Why AI now?

Peter Coffee The current level of energy around the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) demands an answer to one simple question: What’s different this time?For literally half a century, AI seemed to be an ever-receding destination that was always “20 years from now.” In the 1960s and 1970s, optimism and expectations for human-level computer performance were high — and thought to be achievable by the mid-1980s — but there were disappointing shortfalls and financial returns were unimpressive. As reported by The Wall Street Journal in 1990: After swallowing up hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital, hundreds of AI start-ups have yielded only a few profitable public companies. Disgruntled investors and self-deprecating researchers redefined “AI” to mean “almost implemented.” Some call that period of disappointment “the first AI winter.” In…

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