In a quest to understand why and where all the billions of dollars are being spent on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Charlie Rose and the CBS 60 Minutes team took us on a journey to a cancer hospital in North Carolina, Austin, Texas, and the Carnegie Mellon University robotics lab in Pittsburgh.
Governments, companies and universities are investing billions and their best minds into AI-related sciences and their efforts are beginning to pay off.
IBM is staking its future on Watson and its learning ability, particularly their deep learning which Rose characterized as "machines learning through experience, much like how humans do." Thus far IBM has invested $15 billion in this effort.
In a 1,000 person study of cancer cases done by Chappel Hill, NC cancer doctors, IBM's Watson concurred 99% of the time with the conclusions reached by the oncologist teams, however, in 30% of the cases Watson found a new treatment or trial that was more up-to-date and with a higher chance of successful outcome than the human teams had found.
More recently Watson has been trained to see and review scans and highlight what is normal and what isn't.
Asked to sum up what Watson is doing for his hospital and oncology department, Dr. Ned Sharpless, of the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center said, "Watson is a very comprehensive tool."
Not to be outdone, Baidu, China's biggest search engine, launched an AI-powered chatbot to connect with patients and doctors. The new bot is called Melody, the medical assistant.
Baidu is making this effort because they fear a global shortfall of almost 13 million health-care professionals within two decades, according to the World Health Organization.
"I don't know how else to solve this problem other than to use AI," said Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu Research; Co-Chairman and Co-Founder of Coursera; and an Adjunct Professor at Stanford University. "I'm seeing just the beginnings of what will be a major trend of AI systems in health care."
Baidu has built a 1,000-person team to work on AI, which Ng said is one of the company's top priorities. The app launched in China — the world's biggest smartphone market — along with doctor and health-care organization partners. The company is in talks with health-care organizations in the U.S. and Europe, said Ng.
The 60 Minutes team explored the campus’ robotics and artificial intelligence labs with former Google VP Andrew Moore, who now runs the Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. Moore says his goal is to nurture the next generation of computer scientists who could change the world through innovation.
“When you’re programming a robot, it’s like magic, and so the thing I tell middle schoolers is the closest thing to getting to go to Hogwarts is being able to do robotics and A.I.”
“The biggest problems of the world — terrorism, mass migration, climate change — when I look at these problems, I don’t feel helpless. I feel that this generation of young computer scientists is actually building technology to put the world right.”
Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is the intelligence of a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can. It is a primary goal of artificial intelligence research and an important topic for science fiction writers and futurists. Charlie Rose interviewed David Hansen and his new Sophia robot during a South by Southwest event in Austin, TX during which one can see the present state of the art in artificial general intelligence. Sophia misses cues, makes inappropriate responses and can't really carry on a conversation - but that's not to say that researchers like Hansen aren't well on their way to writing code that can learn and write its own code predicated on what it learned (and never forgets).
Most mainstream AI researchers doubt that progress will be as rapid as the timeline suggested by Ray Kurzweil in his book "The Singularity is Near." He predicts AGI will become available sometime between 2025 and 2045. But the race is on and fueled by the billions of dollars of investment being spent worldwide and the talent grab for the smartest teams of scientiests and their companies to make real AGI happen.