Will an AI Bubble Be the Next Dot-Com Bubble?

December 29, 2017      

Is China facing an AI bubble? What do a robot torchbearer or drone deliveries mean for the future of work? On the bright side, your car could soon get smart enough to entertain you or let you telecommute once you take your hands off the wheel.

Robotics Business Review has partnered with Center for Innovating the Future to provide its members with cutting-edge insights into recent developments in international robotics, artificial intelligence, and unmanned systems. Are you ready to be updated?

Robotic volunteers carry the Olympic torch in South Korea

During the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, 85 robots, including a humanoid robot named HUBO, will act as “volunteers.”

DARPA Robotics Challenge winner (and past RoboBusiness attendee) HUBO has already participated in the torch relay. The other robots will help with art on walls, delivering goods, fishing, and more. They will also be able to speak multiple languages, including Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, and English.

While South Korea’s robotic volunteers are a powerful example of technical advances, they’re also another sign of how humans need to prepare for increasing automation. Yesterday, people would have done tasks such as carrying the Olympic torch. Tomorrow, they will go to robots and AI.

Nations have to begin thinking about the parts of society, like these volunteers or truck drivers, whose jobs are at risk from automation. Even if these jobs don’t pay money or require advanced education, they could provide other benefits that people will fear losing, like a social network, entry-level positions, or pride in their careers.

AI assistants arrive for cars

Starting in 2019, Hyundai and Kia will offer AI assistants in their vehicles. These “Intelligent Personal Assistants” will be able to give recommendations about where to go and could go so far as to communicate with smart homes or even tell the news to drivers and passengers.

The next business opportunity for apps and services is no longer the TV screen or smartphones. It’s smart cars, and soon, self-driving vehicles. As people spend less time actually driving, they will have extra time to spend doing other things. Whether this means watching movies, buying groceries, paying bills, or remotely working, a new opportunity is on the horizon for businesses. The rush to take advantage of these opportunities could be part of what’s building the AI bubble described below.

Drone healthcare takes off

In an interview, the CEO of Zipline made several noteworthy remarks. The San Francisco-based drone company has delivered blood supplies by aerial drones in Rwanda and Tanzania.

Keller Rinaudo told TechCrunch that if Zipline were to launch in the U.S., it would need only 20 distribution centers to cover 70% to 80% of the population, which might take as little as six to eight months.

He also said that doctors are becoming reliant on these drones, something which I termed “drone dependency.”

Drone dependency is something I have talked about in depth in my book, Next Geopolitics: The Future of World Affairs (Technology) Volume One. I specifically talk about what Zipline is doing in Rwanda. As the country becomes more dependent on drones for healthcare (and possibly other areas in the future), Rwanda will face chaos if these drones shut off, creating a new kind of geopolitical risk.

New York explores algorithms

A bill, expected to be signed by the end of 2018 by New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, would start the process of using algorithms in local courts. The bill itself revolves around setting up a “task force” to understand the risks created by using AI in legal proceedings, such as racial bias. At the same time, the bill will look for how residents can dispute an algorithm’s rulings.

As cities and nations deploy AI in various settings, including courts, border security, finance and more, bias will naturally exist.

What programmers, policy makers, and other people involved in AI need to understand is that AI will never be bias-free. Even when AI creates AI, it will house bias from the original human programmer, or the AI may develop its own, new bias based on the way it is learning. This means that governments shouldn’t just try to reduce bias, but they should also find ways to work around it because the issue is unlikely to go away.

AI bubble rises in China

Well-connected observers in China’s artificial intelligence scene are warning that many companies could face bankruptcy in 2018 because they have no long-term vision. This is creating fears of an AI bubble. Venture capitalists raised $10.2 billion (U.S.) for Chinese AI firms between July and September of this year.

Robotics usually makes headlines for its accomplishments or for fears around automation replacing jobs or killer robots. But another risk exists as well: Many companies are simply entering the market to take advantage of the “business wave” robotics/AI is generating.

This doesn’t just put these companies at risk of bankruptcy; it also puts the sector as a whole at risk. While people in China are warning about an AI bubble, the truth is that bubbles likely exist in every robot capital, from Silicon Valley to Germany to South Korea. As robotics grows into a core pillar of economies, could the next dot-com bubble be a robot bubble?

Here’s a video where I talk about the emergence of robot rights and freedoms in societies around the world. If you’re in a business or government, are you thinking about what robot rights and freedoms mean for you?