There is a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence (Al). If you are working in the technology industry no doubt you have heard about Artificial Intelligence or Cognitive computing , Machine learning and so on . And even if you have not heard about it you most likely are using AI already.

Is this another hype which will fail to deliver on all the promises?  AI has seen its bubbles before. Some may remember the rise of expert systems in the early 80s which was the name for AI solutions back then. The promises were high as was the stock valuation of the leading companies . Expert systems seemed to  the future but in the mid 80’s the bubble busted. The software could not deliver on expectations . So do we see another AI  bubble today ? I don’t think so. There are fundament differences and I believe AI or cognitive computing is here to stay. And not only that, it will fundamentally change our life.

So what has changed? There is the availability of computing power. In the last few years technologies like cloud computing have made computing power ubiquitous and there is basically not limit. Thanks to Moore’s law which is still going strong the power we have at hand today is so much higher than even 5 years ago – not even talking about the 80s. Even more important for the development of AI is the availability of data. For AI systems to work (and learn) the availability of large data sets is a key requirements. In the 80s this was very limited (most of the time only a few experts provided data). Today we have massive data sets available  in many areas. Internet and the data warehouses , personal and corporate data, electronic books and records, sensor data, and so on. All this data can be used to train AI systems. And it is growing exponentially. Last but not least the software has improved as well. We now have neural networks with multiple layers allowing computers to win against humans in chess, IBM Watson to win Jeopardy against the all time champions and most recently Google Deepmind has beaten the world champion in Go. Many of us use AI based systems on our smartphones and devices (think Siri or Alexa for example) today.

As with all new technologies there is uncertainty and fear. There is hype and overpromises. But AI is here to stay. It will influence our future as no technology.  I believe it is very important for all of us to better understand what AI is all about. No matter if you are working in IT or not. With all the opportunities AI will open up there also comes risk. There are already a lot discussions going on if AI will be destroying our jobs , our societies or even ourselves. These are serious topics. There will be massive changes coming to us, be it in our companies, our personal life’s or our society. We need discussions on all levels (private, in companies and countries and globally) to address these challenges.  Therefore education about the AI technologies, the opportunities and risks that come with it, the consequences for private and public life is critical.

I am working in the IT industry for over 20 years so may be I am one of the expert who don’t see the bubble. Many bubbles have not been foreseen by experts. Just think about the last financial crisis or the bubble in the early 2000 s. In many cases experts are really bad to see bubbles or negative developments in their field of expertise. Confirmation  bias is one of the reasons – you just look at facts and information which confirms your view. And ignore other facts.

This is why I will use my sabbatical to focus on AI and learn more about it. I am still employed by IBM which is one of the leading companies in this industry. But I am not taking a specific point of view. I want to look at AI from all the various perspectives. And I will share my thoughts and findings through my blog and social media like LinkedIn and Twitter. This will always be my personal perspective – not the one of my employer.

May be it will help others to learn more about AI as well.