Chapter 2. The Four Dynamic Forces Shaping AI

There are four basic ingredients for making AI: data, compute resources (i.e., hardware), algorithms (i.e., software), and the talent to put it all together. In this era of deep learning ascendancy, it has become conventional wisdom that data is the most differentiating and defensible of these resources; companies like Google and Facebook spend billions to develop and provide consumer services, largely in order to amass information about their users and the world they inhabit. While the original strategic motivation behind these services was to monetize that data via ad targeting, both of these companies—and others desperate to follow their lead—now view the creation of AI as an equally important justification for their massive collection efforts.

Abundance and Scarcity of Ingredients

While all four pieces are necessary to build modern AI systems, what we’ll call their “scarcity” varies widely. Scarcity is driven in large part by the balance of supply and demand: either a tight supply of a limited resource or a heavy need for it can render it more scarce. When it comes to the ingredients that go into AI, these supply and demand levels can be influenced by a wide range of forces—not just technical changes, but also social, political, and economic shifts.

Fictional depictions can help to draw out the form and implications of technological change more clearly. So, before turning to our present condition, I want to briefly ...

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