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Time to Get Smart About Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence startups raised a record $7.4 billion globally in 2019. Find out what's speeding up development—and investor interest.

IT WAS THE “CHECKMATE” HEARD ROUND THE WORLD: In 1997, a computer called Deep Blue outsmarted the reigning world chess champ, and artificial intelligence, or AI, suddenly became more real than a sci-fi movie plot. Today, AI’s potential goes far beyond games, shaking up entire economic sectors—and people’s lives.

AI, defined as “the development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence,” already can be seen in the form of digital assistants, unmanned drones and facial recognition systems. And AI-driven products aimed at reducing operating costs, improving decision-making and enhancing consumer services are in the works across a range of industries. (See video below.)

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Investors with deep pockets are taking note. In 2019, AI startups raised a record $7.4 billion globally—a near-tenfold increase over the 2012 level, according to CB Insights.

What is speeding up development—and investor interest? Ehiwario Efeyini, senior market strategy analyst, Chief Investment Office, Bank of America offers three compelling reasons:

Intuitive Machine Learning. The traditional approach to programming computers has relied on system engineers writing vast sets of instructions. But that’s changing. New machine learning techniques allow computers to adapt to new situations on their own.

In 2019, AI startups raised a record $7.4 billion globally—a near-tenfold increase over the 2012 level, according to CB Insights.

Unprecedented Quantities of Data. The vast amount of data now available from social media uploads, connected devices, digital transactions, health records and more can be crunched and analyzed as never before to program software that responds more accurately to the world.

Exponential Increases in Chip Speed. The use of graphical processing units (GPUs)—with their thousands of processing cores—makes it possible to run large numbers of similar operations at the same time. And tech companies are racing to build even faster “quantum computers” with chips that manipulate data using quantum mechanics.

What AI Could Mean for the Average Investor

Many real-world applications are still in their early stages, points out Efeyini. But over the coming years, you can expect AI software and related products to gain more widespread industrial and consumer adoption. “The biggest beneficiaries should be providers of AI-enabling technology and industries that gain the most in product enhancement from improvements in AI performance,” Efeyini says.

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