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tristanm comments on Open thread, Mar. 20 - Mar. 26, 2017 - Less Wrong

3 Post author: MrMind 20 March 2017 08:01AM

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Comment author: tristanm 20 March 2017 09:06:13PM 0 points [-]

It's still the case that a lot of problems in AI and data analysis can be broken down into parallel tasks and massively benefit from just having plenty of CPUs/GPUs available. In addition, a lot of the research work at major companies like Google has gone into making sure that the infrastructure advantage is used to the maximum extent possible. But I will grant you that this may not represent an actual monopoly on anything (except perhaps search). Hardware is still easily available to those who can afford it. But in the context of "democratizing AI", I think we should expect that the firms with the most resources should have significant advantages over small startups in the AI space with not much capital. If I have a bunch of data I need analyzed, will I want to give that job to a new, untested player who may not even have the infrastructure depending on how much data I have, or someone established who I know has the capability and resources?

The issue with data isn't so much about control / privacy, it's mainly the fact that if you give me a truckload of a thousand 2 TB hard drives, each containing potentially useful information, there's really not much I can do with it. Now if I happened to have a massive server farm, that would be a different situation. There's a pretty big gulf in value for certain objects depending on my ability to make use of it, and I think data is a good example of those kinds of objects.

Comment author: Lumifer 20 March 2017 09:16:56PM 0 points [-]

we should expect that the firms with the most resources should have significant advantages over small startups

So how this is different from, say, manufacturing? Or pretty much any business for the last few centuries?

Comment author: tristanm 24 March 2017 07:54:28PM 0 points [-]

I think I would update my position here to say that AI is different from manufacturing, in that you can have small scale manufacturing operations (like 3D printing as username2 mentioned), that satisfy some niche market, whereas I sort of doubt that there are any niche markets in AI.

I've noticed this a lot with "data science" and AI startups - in what way is their product unique? Usually its not. It's usually a team of highly talented AI researchers and engineers who need to showcase their skills until they get aqui-hired, or they develop a tool that gets really popular for a while and then it also gets bought. You really just don't see "disruption" (in the sense that Peter Thiel defines it) in the AI vertical. And you don't see niches.

Comment author: Lumifer 24 March 2017 08:04:52PM 0 points [-]

I sort of doubt that there are any niche markets in AI

Hold on. Are you talking about niche markets, or are we talking about the capability to do some sort of AI at small-to-medium scale (say, startup to university size)?

You really just don't see "disruption" (in the sense that Peter Thiel defines it) in the AI vertical. And you don't see niches.

Um. I don't think the AI vertical exists. And what do you mean about niches? Wouldn't, I dunno, analysis of X-rays be a niche? high-frequency trading another niche? forecasting of fashion trends another niche? etc. etc.

Comment author: tristanm 24 March 2017 11:35:50PM 0 points [-]

Well, niche markets in AI aren't usually referred to as such, they're usually just companies that do task X with the help of statistics and machine learning. In that sense nearly all technology and finance companies could be considered an AI company.

AI in the generalist sense is rare (Numenta, Vicarious, DeepMind), and usually gets absorbed by the bigger companies. In the specialist sense, if task X is already well-known or identified, you still have to go against the established players who have more data and have people who have been working on only that problem for decades.

Thinking more about what YC meant in their "democratize AI' article, it seems they were referring to startups that want to use ML to solve problems that haven't traditionally been solved using ML yet. Or more generally, they want to help tech companies enter markets that usually aren't served by a tech company. That's fine. But I also get the feeling they really mean helping market certain companies by using the AI / ML hype train even if they don't, strictly speaking, use AI to solve a given task. A lot of "AI" startups just do basic statistical analysis but have a really fancy GUI on top of it.

Comment author: tristanm 20 March 2017 10:08:48PM 0 points [-]

Well I dont think it is. If someone said "let's democratize manufacturing" in the same sense as YC, would that sound silly to you?

Comment author: Lumifer 21 March 2017 04:16:46PM 0 points [-]

Generally speaking, yes, silly, but I can imagine contexts where the word "democratize" is still unfortunate but points to an actual underlying issue -- monopoly and/or excessive power of some company (or e.g. a cartel) over the entire industry.

Comment author: username2 20 March 2017 10:40:39PM 0 points [-]

No, it would sound like a 3D printing startup (and perfectly reasonable).