It's going to change the world like electricity.
It's going to upend our education system and workforce.
The winner of the race will rule the world.
Artificial intelligence cropped up in discussions across technology, business, culture and political leaders at The Atlantic Festival 2018 this week in Washington. And according to experts, uncertainty of what it will truly bring is perhaps the only certainty.
The conversation around AI inevitably contains measures of optimism and pessimism: The technology is already causing friction in the workforce and unintended outcomes without explainability. But it also promises the "fourth industrial revolution," immeasurable innovation and economic progress and the freeing up of workers from remote, robot-like labor.
Among the experts weighing in on the technology at the festival, these four thought leaders offered their perspective on the transformative powers and reality of AI:
Founder and CEO of Landing AI; founder of deeplearning.ai; co-founder and co-chairman of Coursera
While massive progress has been made in the realm of narrow AI, general AI is still years away with no clear path or progress, Ng said. The hype and fear surrounding general AI is "unnecessary."
There has been a concentration of power in the hands of a few, allowing a small group with top AI talent and capabilities to exert considerable influence over the rest. But innovation is widespread and easier to break into than ever, with high schoolers today working on AI projects that top scientists couldn't have tackled even a few years ago, Ng said. Open sourcing and the dissemination of information are at the core of this progress.
Moving forward, help needs to be given to industries outside of technology working ot embrace AI. The technology industry has "infected" other sectors, forcing them to undergo rapid changes and renewals that used to be limited to tech.
In these moments of disruption, leadership is especially important to manage outcomes and wealth distributions resulting from these changes, Ng said.
In the international arena, the U.S. is leading China in many areas of basic AI, though its lead is easier to squander than most people realize, Ng said. China has succeeded at moving AI products to market quickly and led in areas including facial recognition and mobile payments.
At #TheAtlanticFest, @AndrewYNg talks about #ArtificialIntelligence: AI is already behind some of the many tools we use every day, like online banking, social media, search. In tech and AI, concentration of power is of concern, but innovation is widespread and that’s good pic.twitter.com/JGX6YqVPuD— Andreas Sandre (@andreas212nyc) October 2, 2018
President and CEO of Booz Allen Hamilton
The scale needed to develop advanced AI technologies is lower, and as a result the U.S. is up against many competitors and adversaries in a race it doesn't have the 10 to 20 year head start it has benefited from in many other industries, Rozanski said on Wednesday. The U.S. needs to develop the technology in a way that people can trust it.
In fields such as language processing and understanding, within the next few years AI-based technology will allow individuals to communicate in the language they need regardless of the other conversation party.
When it comes to ordering at a restaurant, the stakes may be lower, but a high degree of trust is needed for situations that might involve interactions with international leaders and security, he said. But the capabilities are more a dawning reality than a hypothetical.
Are we going to trust #AI to do what it says it will do? Like would #GoogleTranslate always translate with best intentions? Would self driving car always drive with the best intentions? @horaciorozanski CEO of @BoozAllen #TheAtlanticFest pic.twitter.com/ntN3xem2wE— BarisYuksel (@baris_wonders) October 3, 2018
President and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council
Garfield emphasized the need for strong investment in AI R&D, while speaking at the festival on Tuesday.
China is currently benefiting from a strong national strategy emphasizing technology progress; while the U.S. has a unique collaboration between public, private and academia, it would be well served with more coordinated AI development and innovation, he said.
It's also important not to consider AI a zero-sum game, he said. Progress by the U.S. and China will benefit the larger ecosystem and each player.
Tech R&D takes real investment, but it's not a zero-sum game — as compelling as the US vs. China framework is, says @ITI_TechTweets' Dean Garfield. The countries' efforts will bolster each other like research collaboration between academia and the private sector do #TheAtlanticFest— The Atlantic Festival (@TheAtlanticFest) October 2, 2018
President and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance
There are scores of individuals looking to enter technology, but many are failing to connect to educational and training opportunities, especially free ones, available in the market, according to Espinel, speaking at a panel on Tuesday. Building up platforms and resources to connect these potential workers to companies is critical.
The majority of children in school now will have jobs as adults that do not currently exist in the market, Espinel said.
Traditional educational pathways need to be rethought and redeveloped, according panelists. Just because the future at the hands of changing technologies like AI is unclear doesn't mean that as a society we shouldn't start reworking education and creating opportunities for the future, she said.
Fellow panelist James Wilson, managing director of AI research at Accenture Research, noted that in a document on the future of education moving through Congress right now, AI isn't mentioned once.
@TheAtlanticFest @victoriaespinel 'Company started not to require college degrees if is not necessary.' #empathy #care #socialskills 'To be digital means to be human.' @PaulRoehrig #TheAtlanticFest pic.twitter.com/i4UupyMy4n— Daniela Kammrath (@dkammrath) October 2, 2018