I’m sure you’ve heard the story of how gravity was ‘discovered’.
Isaac Newton was taking a bit of a breather, sitting beneath an apple tree, and contemplating the mysteries of the universe. Then, wack, he was hit by an apple. And lo and behold, he began to unravel the forces gravity.
This is, of course, a fantasised version of Newton’s research on gravity. Yet it’s one of the most famous stories in science.
There’s no doubt that Newton was a genius. Along with gravity, Newton is credited with laying the foundations for many other scientific and mathematical theories, such as the three laws of motion, and playing a major role in the invention of calculus.
His ideas would go on to influence such luminaries as Joseph-Louis Lagrange and Albert Einstein. Throughout history we have depended upon people like Newton to push society forward.
However, even Newton would be no match for a modern learning machine or artificial intelligence (AI) system.
While AI might seem like a relatively new concept, the idea of machines using reason dates back to 1300. Ramon Llull was a philosopher and logician far ahead of his time. While he lived from 1232 to 1315, and is considered a pioneer of computation theory. His idea of building a machine to solve problems by way of algorithms influenced various great thinkers.
One of those was Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who took Llull’s idea further. He invented a machine that could execute all four arithmetic operations. His machine was intended to perform operations on concepts rather than numbers using algorithms.
Of course we have come a long way since Leibniz’s machine.
AI now encompasses far more than you may think — from Google’s (Alphabet Inc. [NASDAQ:GOOGL]) search algorithms to International Business Machines’ [NYSE:IBM] Watson. This type of AI is designed for specific tasks, known as narrow or weak AI.
An example of narrow AI is a machine that only performs facial recognition, or one that’s limited to the functions needed to safely drive a car. The long term goal — developing general or strong AI — is yet to be achieved.
General AI would be able to do all the standard narrow tasks we’ve come to expect of smart machines — beating humans at chess or computing complex equations — while also outperforming humans at nearly every cognitive task you can imagine.
Not surprisingly, this issue attracts its fair share of critics. Your computer crashing or smartphone being hacked is not that big of an issue in the grand scheme of things. But it’s a different story when AI systems are driving your car, or indeed designing, building, and running your entire transportation network.
What happens if the AI system doesn’t do what you want it to? When it, perhaps, ‘knows’ better than to follow your instructions.
A number of science and technology titans have recently voiced their concerns about these risks. Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates are just a few among the concerned.
You see, until recently, it was believed that developing a true general AI was unachievable. Or at least that it was centuries still away.
But recent breakthroughs have sparked the thought of general AI in our lifetime. At the 2015 AI Safety Conference in Puerto Rico, AI researchers predicted that human-level AI would happen in 45 years instead of many centuries.
And you have to ask yourself, if the timeline was recently cut from hundreds of years to only 45, could that timeline be slashed again? To maybe just 20 years? I certainly wouldn’t rule that out.
But whether it’s 20 years or 45, as AI capabilities progress, the issues of verification, validity, security and control will become ever more important.
And regardless of the good or evil debate, AI systems have the potential do so much more than we can alone.
Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google Deepmind, says that if we can get it right ‘we can apply it to all sorts of things to make the world a better place’. The CTO of Facebook, Mike Schroepfer, expresses similar hopes, ‘The power of AI technology is it can solve problems that scale to the whole planet.’
AI systems used by the biggest and best
That type of global opportunity hasn’t escaped the notice of some of the biggest players in the industry.
Facebook Inc. [NASDAQ:FB], Google, Microsoft Corp [NASDAQ:MSFT], IBM and Amazon.com, Inc. [NASDAQ:AMZN] are all leading the way in AI developments.
In April this year, Facebook rolled out their new feature, VoiceOver. It uses narrow AI to give oral descriptions of FB photos for blind or visually impaired users.
Google’s AI program, AlphaGo, beat the reigning champion in the complex board game of Go in March of this year. This milestone was unthinkable just a few years ago.
Microsoft and IBM are competing furiously against each other. Both are trying to develop the next platform to establish industry dominance. And Amazon’s machines help businesses predict what consumers will buy before the consumers themselves may even know what they’re going to buy!
And, driven by falling costs and wider acceptance, all signs point to this trend only growing…fast. A 2015 report by Goldman Sachs states that we are ‘on the cusp of a period of more rapid growth in its [AI] use and application.’
But is the big US investment bank taking their own advice? According to Business Insider, Goldman Sachs is deeply invested in AI. And Goldman Sachs is not alone. AI is now a top priority for many senior bankers.
As an investor, should it be yours too?
In my opinion the answer is an unqualified ‘yes’. AI could be one of the biggest growth industries of the 21st century. Yet this doesn’t mean you can just invest in any stock involved with AI.
Picking the right stocks, especially tech stocks, isn’t easy. For every raging success story, there are numerous duds.
That’s where Port Phillip Publishing’s technology guru, Sam Volkering, comes in. Sam lives and breathes emerging tech.
A few months ago I was asked to assist Sam with his advisory service, Revolutionary Tech Investor . And in those few months I’ve learned more about which upcoming tech stocks to invest in — and, importantly, which ones to avoid — than I ever thought possible.
Sam’s already recommended multiple stocks which stand to profit for a booming AI industry. Just a few of these stocks have climbed 13.1%, 67.5% and 311.3%.
Of course not all of Sam’s picks are winners. The worst performer is down 14.7%. But his winners cover the losers many times over.
If you want to make the most from the huge potential in the artificial intelligence revolution, check out Sam’s service here.
Contributing Editor, Money Morning
From the Port Phillip Publishing Library
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