The artificial intelligence boom isn’t slowing yet, with new figures showing a 34.5 percent increase in the publication of AI research from 2019 to 2020. That’s a higher percentage growth than 2018 to 2019 when the volume of publications increased by 19.6 percent.
China continues to be a growing force in AI R&D, overtaking the US for overall journal citations in artificial intelligence research last year. The country already publishes more AI papers than any other country, but the United States still has more cited papers at AI conferences — one indicator of the novelty and significance of the underlying research.
These figures come from the fourth annual AI Index, a collection of statistics, benchmarks, and milestones meant to gauge global progress in artificial intelligence. The report is collated with the help of Stanford University, and you can read all 222 pages
In many ways, the report confirms trends identified in
However, details reveal subtleties about the AI scene. For example, while private investment in AI increased 9.3 percent in 2020 (a higher increase than 2018 to 2019 of 5.7 percent), the number of newly funded companies receiving funds decreased for the third year in a row. There are several ways to interpret this, but it suggests that investors expect that the winner-takes-all dynamic that has defined the tech industry — in which digital economies of scale tend to reward a few dominant players — will be replicated in the AI world.
The report’s section on technical advances also confirms the major trends in AI capabilities, the biggest of which is the industrialization of computer vision. This field has seen incredible progress during the AI boom, with services like object and facial recognition now commonplace. Similarly, generative technologies, which can create video, images, and audio, continue to increase in quality and availability. As the report notes, this trend “promises to generate a tremendous range of downstream applications of AI for both socially useful and less useful purposes.” Useful applications include cheaper computer-generated media, while malicious outcomes include misinformation and AI revenge porn.
One area of AI research that seems like it’s just beginning to come into its own is biotech. The drug discovery and design sector received the most private investment of any sector in 2020 ($13.8 billion, 4.5 times more than in 2019), and experts canvassed for AI Index’s report cited
One area where the Index AI report struggles to gauge progress, though, is in ethics. This is a wide-ranging area, spanning everything from the politics of facial recognition to algorithmic bias, and discussion of these topics is increasingly prominent. In 2020, stories like Google’s