Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Artificial intelligence — already a much-discussed science in recent years — moved to the center of public conversation in 2017. Leading tech voices continued to ring the alarm about the potential for a super-intelligent bot to take over the world in a very unpleasant way; others said the fears are vastly exaggerated. The latter gained more converts, namely because AI is nowhere near super-human intelligence at the moment.

We surveyed the community asking the following question: What was the most important AI story of 2017? Their answers follow.

Rodney Brooks, founder, Rethink Robotics

My most important AI story for 2017 is an advertisement I saw on broadcast TV on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, during an NFL game. It was an ad by the NFL saying that it is now using machine learning to reveal insights for fans. The end of the ad showed that the NFL is hosting its ML on AWS (Amazon Web Services). Here is a story about this effort from three weeks ago. The significance is that the hype about ML/AI is now so widespread that it is expected to have a cachet impact on NFL fans.

Andrew Ng, CEO, Landing.AI

AlphaGo demonstrated the power of computing and data. But Carnegie Mellon's Libratus, its poker-playing program, took much more innovation. From a technical standpoint, it was a delightfully surprising result.

Andrew Moore, dean, Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science

The victory of the Libratus AI over four top professional poker players. This victory in no-limit Texas Hold 'em heralds a new kind of game in which the AI has to take into account that its opponent might be deliberately misleading. In a world of increasing scrutiny of what information is real or unreal, it is amazing that we are seeing the emergence of a new generation of AI that is more skeptical about raw facts.

Geoffrey Hinton, University of Toronto

I think that 2017 saw a lot of progress on many fronts but there wasn't a breakthrough as spectacular, for example, as the use of neural nets for machine translation in 2014 or AlphaGo in 2016.The most impressive advances, in my opinion, were the following:Neural architecture search: This uses neural networks to automate the black art of designing neural networks, and it's beginning to work. Machine translation that uses attention to avoid the need for recurrence or convolutions.Alpha-zero for chess: This quickly learns to play chess in the style of a person but at a level well beyond the best chess engines.

Greg Diamos, senior researcher, Baidu

This year I was extremely impressed by the team of researchers at Stanford University who developed the first AI radiologists, which can detect heart arrhythmias and better inform human doctors. I think medical applications of AI will be very visible and surprising to many people as technology develops.

Azeem Azhar, founder Peer Index, curator The Exponential View

I would choose two works that looked at the question of the responsible implementation of AI. Both help us to tackle all-too-easy-to-ignore downsides of this powerful technology.

  • The first was a talk by Kate Crawford (of Microsoft Research), who described how machine learning algorithms can go wrong, reinforcing and amplifying existing prejudices.
  • The second is a paper by Adrian Weller (of the University of Cambridge), on building algorithmic systems that map to our intuitions of fairness. It is essential that we manage the downsides addressed by Kate and Adrian in order to spur the acceptance of the tech.
Terah Lyons, executive director, Partnership on AI

This year has brought us a series of heart-wrenching, watershed moments of understanding about marginalization. Kristian Lum's recent personal account of appalling behavior experienced at the hands of machine-learning colleagues was one of many such wake-up calls, which should make apparent to the AI field that the diversity issue is not a sideshow.The rampant and pernicious sexism of the technology industry has catastrophic ramifications in AI — not least of which because the disastrous consequences of exclusionary design bring with them a whole host of other issues when the technology so easily has the potential to amplify and perpetuate the very worst of human biases.It is incumbent upon all of us to prioritize inclusion as a primary principle of innovation, especially in a field with such potential to bring tremendous benefits. Of all of the grand challenges that the AI field attempts to tackle in 2018, inclusion needs to be number one.Been Kim, research scientist, Google Brain

The biggest trend that I welcomed this year was overwhelming interest on the topic of interpretability, meaning a method that can help humans understand an AI model's answers.

This year, the International Conference on Machine Learning invited its first tutorial on interpretability, as well as two related workshops. At the 2017 NIPS conference, there were also a couple of oral presentations on interpretability in addition to a symposium and two workshops. The trend seems to continue to next year — the CVPR conference is holding tutorials on interpretability, as well as the FATML conference.

Richard Socher, chief scientist, Salesforce

Perhaps the most important theme of 2017 came at the NIPS conference, earlier this month. Ethics was a core theme amongst the impressive innovation coming from the research community, serving as an important reminder to everyone that the success of AI depends on core values of trust, transparency and equality.

Alison Snyder contributed reporting to this post.

Note: this post has been updated with Geoffrey Hinton's contribution.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

Cedric Richmond: We won't wait on GOP for "insufficient" stimulus

Top Biden adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" the White House believes it has bipartisan support for a stimulus bill outside the Beltway.

  • "If our choice is to wait and go bipartisan with an insufficient package, we are not going to do that."

The big picture: The bill will likely undergo an overhaul in the Senate after House Democrats narrowly passed a stimulus bill this weekend, reports Axios' Kadia Goba.