For the past five years, the hottest thing in artificial intelligence has been a branch known as deep learning. The grandly named statistical technique, put simply, gives computers a way to learn by processing vast amounts of data. Thanks to deep learning, computers can easily identify faces and recognize spoken words, making other forms of humanlike intelligence suddenly seem within reach.
Companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft have poured money into deep learning. Start-ups pursuing everything from cancer cures to back-office automation trumpet their deep learning expertise. And the technology’s perception and pattern-matching abilities are being applied to improve progress in fields such as drug discovery and self-driving cars.
But now some scientists are asking whether deep learning is really so deep after all.
In recent conversations, online comments and a few lengthy essays, a growing number of A.I. experts are warning that the infatuation with deep learning may well breed myopia and overinvestment now — and disillusionment later.
“There is no real intelligence there,” said Michael I. Jordan, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of an essay published in April intended to temper the lofty expectations surrounding A.I. “And I think that trusting these brute force algorithms too much is a faith misplaced.”