Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, at Davos 2017

Artificial intelligence takes centre stage at World Economic Forum

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, at Davos 2017
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, at Davos 2017

In a number of talks and statements at this year’s World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland, artificial intelligence has been taking centre stage, with many saying that while no one really knows the limit of the technology, it has already had profound effects on business and society.

One of Google’s original founders, Sergey Brin, said he looked at AI a few years back, and didn’t really know AI would develop to the extent it has done.

“I didn’t pay attention to it at all, to be perfectly honest,” he said in a discussion at WEF. “Having been trained as a computer scientist in the 90s, everybody knew that AI didn’t work. People tried it, they tried neural nets and none of it worked.” 

But now both he and his colleagues at Google recognise that it “touches every single one of our main projects, ranging from search to photos to ads … everything we do … the revolution in deep nets has been very profound, it definitely surprised me, even though I was sitting right there”.

Brin added that he, like most people, doesn’t know the limit of AI’s capabilities. “What can these things do? We don’t really know the limits. It has incredible possibilities. I think it’s impossible to forecast accurately.”

In another contribution on the subject, Gina Rometty, CEO of IBM, said AI would help mankind, even though it is likely to mean the end of many jobs.

Rometty said: “It’s not man or machine. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Our purpose is to augment and be in service of what humans do.”

She added: “There’s so much fear about jobs. But most of us will be working with these systems.”

Rometty talked about IBM’s Watson AI engine was proving itself useful in many fields of business and industry, particularly the health sector.

Meanwhile, Infosys, another computer technology giant who is deeply immersed in AI released a thorough report into the economic impact of the AI systems.

Essentially, Infosys concludes AI is driving revenue growth for many businesses worldwide.