Updates from Chicago Booth

The robots are coming, and that’s (mostly) a good thing
By Nicholas Polson and James Scott – We teach data science to hundreds of students per year, and they’re all fascinated by artificial intelligence. And they ask great questions.

How does a car learn to drive itself?

How does Alexa understand what I’m saying?

How does Spotify pick such good playlists for me?

How does Facebook recognize my friends in the photos I upload?

These students realize that AI isn’t some sci-fi droid from the future; it’s right here, right now, and it’s changing the world one smartphone at a time. They all want to understand it, and they all want to be a part of it.

And our students aren’t the only ones enthusiastic about AI. They’re joined in their exaltation by the world’s largest companies—from Amazon, Facebook, and Google in America to Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba in China.

As you may have heard, these big tech firms are waging an expensive global arms race for AI talent, which they judge to be essential to their future.

Yet while this arms race is real, we think there’s a much more powerful trend at work in AI today—a trend of diffusion and dissemination, rather than concentration. Yes, every big tech company is trying to hoard math and coding talent. But at the same time, the underlying technologies and ideas behind AI are spreading with extraordinary speed: to smaller companies, to other parts of the economy, to hobbyists and coders and scientists and researchers everywhere in the world.

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That democratizing trend, more than anything else, is what has our students today so excited, as they contemplate a vast range of problems practically begging for good AI solutions. more>

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