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Today’s best AI algorithms, which can perform single tricks, are years away from "general intelligence." Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Talk of artificial intelligence goes almost inexorably to the very large. Companies, it is said, must embrace big data, along with future human-like AI, or be lost to history. But some tech leaders are going the other way, urging businesses to start thinking small.
What's happening: This growing mantra speaks of the upside of narrow AI ambitions and small data. But by small bore, they don't mean small results. AI and data minimalism, they say, could be what revolutionizes business, industry, war and more, writes Axios' Kaveh Waddell.
Instead, today’s best AI algorithms are one-trick ponies that have each been taught an extremely useful, single trick, Andrew Ng, an AI pioneer at Stanford University, tells Axios.
But that's not something to sneer at: These ponies have already created more than $1 trillion of business value, according to Gartner — with many trillions more up for grabs for those who can figure out how to apply the young technology.
The big picture: Driving the optimism is deep learning, the technique that has in recent years been the jet fuel accelerating AI applications, and it shows few signs of slowing.
Deep learning has its own drawbacks. Among the most constraining is its never-ending hunger for more and more data.
But some problems don’t come with a lot of data. Ng offers some examples:
The bottom line: “I think big data is overhyped,” says Ng.
Photo: Jan Woitas/picture alliance/Getty
America is overparked. In Los Angeles, for example, there are 9 parking spaces for every car. Nationally, 250 million adults have access to more than 700 million parking spaces. That adds up: The U.S. dedicates an area the size of Connecticut to parking, Jody Kelman, director of the Self-Driving Platform team at Lyft, writes for Axios Expert Voices.
What's happening: When proponents of self-driving cars speak, they talk of getting rid of a lot of those spaces and turning them into something else, such as dedicated bike and scooter lanes, on-street parklets and housing.
Fun fact: They also speak of saved time. In Westwood Village, a shopping strip in Los Angeles, consumers spend approximately 95,000 hours each year circling for parking.
This does not mean that self-driving cars won't park at all. But when they need to (at low-demand hours, for instance), they can do so more precisely than a human.
What to watch: As shared and autonomous vehicles become a larger part of the national fleet, the footprint of cities will change with them.
Photo: William B. Plowman/Getty Images
In its first fundamental restructuring in nearly 70 years, MIT has announced that it’s pumping $1 billion into creating a new college focused on computing and artificial intelligence.
Why it matters: MIT is planning what it says will be the single largest investment in computing and AI by an American university at a time when the U.S. and China are competing to produce — and retain — top AI talent in order to reap the technology's economic and geopolitical gains.
Details: The new college, slated to open next year, will eventually be staffed with 50 new faculty members, half of whom will be appointed to both the college and another MIT department. Additional faculty will come from elsewhere in the university.
The biggest donation comes from Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman, whose name will go on the college. In an interview with the New York Times, Schwarzman said one inspiration for the donation was his view that the U.S. has been "lagging" behind China on AI investments.
Flashback: MIT’s last big change was in the 1950s, when it added its management school and school of humanities.
What to watch: When asked if AI ethics — a major focus of MIT’s announcement — might be made mandatory, Schmidt said it would "make a lot of sense" to make ethics a strong focus in the new college.
This house explains how to adapt to climate change (Patricia Mazzei — NYT)
New norm: Babies out of wedlock (Stef Kight — Axios)
Report: AI is crucial to all emerging tech (Steve Rosenbush — WSJ) (subscription)
A risky, cutting-edge Walmart (Alistair Gray, Pan Kwan Yuk — FT) (subscription)
Insurers up premiums in California fire traps (Debra Kahn — Scientific American)
Bottles of baijiu on display in Beijing. Photo: Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images
As booze drinking declines in the West, companies are banking on cannabis-infused drinks and snacks to win the day. But the East is making a different bet.
What's happening: In China, the most popular alcohol is baijiu (白酒), a strong spirit made from fermented sorghum that raked in over $100 billion in sales last year. Compare that to whiskey and vodka, which earned about $40 billion each.