We are surrounded by hysteria about the future of artificial intelligence and robotics—hysteria about how powerful they will become, how quickly, and what they will do to jobs. A story in MarketWatch that said robots will take half of today’s jobs in 10 to 20 years. The claims are ludicrous. Today’s robots and AI systems are incredibly narrow in what they can do.
AI has been overestimated again and again, in the 1960s, in the 1980s, and I believe again now, but its prospects for the long term are also probably being underestimated. The question is: How long is the long term?
We see a similar pattern with other technologies over the last 30 years. A big promise up front, disappointment, and then slowly growing confidence in results that exceed the original expectations. This is true of computation, genome sequencing, solar power, wind power, and even home delivery of groceries.
Almost all innovations in robotics and AI take far, far, longer to be really widely deployed than people in the field and outside the field imagine.