Circa 2011, a bold Wall Street Journal article by Marc Andreessen stormed the internet. Based on certain events at the time, he claimed that “software was eating the world.” GAFA (and others) were shifting their focus to software; it was an era known as the ‘Rise of Software’ as Silicon Valley disrupters emerged to derail traditional businesses.
The uprising of never-before-seen revolutionaries such as Airbnb and Uber certainly shook things up. Airbnb went on to become twice as valuable as Hilton sometime last year — without owning a single property! Traditional tangibles be damned! Software seemed a more powerful entity than ever before. Hence, software’s ravenous apetite became synonymous with tech.
For a brief stint afterwards, it seemed that mobile was going to be the new black hole that was going to consume us all. And, it rightly did for a while as PC sales teetered and mobile sales skyrocketed.
That is until AI’s emergence.
The Deep-Learning Breakthrough
AI or machine intelligence had existed in various forms for decades but there were always some niggling problems. The technology wasn’t seamless and it reported high error rates. Its redefining moment came about when Professor Geoffrey Hinton’s neural network or deep learning research came into the fray.
The premise for deep learning is that intelligent machines, instead of just being programmed to do a task step by step, can sift through vast amounts of digital data and use its neural nets to teach itself. It does so by recognizing patterns, categorizing data, and adjusting to its mistakes. It can then go on to make accurate predictions and suggestions.
Sounds familiar? Because that’s the plot of many Hollywood sci-fi dystopian movies. We have reached that point in time when real-life has started to imitate outlandish science fiction!
As Hinton’s findings were adopted by tech giants such as Google and Microsoft, programmers realized the error of their previous ways. There was no code to teach machines since they were capable of learning through trial-and-error (much like toddlers).
From Software to AI-First
As AI trickled down into the software companies, it became an integral part of the whole process and its implications were vast. Not only could it be used in Google Translate but also in Google Search (through RankBrain), Google Maps, etc.
If he hadn’t made it clear enough last year, then CEO Sundar Pichai made it abundantly so at the Google I/O conference this year when he stipulated that his company was now an AI-first one.
Pichai stated that Google was transitioning from a search-first to an AI-first company.
For some outsiders, Pichai’s statements might have seemed unprecedented, but in fact Silicon Valley had been cultivating AI’s true potential for the last few years.
In Q1 2017 alone, tech giants acquired roughly 34 AI startups — a number that is twice the figure from 2016. Google leads these acquisitions with 11 — followed closely by Apple, Facebook and Intel.
Overshadowing Software: AI’s Deployment
Thus, this new-age AI, or AI 2.0, has gone from development to deployment at alarming speed. The number of software developers following the leading AI frameworks on the GitHub open-source software repository has grown to more than 75,000 from fewer than 5,000 over the past two years.
Because of deep-learning’s far-reaching abilities, autonomous machines are more viable today than ever before. This has given rise to the phenonmenon known as the IoT, making the modern home the new stomping ground for connected devices.
In essence, expect billions, perhaps trillions, of devices powered by AI.
Anthropomorphizing AI and Beyond
The major caveat with AI is that engineers don’t fully understand how neural networks work.
The neural network, so named, approximates the “web of neurons in the human brain.” Scientists and skeptics are wise to regard this vague science with some level of suspicion which is why companies have taken to humanizing their intelligent machines.
The trend is to christen AI products with humane names such as: Cortana, Alexa, Watson, etc. The choice to make machines seem ‘sentient’ is quite the marketing coup and it seems to keep AI-detractors at bay for now.
Not only did AI bring about a marketing innovation, it has even ruffled some feathers from unexpected corners of commerce. Traditional industries have decided to band-wagon on its tide as auto-makers such as Porsche and Ford have both invested in AI. Toyota has announced plans to collaborate with NVIDIA, a company that is well suited to benefit from AI’s insurgence with its GPU chips.
Israel’s Crucial Role in AI
Israel spends more on research and development as a share of its domestic resources than any other developed country thus Israel is one of the most innovative countries in the world. And, outside of the US, it is currently leading in the development of AI applications.
It houses three of the top-50 AI companies in the world: Logz.io, Voyager Labs and Zebra Medical Vision — all of which pioneer life-saving or life-altering technology. To top it off, Israel is only one of six countries that is involved with AI at all.
Thus, the success of its AI startups is highly anticipated. Most of its promising startups have broken new records of performance and returns in the last few years, and when given a level-playing field, some of its unicorns have outperformed its US-based start-up counterparts.
This “level-playing field” is the North American market. When given the chance to scale-up their operations in the United States, Israeli startups have always flourished. This roughly means that cooperation with the US and entry into the North American market are both crucial elements in the Israeli #scaleupnation transformation and the advancement of AI.
As the battle for AI intensifies, we at Governing Dynamics recognize its true potential. We have all encountered disruptive AI in our quotidian and in our professional lives. That is why there is no denying that AI is the single biggest development in recent time which will alter life as we know it. We also believe in the immense potential of Israeli AI.
That is why, our manifesto at GD is: “to help Israeli growth companies — in AI, cybersecurity, biotech and other high-tech industries — to scale in the United States.”