In 1997, Garry Kasparov sat down to face his opponent. Kasparov had climbed to the top of the ladder in chess. He became the youngest undisputed World Chess Champion in 1985. When he was only 22 years old he was beating Chess Grandmasters who had a lifetime of experience.
Kasparov is one of the greatest Chess Grandmasters of all time. But in 1997, when he sat down at the chess board, he was nervous to face his opponent. He had never faced them, or should I say it, before.
Across from Garry was Deep Blue, a computer created by International Business Machines [NYSE:IBM]. You may remember their historic match. It was the first defeat of a reigning world chess champion by a computer under tournament conditions.
Fast-forward to March 2016, and you find Lee Sedol, 18-time Go World Champion, in much the same situation. He lost to AlphaGo, an AI created by Alphabet Inc. [NASDAQ:GOOGL]. Sedol’s defeat was a huge milestone in for AI technology. The complex Chinese board game Go had long been thought impossible for computers to crack.
In both situations, though, Kasparov and Sedol weren’t defeated by true AI. They were both defeated by weak AI, also known as narrow AI. It’s called narrow because the range of tasks which the AI system can do are narrow. For example, beating humans at chess or in the game of Go. The computers who won those victories were designed to do exactly that; they can’t adapt to other tasks, the way the humans that they beat could.
Now you’ve probably heard the term ‘AI’ being used a lot. Tech companies will use it to describe their system. The media might use it describe some new technology. Yet, in my experience, more than half of the time, they’re wrong. A system consisting of a machine that performs one task is not AI.
Some companies will even call their technology ‘true AI’. And this is even further from the truth. When I inspect these claims further, it’s obvious they don’t even know the meaning of the word.
It’s no surprise companies want their tech to seem bigger and better to investors. But overusing buzzwords desensitises people when we next hear them. Words like ‘AI’ or ‘disruptive’ no longer carry the same weight they did before.
The end result does a real disservice to tech companies who are revolutionary. There is no doubt in my mind that AI will be one of the biggest game changers in my lifetime. Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu Inc. [NASDAQ:BIDU] has talked about AI as, ‘The new electricity. Electricity has transformed countless industries; AI will now do the same.’
But the question still remains, what really is true AI?
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Weak versus strong
Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank, summarised weak AI as follows:
‘When you call the bank and talk to an automated voice you are probably talking to an AI…just a very annoying one. Our world is full of these limited AI programs which we classify as “weak” or “narrow” or “applied”. These programs are far from the sentient, love-seeking, angst-ridden artificial intelligences we see in science fiction, but that’s temporary. All these narrow AIs are like the amino acids in the primordial ooze of the Earth.’
If you were to give a task to a weak AI that was outside of its scope, it wouldn’t know what to do.
True AI, or the AI you might see in science-fiction, is strong AI. An AI system would be considered strong if it had the same intellectual capacity as we do. But it, of course, is equipped with more memory and a lightning-fast thought process.
You might already be able to see the gulf between strong and weak AI.
Imagine giving any problem, no matter how vague, to an AI system and getting back a logical, well thought out answer. You could ask it to solve a complex mathematical problem. Or you could ask a spiritual question you’ve always wanted to know the answer to.
I would be interested in asking about the meaning of life. Hopefully the answer back wouldn’t be ‘42’.
Another fascinating concept is to ask a strong AI system is to build a more sophisticated machine than itself. If this process works, our technological progress would expand exponentially.
Right now, strong AI may seem like a far off dream. But there are companies working towards making true AI a reality.
Shaping the future isn’t just for giants
You probably already know who some of the biggest investors in AI are. Google, Apple Inc. [NASDAQ:AAPL], Microsoft Corp [NASDAQ:MSFT] and Facebook, Inc. [NASDAQ:FB] all pour hundreds of millions into AI developments.
While these tech giants are great companies, they’re unlikely to deliver you outstanding gains. They’re big, well-established, and I believe the serious growth isn’t there. You’d be lucky to achieve returns in the high double digits in years of investing in the four companies above.
Now that’s not bad, if they can indeed deliver that level of growth. And if ‘not bad’ is what you’re after, you might want to consider these tech giants. But if you’re after something more, a way you can potentially earn triple digit returns on just one investment, and in months instead of years…I suggest you think smaller.
Smaller companies developing AI systems have aggressive growth potential. As do many companies who pursue revolutionary technologies. Investing in revolutionary tech companies isn’t without risk. But they can potentially earn you 400% or more. This is what tech guru Sam Volkering is constantly on the look-out for in his advisory service, Revolutionary Tech Investor. He’s a man on a mission to find revolutionary companies, before they become the next Apple or Microsoft.
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Contributing Editor, Money Morning
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