For a field that was not well known outside of academia a decade ago, artificial intelligence has grown dizzyingly fast. Tech companies from Silicon Valley to Beijing are betting everything on it, venture capitalists are pouring billions into research and development, and start-ups are being created on what seems like a daily basis. If our era is the next Industrial Revolution, as many claim, AI is surely one of its driving forces.
It is an especially exciting time for a researcher like me. When I was a graduate student in computer science in the early 2000s, computers were barely able to detect sharp edges in photographs, let alone recognize something as loosely defined as a human face. But thanks to the growth of big data, advances in algorithms like neural networks and an abundance of powerful computer hardware, something momentous has occurred: AI has gone from an academic niche to the leading differentiator in a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, health care, transportation and retail.
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