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AI Businesses The Almighty Buck Technology

As AI Explodes, Investors Pour Big Bucks Into Startups (siliconangle.com) 139

Investment in AI startups is on a tear as venture capitalists and corporate investors scramble to stake out a leadership position in what could be the driving trend in technology for decades to come. From a report: The financial interest in AI, machine learning and related technologies is hardly new. CB Insights has tracked some $18.4 billion invested in 2,541 AI-related startups since 2012. But the trend is only accelerating. In the latest MoneyTree report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights, which showed otherwise mostly stagnant startup funding, AI and machine learning companies shined, reaching an eight-quarter high of $820 million invested in 90 companies. A flurry of significant investments in a number of AI-related companies this past week underscored the point. On Wednesday alone, for instance, AI-powered analytics software provider CognitiveScale raised a $15 million round, voice AI startup Snips raised $13 million and, to top it off, machine learning consultancy Element AI got an unusually large $102 million early-stage investment just eight months after the company was launched. Then on Thursday and Friday, two other AI-powered companies, Conviva and Codota, announced fundings too.
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As AI Explodes, Investors Pour Big Bucks Into Startups

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  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @10:06AM (#54647041)

    First, there is nothing besides weak AI (i.e. the "AI" with no "I", better called "automation"). Second, it is not "exploding". There have been no fundamental breakthroughs for quite a while. There have been gradual speed-improvements, but they are, well, gradual. The only thing that has been "exploding" is the hype about AI, i.e. this is nothing but a bubble of hot air.

    Of course some people will get rich from this, but there will be no fundamentally new products or services from this anytime soon.

    • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @10:18AM (#54647131) Homepage
      The exploding AI is the replacement for the blue screen of death.
      • by sycodon ( 149926 )

        Is "Explodes" a metaphor or a prescient description of the future under, "A.I."?

        • by creimer ( 824291 )

          Is "Explodes" a metaphor or a prescient description of the future under, "A.I."?

          I just finished re-reading "The Two Faces of Tomorrow," the first novel in "Cyber Rogue" [amzn.to] by James P. Hogan, one of my favorite SF stories from the early 1980's, where scientists set up an advanced AI to manage a space station and the military went to war to determine whether or not they could pull the plug if the AI determines that humans are a nuisance. The only thing that almost exploded was the nuclear bomb that the military installed just in case the AI went kablooey.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            You just posted that yesterday.

            https://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=10755649&cid=54644759

            Are you such a lazy fat asshole you copy/paste your Amazon spam here?

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by creimer ( 824291 )

              Are you such a lazy fat asshole you copy/paste your Amazon spam here?

              Since I have a Python script to pull my comment history from Slashdot, I've been copying and pasting relevant comments for several months now.

          • by sycodon ( 149926 )

            "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" [goodreads.com]

            Good read.

            • by creimer ( 824291 )

              "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"

              I've read many RAH novels but never got around to reading that one yet.

      • Even that would be an improvement over exploding batteries.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It doesn't matter whether or not these other people use the term "AI" in the same way that you do; you know what they're talking about: Advancements in machine-learning and neural-nets have created another opportunity for wealth creation and therefore investment.

      If you insist on being such a pedant, you'll miss out on this development, too, just like all the other lucrative developments that have flown over the heads of you Slashdotting fools. No matter, though; the world doesn't care that you leave yoursel

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        (Oh, but the way: You, too, are just an automation; at some point, automation becomes so complex that it is indistinguishable from "sentience".)

        You can spread your religion-surrogate crap somewhere else please. There is no scientific basis to your claim.

        • by ACE209 ( 1067276 )
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

          You probably don't have the time for the whole series but the first few minutes of the first should be enough.

          In the first lecture of this series, Prof. Sapolsky asks (among some other questions) who believes in free will.

          There seems to be a majority of people raising hands.

          He raises a finger and promises that that's gonna change. ;)

          Add to this, the fact that you are completely made of atoms. There is no evidence for any secret life-force so far.

          True, the final verdict on t

          • by gweihir ( 88907 )

            There is pretty strong evidence that we are hybrids. Quite a few things clearly run on automation, but some things do not. It takes an act of will to decide to "think about something" though and many people manage that only rarely. Of course, many people falsely assume that they are using free will all the time and even for trivial decisions, but that is just not true.

            The problem here is that there is no mechanism for consciousness on physics and there is no known mechanism that can produce the intelligence

            • In fact, after many decades of AI research, it looks like "strong AI" may actually not be possible physically in this universe.

              Check back after many centuries of research.
              Computer science is younger than many people alive today.
              When you can use clairvoyance to predict what their descendants a dozen generations from now will achieve,
              then you will have a reason for making such a baseless claim.

        • by ranton ( 36917 )

          (Oh, but the way: You, too, are just an automation; at some point, automation becomes so complex that it is indistinguishable from "sentience".)

          You can spread your religion-surrogate crap somewhere else please. There is no scientific basis to your claim.

          You appear to have it backwards. Nearly all if not all of our scientific knowledge points to humans being an automation just like any other robot, although much more complex and with fundamentally different hardware. Religion or religion-surrogates are the only source of belief to the contrary.

          • by gweihir ( 88907 )

            (Oh, but the way: You, too, are just an automation; at some point, automation becomes so complex that it is indistinguishable from "sentience".)

            You can spread your religion-surrogate crap somewhere else please. There is no scientific basis to your claim.

            You appear to have it backwards. Nearly all if not all of our scientific knowledge points to humans being an automation just like any other robot, although much more complex and with fundamentally different hardware. Religion or religion-surrogates are the only source of belief to the contrary.

            No, I do not. You are misinterpreting the Science. It actually says no such thing and the question is wide open. Now, I do not propose to put a "god" or any such nonsense in there (I am an atheist), but Physicalism is usually practiced and defended much the same way religion is. It is "obvious truth", and it assumes known Physics covers everything (when not even Physics makes such a claim and rather points out that it does not). People that do not buy it are accused of being religious (in the sense of "wron

            • by ranton ( 36917 )

              Except for the absence of a "god", Physicalism is religion. Similar variations of the religious meme have existed before, see, e.g. some variants of communism or national socialism. These are religions in all but name and about as well-funded on actual facts.

              Without a god or some form of metaphysical beliefs, you cannot classify something as a religion. You can describe it as a philosophy, belief system, etc. but not a religion. Physicalism is by definition not a religion because it does not consist of metaphysical or supernatural claims.

              Rather strong evidence to the contrary is completely ignored (the nature of consciousness is completely unknown, how intelligence works in a smart person is completely unknown and consciousness and real intelligence are _only_ observable together)

              Consciousness and intelligence variability provide no evidence for the existence of any force/substance/etc we have not yet been able to measure. The very fact we do not understand the mechanism behind consciousness makes it ev

              • by gweihir ( 88907 )

                Except for the absence of a "god", Physicalism is religion. Similar variations of the religious meme have existed before, see, e.g. some variants of communism or national socialism. These are religions in all but name and about as well-funded on actual facts.

                Without a god or some form of metaphysical beliefs, you cannot classify something as a religion. You can describe it as a philosophy, belief system, etc. but not a religion. Physicalism is by definition not a religion because it does not consist of metaphysical or supernatural claims.

                Of course I can. We can call is "quasi religion" or "religion surrogate", but it is basically the same thing. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it very likely is a duck, even if the color may be off.

                Rather strong evidence to the contrary is completely ignored (the nature of consciousness is completely unknown, how intelligence works in a smart person is completely unknown and consciousness and real intelligence are _only_ observable together)

                Consciousness and intelligence variability provide no evidence for the existence of any force/substance/etc we have not yet been able to measure. The very fact we do not understand the mechanism behind consciousness makes it evidence of nothing. If I don't understand something I surely cannot use it as evidence of something else. How one person can be smarter than another is no more mystical than how one person can be stronger than another, even though we don't yet know how to measure intelligence on a genetic / cellular / etc level. Every time society attributes mysticism to the boundaries of our scientific knowledge they have been wrong so far, so there is no reason to think it will be any different with consciousness.

                And wrong again. The very fact that we do not understand what consciousness is provides a very strong indicator that our current theories are incomplete. It does not indicate they just need to be extended among known lines, as you seem to assume.

                Right now science describes a world where humans are no different than another other complex system. We could surely find out we are wrong in the future, but nothing we can measure now suggests we are wrong.

                It does not. This is a belief, not something Science

                • It does not indicate they just need to be extended among known lines, as you seem to assume.

                  In the case of "known lines" being science, which of course is physical in nature (there's no such thing as non-physical evidence), yes we do have to extend along those lines.

                  An actual scientist does understand that.

                  How would you know?

            • Physicalism is usually practiced and defended much the same way religion is.

              Everything that benefits your life, including modern nutrition, medicine, transportation
              and the computer you are typing on, all derive from one source: science.

              Science, in turn, is based on evidence.
              Evidence is based on objective measurements.
              Measurements are necessarily physical in nature, because what would a "non-physical measurement" mean?

              So we have:
              No physicality -> no measurements.
              No measurements -> no evidence.
              No evidence -> no science.
              No science -> superstitious twits like you.

      • It's more like the news media doesn't use AI in the same way scientists use it:

        When the Media says "AI" they usually mean strong AI.
        When scientists say "AI", they usually mean weak AI.

        This confusion is why you get people like Bill Gates saying that AI is our biggest existential threat. The AI we're seeing today has nothing to do with existential threats. And if IBM tries to sell you Watson, it's just a marketing term, not the thing that won at Jeopardy.
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday June 19, 2017 @10:29AM (#54647209) Homepage

      There have been gradual speed-improvements, but they are, well, gradual.

      Even with gradual speed improvements, you may reach a speed that represents a tipping point, where these processes go from taking an unacceptably long amount of time to taking an acceptably long amount of time.

      When you hit a tipping point like that, usage and adoption might expand dramatically (even if not "explosively), regardless of whether there's been real innovation.

      • There's also Jevons' paradox; making an old thing cheaper often makes its usage explode rather than saving money for the same level of its usage.
    • Depends on what you call "fundamental". There are plenty of new ideas tried out. The number of research papers written on AI in the last couple of years eclipses all the papers that were written before that.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Useless metric. The actual scientific advancement from these papers is a tiny faction of what was known before. Science is unfortunately not immune to hypes, but they do not produce much advancement.

    • We announced the TPU last year and recently followed up with a detailed study of its performance and architecture. In short, we found that the TPU delivered 15–30X higher performance and 30–80X higher performance-per-watt than contemporary CPUs and GPUs.

      I think that counts as a bit more than "gradual" speed improvement. And that was just the first generation. They've already made significant improvements in the second generation (45 TFLOPS/chip)

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Actually, it is a _lot_ less of an improvement than it sounds and it has very limited scalability. All these algorithms have sub-linear performance and a factor of 10 or even 100 may not give you anything substantially better.

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      First, there is nothing besides weak AI (i.e. the "AI" with no "I", better called "automation"). Second, it is not "exploding". There have been no fundamental breakthroughs for quite a while. There have been gradual speed-improvements, but they are, well, gradual. The only thing that has been "exploding" is the hype about AI, i.e. this is nothing but a bubble of hot air.

      Investors investing in hype instead of actually understanding technology, no way! That's never happened before or has it? Pets.com sock puppet anyone?

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        That is why some will get rich (off other investors), even if there will not be any significant advances in products.

        • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

          That is why some will get rich (off other investors), even if there will not be any significant advances in products.

          You think the "other investors" care about any sort of progress? Most of those investors are like patent trolls so I don't see your statement as any sort of problem whatsoever. Sounds like business as usual to me.

    • Quite right, and it's gratifying to see that for once I'm not the first person to say what you're saying. What is 'exploding' is all the media hype, making technologically uninformed people think what they're erroneously calling 'artificial intelligence' is much much more than it actually is.
      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        That very much is it. Not the only hype going on, but one of the worst ones at the moment for sheer non-understanding.

        • Worse: I'm thinking there seems to be a segment of the population that not only believes the hype, but that are eager to have so-called 'AIs' take their jobs, because they want to push for Universal Basic Income (they also seem to be bad at basic math, by the way) so they can live for free and never have to work their whole lives. Of course all the above is sheer fantasy. Hell, I'd rather be living in a post-Federation of Planets Earth of the 24th century, too, but that's also pure fantasy.
          • by gweihir ( 88907 )

            Well, maybe. As to an UBI, it is certainly feasible financially in some countries and maybe in a lot more, as it basically is a simplification of the welfare system. The most serious problem with it is that many people will not be able to live well with not having a job. It gives meaning, substance and structure. I think we will see riots and massively increased mental health issues when UBIs are implemented carelessly. Ultimately, there really is no other choice I can see, as automation (not AI) will take

    • There have been plenty of real advances in the last few years, not just speed improvements. For me, the most impressive thing was Generative Adversarial Networks in 2014, but there have been plenty of advances. The most recent article I read was on Relational Reasoning https://www.technologyreview.c... [technologyreview.com] .

      Here as some more recent advances
      Turing Learning - https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ne... [sheffield.ac.uk]
      Evolution Strategies - https://www.technologyreview.c... [technologyreview.com]
      Bayesian Program Synthesis - https://techxplore.com/news [techxplore.com]
    • by Jawnn ( 445279 )
      This. It is neither exploding nor AI. What's widely being called AI is nothing more than "machine learning". Not the same thing. At. All.
  • Uh-huh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 19, 2017 @10:08AM (#54647049)

    Too bad 'AI' is just a fancy term for computing. :P This isn't any different than health startups or VR a few years ago, the rate at which VCs throw good money after bad chasing fads is insanity. in another few years it'll be something else, and AI will have been dropped like a hot rock by most of them. It's a new form of day trading: get in, profit off of the hype, get out. Though it lines their pockets nicely, it does nothing to help anyone or progress anything in a meaningful way, and it artificially inflates expectations. It could easily take the economy out again, eventually. The SEC is fast asleep.

  • Another AI Winter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @10:15AM (#54647111) Homepage
    Could this be the foreshadowing of another AI Winter? [wikipedia.org] I remember the AI Winter of the late 1980's and early 1990's. At that time, the hype was about some of the truly amazing things that could be done in Prolog like languages. Pattern matching. Deductive reasoning. Theorem provers. Computer Algebra Systems (CAS). And especially Expert Systems.

    The expectations got totally out of control. Wow! A knowledge expert could write a set of rules so that an expert system could predict who is a bad credit risk! Etc. Of course, modern statistical approaches might be much better at that. But I use it as an example of having too great of expectations.

    Like today, these modern statistical classifiers are amazing! But one day one of those statistical classifiers will mis-classify a pedestrian in front of a vehicle. Another possible way there could be wrong expectations is that both human beings and also managers might expect these systems to have some kind of insight or creativity. Or possibly deductive reasoning power (like the classic AI systems actually had, to a degree).
  • What's the connection between this and glug glub blub?

    They both sound like a bubble.

    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      A bubble is when your mother gives you stock tips for the latest technology startups. That's a good sign to get out of the market while fools are still rushing in.
  • Index fund idea is based on the wisdom of crowds. The mean value of a large number of independent predictions will be more correct than most of the individual predictions. The key is "independent". But with high frequency trades and very fast analysis independent AI systems might "sense" the phase differences and slowly synch themselves over time.

    At present active investors can't game index investors easily. The orders from traders for index funds get swamped out lost among the orders from actively managed fund traders. But with AI systems, it might learn to place a large buy order in a relatively thinly traded component of a large index, a few microseconds before selling a large lot of the index itself. How much to buy, how early to buy, what to buy, when to sell etc are not calculated deterministically by human traders. But AI might find the pattern and learn it.

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      a few microseconds before selling a large lot of the index itself.

      I've long thought this needs to be squashed. Sub-second trading granularity just isn't adding anything meaningful, but it causes crazy distorted and unfair trading practices. Something like shuffling transactions over a larger timescale that is more fair.

      • lol microseconds you say? People doing HFT spend top $$$ to have nanosecond benefit on their 10/25/40/100Gig network, colocated in the same room as NASDAQ/NYSE servers

      • Sub-second trading granularity just isn't adding anything meaningful, but it causes crazy distorted and unfair trading practices. Something like shuffling transactions over a larger timescale that is more fair.

        It's extremely hard to create a batch clearance protocol (say, once per minute) where you don't create an information hazard where firm A arranges to receive a vital public stock press release a 0.1 ms before the cutoff time, while it's competitor receives the same press release 0.1 ms after the cutof

        • I've so far only managed to come up with one proper solution: build a Ringworld.

          How about a 1% tax on each transaction? That would slow things down.

    • That's why the most successful machine learning algorithms use a combination of weak predictors to average to a good prediction ( Random Forest, XG Boost, ensemble learning, bagging and boosting in general, ...).
  • Compress AI or something :)
  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @10:39AM (#54647305)
    Seems to be the best application of AI yet.
  • Translation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kelanos ( 4973983 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @11:38AM (#54647791)

    Please fund our bubble

  • Same as Social Media Bubble.

  • by OhSoLaMeow ( 2536022 ) on Monday June 19, 2017 @06:23PM (#54650857)
    My AI is telling me that I should invest BIG bucks into AI startups.

    What could possibly go wrong?

After Goliath's defeat, giants ceased to command respect. - Freeman Dyson

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