
Name-dropping DeepMind, perhaps the only justification for her claim that the UK can be a “world leader in artificial intelligence”, seemed a little desperate, especially as DeepMind has been a Google company since 2014. Adding that “We have only just seen the beginning of what AI can achieve” was equally underwhelming but indicative of the general view of AI, as though it’s this one thing, one technology that will solve everything in the near future.
May or at least her advisors have clearly been sucked in. It’s not surprising. It’s impossible to escape the AI hype, particularly around general AI and the concept of singularity, when humans will be unemployed, if not killed off by hordes of upwardly social mobile machines. It’s an old idea that has regained momentum in the past few years, fuelling more hype and perhaps undermining the real work being done in specialist applications where machine learning is building relatively strong foundations.
Hype of course is dangerous. It can be counterproductive and politicians spouting AI generalisms are not helping. The concern is that it will set AI development back and force it into a new winter of discontent.