It will be as if the world had created a second China, made not of billions of people and millions of factories, but of algorithms and humming computers.
PWC, a professional-services firm, predicts that artificial intelligence (AI) will add $16trn to the global economy by 2030.
The excitement began to build in academia in the early 2010s when new machine-learning techniques led to rapid improvements in tasks such as recognizing pictures and manipulating language.
Modern ai techniques now power search engines and voice assistants, suggest email replies, power the facial-recognition systems that unlock smartphones and police national borders, and underpin the algorithms that try to identify unwelcome posts on social media.
Perhaps the highest-profile display of the technology’s potential came in 2016, when a system built by DeepMind, a London-based ai firm owned by Alphabet, Google’s corporate parent, beat one of the world’s best players at Go, an ancient Asian board game.