Why firms are piling into artificial intelligence

SOMETIMES it is perceived as a figment of the far future. But artificial intelligence (AI) is today’s great obsession in Silicon Valley. Last year technology companies spent $8.5 billion on deals and investments in artificial intelligence, four times more than in 2010. Nearly all of the world’s technology giants, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and Baidu, are competing fiercely to hire the best AI experts, snap up start-ups and pour money into research. What accounts for the tech elite’s sudden AI-phoria? The technology has not always been so popular. The field was largely ignored and underfunded during the “AI winter” of the 1980s and 1990s. At that time AI research conducted at universities proved to be disappointingly slow and irrelevant to companies’ bottom lines. Now, however, the chill is gone.…


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