(Forbes) Artificial intelligence is the most transformative business trend in the world today. Hold on, you say—AI is not a new idea. In the 1940s the great mathematician and code breaker Alan Turing predicted that digital computers in the future would be capable of logical reasoning. Commercial interest in AI began in the 1960s and waxed and waned over the next several decades.
Why is AI a big deal now? Partly, it’s because of the rapid advances in computer and communications hardware, says Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, a provider of cloud computing solutions based in Palo Alto, California. Gelsinger knows hardware. In the 2000s he was the chief technology officer at Intel.
“The faster pace of change in AI today is because you now have data at scale and computing at scale,” he says. Data at scale, he says, comes from the 30 billion or so computerized sensors in the world that are constantly gathering information. Computing at scale comes from cheap rentable supercomputers offered by Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Alibaba and others.
These, along with the coming 5G wireless speeds, are superpowers, says Gelsinger. If your company doesn’t tap into these powers, your competitor will. CEOs and boards, take note. Stop relegating your company’s IT challenges to a 30-minute discussion within the audit committee. The superpowers that drive AI will accelerate business evolution.
Imagine two rival companies: A and B. Company A has invested in AI across its organization, at times a painstaking process, and is getting 10% smarter per year. That’s 10% smarter about its customers, its opportunities, its costs and its risks. Company B, which is old school and run by penny pinchers, thinks technology is a commodity and not a strategic weapon. Company B’s cheap approach saves money, but at a steep cost. Company B is only getting 2% smarter per year. Which company do you want to be?
This begs the question: Which countries are ahead in AI? The question often comes up these days at highest levels of governments around the world. I asked Silicon Valley venture capitalist Jim Breyer, who is an investment advisor in IDG’s China funds, which has about 200 investments in China, including some of the country’s most interesting AI companies, for his opinion.
“The innovation in China is extraordinary,” Breyer says. “There really is a space-like race going on in AI between the U.S. and China. Both have deep capabilities. There are areas in China where some of the facial-recognition AI companies are the most advanced in the world. There are other technologies in the U.S., such as IoT and machine learning, where AI is more advanced. But it is a race.” In coming columns I will write about the Silicon Valley-Asia connection, and why—whether you are a CEO, entrepreneur or investor—you’ll fall behind quickly if you don’t tap into this amazing pipeline of innovation.