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While there’s concerning hype about artificial intelligence in the market today, Salesforce’s chief scientist says researchers don’t have to fear that interest in the field will disappear again.

“At the same time, I don’t think there will be an ‘AI winter’ again, where hype cycles happen and there’s no more funding, and so on, because AI is now running in production,” Richard Socher said during an onstage interview at a Bloomberg event today. “Google search and social media, and now enterprises, are using AI on an ongoing basis — they’re seeing great returns on those investments.”

Socher was referencing a set of historical periods when funding in artificial intelligence research cratered after a particularly significant hype cycle. As we see increasing interest in machine learning, experts have warned that over-hyping the field could lead to another period of disillusionment and reduced investment.

At the same time, he said that the hype around superintelligent AI has reached a fever pitch that goes well beyond what the technology is capable of. However, the current state of machine learning technology is such that we don’t need computers that surpass human intelligence in order to get good results, in Socher’s view.

While investments in machine learning research are coming from for-profit companies like Salesforce, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon, Socher said that the benefits are being distributed broadly because of the social norms in the AI space.

Researchers working at these companies share their developments with others through academic papers and open source code, so that people can build on the developments of others.

One of the things that surprises him about the state of AI research is that it’s possible for implementations of a new technique to follow the paper unveiling it by a matter of months rather than years.


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