Don’t be sucked in by AI’s head-spinning hype cycles

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The last year was a roller coaster ride in the AI world, and no doubt many people are dizzied by the number of advances and reversals, the constant hype and equally constant fearmongering. But let’s take a step back: AI is a powerful and promising new technology, but the conversation isn’t always genuine, and it’s generating more heat than light.

AI is interesting to everyone from PhDs to grade school kids for good reason. Not every new technology both makes us question the fundamental natures of human intelligence and creativity, and lets us generate an infinite variety of dinosaurs battling with lasers.

This broad appeal means the debate over what AI is, isn’t, might or mustn’t be has spread from trade conferences like NeurIPS to specialist publications like this one, to the front page of impulse-purchase news mags at the grocery store. The threat and/or promise of AI (in a general sense, which lack of specificity is part of the problem) has become a household topic seemingly overnight.

On the one hand, must be validating for researchers and engineers who have toiled in relative obscurity for decades on what they feel is an important technology to see it so widely considered and remarked upon. But like the neuroscientist whose paper results in a headline like “Scientists have located the exact center of love,” or the physicist whose ironically-named “god particle” leads to a theological debate, it surely must also be frustrating to have one’s work bounced around among the hoi polloi (that is, unscrupulous pundits, not innocent lay persons) like a beach ball.