The Next Decade
Unparalleled Growth Rate
Microsoft's Eric Horvitz, who doubles as AAAI's president, takes a big-picture view of the field. Even after fifty years, he is convinced AI is still in its infancy. “I think we're just at the early days of computer science and the influence it'll have on the world,” Horvitz said. “It's a very big growth area for careers. People also ask about AI: ‘Will I lose my job?’ There will be many jobs generated with people helping to create those machines that will shift the way things are done, bringing things to bear using intelligent reasoning and applications of various kinds.
“It's an interesting area, a high-impact area, and we're in the early days of it. I'm taking the long view. I'd say we're still flying canvass planes (as did the Wright Brothers) and in a shorter time than people realize, we'll have jumbo jets and fighters.”
The cutting-edge career future in AI has tremendous possibilities. To Horvitz, the appeal of AI remains how it strives to understand the very things that make people human. He told the New York Times in 2006, “There's definitely been a palpable upswing in methods, competence and boldness. At conferences you are hearing the phrase ‘human-level AI,’ and people are saying that without blushing. AI is kind of the ultimate science because you're studying the science of self, the science of intelligence and the mind. You can actually bring together deep questions of the philosophical mind, with challenging problems in mathematics, and bring the results to real-world problems. The study of human psychology … how can we build systems that can take insights from the way people's minds work, how do you build systems that let people work together, collaboratively with computers, complementing people's skills.
“I tell my people that the number-one task, the number-one goal, is to extend the state of the art. Forget about Microsoft; think five to ten years out, if not more. Two, if the stuff you're doing happens to have relevance to Microsoft products sooner, even better. We have an open publication model, allowing researchers to publish what they like. They're free to work and publish. Microsoft attracts a certain kind of person who has a hankering for creating a positive value for large numbers of people.”