The quest to give machines human-level intelligence has been around for decades, and it has captured imaginations for far longer — think of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the 19th century. Artificial intelligence, or AI, was born in the 1950s, with boom cycles leading to busts as scientists failed time and again to make machines act and think like the human brain. But this time could be different because of a major breakthrough — deep learning, where data structures are set up like the brain’s neural network to let computers learn on their own. Together with advances in computing power and scale, AI is making big strides today like never before.
Frank Chen, a partner specializing in AI at top venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, makes a case that AI could be entering a golden age. Knowledge@Wharton caught up with him at the recent AI Frontiers conference in Silicon Valley to talk about the state of AI, what’s realistic and what’s hype about the technology, and whether we will ever get to what some consider the Holy Grail of AI — when machines will achieve human-level intelligence.
An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
Knowledge@Wharton: What is the state of AI investment today? Where do we stand?
Frank Chen: I’d argue that this is a golden age of AI investing. To put it in historical context, AI was invented in the mid-1950s at Dartmouth, and ever since then we’ve basically had boom and bust cycles. The busts have been so dramatic in the AI space that they have a special name — AI winter.