Make no mistake: Google is currently the sun around which the artificial intelligence community orbits.
Between the teams at Google Brain and DeepMind, the company is behind many of the big advances in AI and many of the most popular research papers. Google is the company behind the popular TensorFlow framework, and ceaselessly announces new AI-powered products and features (some eye-opening, others incremental). If you keep up with AI news, the chances are you’re reading several stories about Google per day.
Want proof? Here’s yesterday’s Google AI news (although probably only a portion of what’s actually out there):
You will not find, on any given day, stories on 4 separate topics relating to any other company’s AI technology or personnel.
But … despite all of Google’s investment and innovation in AI, it’s possible Google won’t be the company to capitalize on AI most successfully. Amazon is quietly (and covertly?) making its own investments in AI.
These numbers could be completely off. Or they could be accurate, but only because Amazon is so far behind Google in terms of AI talent that it has to hire lots of people to catch up. In terms of research presence and public perception, Amazon certainly does have a long way to go.
However, it also could be that Amazon is applying the same principles to AI as it has to other technological areas and its business, in general. It could be using AI to drive efficiencies internally and power some customer-facing products, without caring too much whether it’s viewed as research hub or a particularly open book.
But this paragraph from the Bezos letter stuck out to me (emphasis mine):
“But much of what we do with machine learning happens beneath the surface. Machine learning drives our algorithms for demand forecasting, product search ranking, product and deals recommendations, merchandising placements, fraud detection, translations, and much more. Though less visible, much of the impact of machine learning will be of this type – quietly but meaningfully improving core operations.”
For large corporations like Amazon and Google, this is where the rubber meets the road. Google’s massive AI investment will likely pay off immensely in the decade to come. But something tells me Amazon will be happy to pad its bottom line without matching Google in terms of AI moonshots, GitHub stars and articles in Nature.