"There may be yet another AI winter, and perhaps even a full scale tech winter, just around the corner."
Winter Is Coming
Famed roboticist Rodney Brooks, who co-founded the company iRobot — which invented the Roomba — has been keeping score on the AI industry. And from where he's standing, the near future of AI isn't looking too hot, in spite of its countless hype men who he says are due a harsh reality check.
In his latest annual Predictions Scorecard on the tech sector, the former director of MIT's AI and computer labs warns that despite its unprecedented levels of success, the AI industry is merely "following a well worn hype cycle that we have seen again, and again, during the 60+ year history of AI."
More than likely, Brooks avers, advancements in the field will stagnate for many dark years before reaching the next huge breakthrough. That dry spell could make for quite a calamitous comedown for an industry that's supposedly on track to be worth over $1 trillion by the next decade.
"Get your thick coats now," Brooks wrote in his scorecard, as quoted by The Los Angeles Times. "There may be yet another AI winter, and perhaps even a full scale tech winter, just around the corner. And it is going to be cold."
Brooks made his original predictions on technological advancements as such: as happening by a specified year, as happening no earlier than a specified year, and "Not In My Lifetime" (NIML) meaning not before 2050. Then with each year that passes, he judges these as accurate, too pessimistic, or too optimistic.
Often, his wagers are on the money. As the LA Times notes, Brooks predicted back in 2018 that the "next big thing" in AI would happen sometime between 2023 and 2027. The rise of large language models like OpenAI's ChatGPT turned out to fit that bill perfectly, with practically every leader in tech trying to capitalize on the trend with smart chatbots of their own that have garnered their creators billions of dollars in investment.
But going forward, Brooks takes a more measured stance. The next next-big-thing, often framed as artificial general intelligence and hyped up by industry heads as being imminent, is in Brook's opinion a resounding "NIML."
In fact, he's skeptical that we'll even be able to create "a robot that seems as intelligent, as attentive, and as faithful as a dog" before 2048.
"This is so much harder than most people imagine it to be," he wrote, as quoted by the LA Times. "Many think we are already there; I say we are not at all there."
Still, Brooks isn't saying the AI industry is doomed, mind you, but that such ambitious technological advancements take time — and a lot of it. Whether the industry's financial backers are ready to hunk down and play the long game, though, is more dubious.
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