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Is AI in a golden age or on the verge of a new winter?


The global rush forward of AI development continues at a breakneck pace and shows no signs of stopping. Stanford University recently called on the U.S. government to make a $120 billion investment in the nation’s AI ecosystem over the course of the next 10 years, and reports from France show 38% more AI startups in 2019 with government and investor backing. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is planning a major initiative to use AI to speed up scientific discoveries and will soon ask for an additional $10 billion in funding. Dozens of countries have acknowledged that AI is going to be increasingly important for their citizens and the growth of their economies, resulting in widespread country-level investment and strategies around AI.

This trend supports arguments that AI is entering a “golden age.” And why not? Some have claimed the transformative impact of AI is similar to electricity. The golden age theory is further supported by the 2019 “AI hype cycle” from Gartner that shows many AI technologies climbing the innovation slope, providing more fuel for the AI fire.

Indeed, the public interest grows apace as the upward trend in news stories about AI technologies continues to track up and to the right as shown is this graphic from CB Insights.

While interest is at an all-time high, it’s not all positive. There is growing negative feedback about AI, whether worries about current misuse of the technology or potential long-term existential threats. For example, several Outback Steakhouse franchises recently had to back away from plans to implement AI-powered facial recognition in their restaurants due to consumer backlashSeveral cities have issued an outright ban of the technology over worries about the potential for dystopian surveillance systems.

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