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13 AI prof predictions for 2019
by Mark Smith

So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just (about to) beg(i)n.

Oh I do like a famous quote. So here’s one from someone who isn’t a Beatle – the Nobel Laureate Nils Bohr once said "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." Who says the Danes haven’t got a sense of humour huh? Funny guy.

It’s been a fascinating year here at ContactEngine Towers – the team’s growth, the community we serve has surged in size – not only have we communicated with 10’s of millions of people in Europe we have had a full year of the same with the US of A. And boy has that taught us some useful things: best time, best words, best channel, best use of punctuation, best of breed – all the bests. But I’m not answering the question, am I? What will happen to AI in 2019, so here are my three best bets:

  1. Social will move from being your mate to being your nemesis – finally millennials will realise that sharing is not caring, cause sharing is telling people what you like and when you like it and Governments the world over will start to ask the FAANGs proper questions like ‘why’ ‘why’ and the most insightful ‘why’. So, AI will need to be transparent, not opaque. Cambridge Analytica was just the tip of an ugly iceberg;
  2. Stock markets will crash – but it won’t be like 1999, because technology is no longer something that is nice to have but it is the underpinning for everything, so there will be big winners and big losers. My bet is that Apple will start to rot (‘cause AI in closed ecosystems is just wrong) and Microsoft – so often late to the tech party - will continue its transformation into world dominance as it shows a nice face of AI loveliness.
  3. The poles will reverse. OK so this one isn’t AI exactly. But every so often (200,000 to 300,000 years) north becomes south and south becomes north. Initial impacts will adversely affect pigeon racing, making the Gatwick Drone fiasco a be-winged nightmare – but it will be fine as all electronics will not work so the planes will be grounded. I, however, can build things with my actual hands, including making very effective long bows, flint knives and a mean tepee. At that point AI will become Actual Intelligence and you will see me near a warm fire dressed in furs laughing about winning at chess again because Deep Blue won’t switch on.

Now the 13 predictions from some of my favourite AI experts:

  1. “I confidently predict that 2019 will see no robot apocalypse, no takeover by Skynet, no refusal to open the pod bay doors. This, despite the fact that scary looking kit from robotics spinouts will take an increasingly prominent role on the battlefield. (Presumably someone at the MoD has on their Christmas list a remote-controlled tank).” -- Professor Chris Reed
  2. “A university has to cancel all their AI courses because all their staff have left and gone into industry.” - Professor Nick Jennings
  3. “There will be increased demands for guarantees on the behaviour of AI-controlled systems in cases where they are used in safety-critical situations. Possibly following some accident or mishap.” -- Professor Michael Luck
  4. “In the world of conversations, answering back is going to be the new listening. Don’t be surprised if Alexa and pals start engaging in multi-turn conversations (‘When you said, play something by her, did you mean something by Amy Winehouse?’) or even initiate (‘Would you like to listen to the new Spice Girls Reunion album?’)” -- Professor Chris Reed
  5. “More positively, AI will begin to be understood as a larger bag of technologies and there will be greater public recognition of the different things that other AI technologies can bring, including argumentation, planning, etc.” -- Professor Michael Luck
  6. “AI is increasingly recognised as a problem solving partner for humans. The complementary nature of human and machine intelligence is recognised and new modes of interaction and cooperation are established.” -- Professor Nick Jennings
  7. “AI without explanation will be viewed increasingly negatively. Transparency and trust in AI decision-making will increasingly be demanded.” -- Professor Michael Luck
  8. “Why? Why? Why? We’ll all be able to unleash our inner toddler soon. Maybe not quite in 2019, but coming soon. Been denied insurance? Ask why! Been offered a BOGOF on paracetamol? Ask why! Been recommended the new superhero movie? Ask why. Machine learning is great at spotting regularities but pants at explaining how it does it. GDPR (sort of) gives us the right to ask why and AI is going to be delivering real soon.” -- Professor Chris Reed
  9. “Deep learning heads towards the trough of disillusionment.” - Professor Nick Jennings
  10. “While better management of data will lead to better opportunities to take advantage of machine learning for a wider set of applications, this will be countered with a call for individual/consumer ownership of the data that powers it.” -- Professor Michael Luck
  11. “Using advanced data analytics, West Ham United win the premiership.” - Professor Nick Jennings
  12. “There will be a clear public recognition that machine learning is just one area of AI and that while it can solve some problems very well, such solutions are constrained. The hype around AI as just machine learning will become more visible.” -- Professor Michael Luck
  13. “Finally, one that’s a bit off the wall. Legaltech as a market is continuing to stratify, and law firms starting to understand that low end volume business will become increasingly commoditised and automated; whilst high end will remain the preserve of high-charging humans (perhaps supported by some smart tech). Fintech seems to be playing catch up. There’s no reason to think that the market won’t stratify in a very similar way. Financial firms, particularly the big corporates, will have to adapt fast.” -- Professor Chris Reed

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