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Why AI Isn’t a Tech Revolution Yet

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses whether artificial intelligence (AI) represents a new technological revolution or is part of the ongoing information and communications technology (ICT) revolution that began in the 1970s.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Why doesn't AI represent a new technological revolution?

  • AI is better understood as a key development within the still-evolving ICT revolution, which started in the 1970s with the microprocessor and made a big leap in the 1990s with the internet.
  • AI depends on the internet and powerful microprocessors, and is part of the digital transformation that centers around technologies mechanizing mental work.
  • A technological revolution requires a powerful and highly visible cluster of new and dynamic technologies, products, and industries that can bring about an upheaval in the whole economy and propel long-term development. No single technology, however powerful, can do this on its own.

[02] How does AI fall short of a technological revolution?

  • Technological revolutions involve major transformations within government and society, not just technology. The widespread rise of populism is typical of a midway turning point in the diffusion of a technological revolution.
  • Periods of creative destruction are quite turbulent, as new technologies transform jobs and industries, leading to resentment from those feeling left behind.
  • The maturity of the ICT revolution implies that we should know how to manage it now, but its trajectory remains highly contingent and can yield increasingly dysfunctional results if not properly directed.

[03] What is the relationship between AI and the ICT revolution?

  • AI is almost certainly revolutionary in the sense that it will spawn new technology platforms, transform or eliminate many industries, and create new ones.
  • However, AI belongs to the larger ICT revolution that is still in the middle of its diffusion process, having already passed through two major stages of innovation based on microprocessors/software and the internet.
  • The next technological revolution could involve a wave of innovation combining AI with biotech and new materials, but these would still evolve within the context of the ICT golden age.
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