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A lot of people are claiming that we are an at an inflection point, and machine learning/artificial intelligence will take off. This is inspite of the fact that for a long machine learning has stagnated.

What are the signals that indicate that machine learning is going to take off?

In general how do you know that we are at an inflection point for a certain technology?

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What are the signals that indicate that machine learning is going to take off?

We simply don't know until the consequences of the inflection point determine a remarkable difference between the before and after. In general terms every considerable reaction must be attributed to a particular cause.

One of the biggest limit that bounds artificial intelligence, and apparently makes it stagnating, is the greed of computational power involved in this field; and since the hardware technology improve much slower than the software does, AI remains confined in labs and data centers.

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This has happened in the past where people were really excited and saying things like we will have AI in decade or so. This is happening again. Not sure why people don't learn from history of AI. In both the cases what's happening is this - You develop a technique to solve a particular problem, you apply that technique, the technique seems to be general enough, people start to apply that same technique to various problems, people get excited that this is the silver bullet they were looking for, the technique starts to show its limitations and doesn't work for many problems, hype gets shattered, start over.

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  • $\begingroup$ The difference is: Current AI techniques actually make money. Of course it is still possible to overhype, but I don't think founding will dry up completely again. Now there is just way too much commercial value in AI. $\endgroup$ – BlindKungFuMaster Jan 14 '17 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ The old AI aka "Experts systems" also made money. Also the money making doesn't only depends on the technique but many other economic and business factors. Basically, how well can you sell :). $\endgroup$ – Ankur Jan 14 '17 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ I don't have the actual numbers, but I doubt the money made from expert systems is even remotely comparable to stuff like Siri, Cortana, speech recognition, face recognition, recommender systems, search engines etc. $\endgroup$ – BlindKungFuMaster Jan 14 '17 at 10:09
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    $\begingroup$ I think the question is rather: What exactly is called AI? Because as long as the successful techniques are called AI, money will probably be found for cutting edge AI research as well. $\endgroup$ – BlindKungFuMaster Jan 14 '17 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it is not comparable because of other various factors and not just the specific algorithms. Siri Cortana etc are just UI facade over some other systems $\endgroup$ – Ankur Jan 14 '17 at 10:15
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Part of the reason people are so excited about recent Machine Learning milestones is that AlphaGo demonstrated a reproducible method of managing mathematical and computational intractability.

Go is interesting because it's impossible to solve. It cannot be brute-forced no matter how fast processors get. Go is so complex humans had failed to produce AI that could win against a skilled human player. The fact that a computer could teach itself to do something humans couldn't teach it, and something with a complexity analogous to nature to boot, is pretty extraordinary.

Combinatorial games in particular are useful because, unlike nature where it may be impossible to track or even be aware of every variable, intractability can be generated out of a simple set of elements and rules, and outcomes can be definitively evaluated.

As proof-of-concepts for methods go, AlphaGo seems like a pretty strong one. It allows us to definitively say "Machine Learning works", puts a lot of emphasis on the field, and raises confidence on extending the method to real world problems.

Beyond that, it suggests a feedback loop in which programs can improve at at improving, unrestricted by human limitations. Increase in processing power is bounded by physical limitations, but algorithms are not.

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  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure its the AlphaGo. People have been claiming an inflection point in AI for a while now. Case in point: Steve Jurvetson on the famed DFJ ventures gave this talk about how big data and machine learning is going to take over the world. youtu.be/czLI3oLDe8M?t=658 perhaps when we think of inflection point, its not really a point in time, rather a period of years or decades when the pace of development accelerates year over year.. $\endgroup$ – alpha_989 Jan 19 '17 at 23:13
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps there is no one signal, but a collection of signals.. Perhaps we should be looking for signals that are accelerating.. AlphaGo is definitely a very good signal...is it a datapoint thats showing an acceleration over past data points? $\endgroup$ – alpha_989 Jan 19 '17 at 23:14

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