Are We Heading For Another AI Winter Soon?

Artificial intelligence has been around since 1956 when the term was first coined. Those in the industry know that there has been previous hype and then disillusionment around AI, Kathleen Walch writes for Forbes.

The period of decline of interest in AI is known in the industry as an AI winter, and has happened twice before. An AI winter is a point at which research, investment, and funding for AI goes into a period of decline and it’s hard to get funding for research or other projects that have to do with artificial intelligence, and talent and companies focus their efforts elsewhere.

Today, there is a lot of hype surrounding artificial intelligence, but is AI around to stay or will it see its period of interest peak and wane as it has in the past?

For about a decade or so, we have been in a period of a real blossoming of interest and investment in AI, an AI “summer” if you will. The innovation of AI algorithms combined with the availability and experience of working with big data is one of the biggest reasons that artificial intelligence has been able to leave hibernation. We now have almost limitless storage and have been able to successfully manage and handle large amounts of data. The development of deep learning is another reason that we have come out of the AI winter. Also, investment is now quite diverse coming from enterprises, governments, academics, and venture capital.

Additionally, dozens of countries have acknowledged that AI is going to be so important for their citizens and growth of their economies that we now have a country level investment and strategies around AI. Furthermore, AI is becoming more a part of everyday life. Today, AI is being used all around the world to accomplish any number of tasks. We have put AI into cars, phones, advanced bots, and other technology that we use every day. It’s not uncommon to interact with AI daily whether that’s through virtual assistants, hyper personalized offerings and recommendations, or better movie suggestions on Netflix.  Artificial intelligence now is in so many pieces of technology that we interact with every day that we almost forget that it is there. Sometimes bots are so good that we can’t tell they aren’t humans. We use AI to park our cars, and much more.

However, with all this investment, interest, and funding in AI are we headed to another AI winter? Are we once again overpromising and underdelivering on what AI is capable of? Are we going to be disappointed with the limitations of driverless vehicles, natural language processing, and AI-powered predictive analytics? Will investors start seeing more snake oil from AI vendors than real-world implementations?

While there certainly will be a lot of missed expectations for AI, this time around, our expectation and hope is that the next AI winter will never come. Another AI winter is always possible if we have a repeat of past circumstances such as over promising and under delivering what an AI system could do. Some experts are also concerned about the lack of research on general AI, we still haven’t figured out common sense reasoning, and that a lot of the funded research is too application specific. AI is too integrated in our daily lives for research, investment, and use to stop all together, and so it’s possible while there might be a cooling off of research and investment, as there always inevitably is with technology waves, we are hopeful this time we don’t go into hibernation.