Google leads in the race to dominate artificial intelligence

COMMANDING the plot lines of Hollywood films, covers of magazines and reams of newsprint, the contest between artificial intelligence (AI) and mankind draws much attention. Doomsayers warn that AI could eradicate jobs, break laws and start wars. But such predictions concern the distant future. The competition today is not between humans and machines but among the world’s technology giants, which are investing feverishly to get a lead over each other in AI.

An exponential increase in the availability of digital data, the force of computing power and the brilliance of algorithms has fuelled excitement about this formerly obscure corner of computer science. The West’s largest tech firms, including Alphabet (Google’s parent), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft are investing huge sums to develop their AI capabilities, as are their counterparts in China. Although it is difficult to separate tech firms’ investments in AI from other kinds, so far in 2017 (see chart 1) companies...



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