The models created in a machine-learning system use the concept of computational graphs.

Artificial intelligence faces the real world

Image credit: Graphcore

Nation states and big tech firms the size of states are in an artificial intelligence land-grab. What does it mean for the future of the industry?

The dream – or nightmare – for AI is that it will one day be able to perform like the human brain. That concept of general AI (broader intelligence beyond a narrow area) has remained tantalisingly out of reach – or safely so, depending on what science-fiction films you watch.

Like the human brain, AI research comes in two halves: symbolic and transformer-based models. Chris Edwards explains how these two halves are now coming together in an awkward but more effective whole and what that means for the quest for general AI.

Meanwhile, narrow AI is getting everywhere. This year’s AI market of around $90bn is forecast to multiply by ten times within the next seven years. No wonder that big tech is becoming more involved, taking up the best research and swallowing up AI start-ups. Paul Dempsey hears about the calls to make it all more democratic.

Nations, too, are scrambling for the lead in AI. The latest national strategy comes from the UK. We assess its AI masterplan and whether it leaves enough room for home-grown AI start-ups.

Growth is putting strain on resources, too. AI uses a lot of silicon, which is in short supply. Can the electronics supply chain keep up? How could such shortages shape the industry’s future?

How will AI change other industries and, ultimately, our lives? We look at AI in architecture, where it’s not expected to replace architects but to become a useful tool. It’s also proving useful in archaeology.

AI developers have started to talk about augmented intelligence. This more people-centred vision of AI is more optimistic than the machines making us all redundant before spinning out of control and murdering us in our beds – or more likely as we sleep in our driverless cars. History tells us it’s more realistic, too.

In music, AI is being used to imitate The Beatles and Elvis, to compose like Bach and to make new Irish folk music. Yet there are also those who are using AI to make completely fresh music. This is much more exciting and it’s keeping humans in the process.

A century ago, there were fears that gramophones would replace musicians with mechanical music. Half a century ago, the fear was that synthesisers would replace musicians with electronics, but musicians learnt to use them as creative tools, providing new musical experiences from synth pop to DJs and EDM. There will be a place for pure AI-generated music, perhaps as background music to games, but it will allow human creativity to grow, not shrivel.

That’s the real power of AI. Not replacing the human brain, but helping it along.

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