Stay on target McDonald’s Plans to Serve AI Voice Technology at Drive ThruCIMON Returns to Earth After 14 Months on ISS Major tech companies are investing in AI and machine learning at an alarming rate. According to a new report, companies spent between $26 and $39 billion on AI research (with giants like Google, Facebook, and Baidu contributing more than two-thirds of that) in 2016 alone. While that’s not nearly on the scale of, say, global oil trade (which cracks a trillion most years), it’s still enough to make it one of the largest sub-industries on Earth. That’s put it well above many very large numbers like Hollywood’s box office takings from last year ($11 billion) or the GDP of Iceland ($16 billion).On its face, this isn’t too surprising. Silicon Valley’s wealth is among the greatest in the world, easily dwarfing whole regions (and it’s kinda messed up how that isn’t even an exaggeration), of course, they’d invest a sliver of that money into hyper-advanced autonomous software. What this shows, though, is that the race for AI has officially kicked off. Contrast this figures, for example, to those from 2013, and we find that investment in AI has more than tripled. It’s also shifted almost entirely to research, development, and, most importantly, deployment.Those sectors adopting AI fastest are, of course, the automobile, tech, and telecom industries. The McKinsey Global Institute for Artificial Intelligence concludes that these are the industries that have the most to gain. Each of these areas (as well as finances and health care) benefit tremendously from AI adoption, with the earliest consumers of machine learning tech in those fields yielding profits that can be 10% or more higher than the industry average year-on-year.Now, I know all that sounds super-boring, but, in short: smart businesses are making billions thanks to AI. And that’s going to get faster and faster as things go. As those businesses employing AI out-compete their rivals over the next few years, we’re going to start seeing the beginning of the end of us. Higher profits are awesome, and all, but a good chunk of that is coming from human workers who are becoming obsolete. Obviously, we should keep using AI to make our lives awesome, but even the Patron Saint of wacky Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Elon Musk, is certain that the day will soon come when we need to change up how we conceive of our entire economy if we want to keep the world intact.Amazon might be the best example of a modern business profiting by cutting out humans. The tech company bought Kiva, a robotics company that specializes in automated packaging. The investment and subsequent deployment of Kiva’s tech has decreased the time it takes from the moment the customer clicks to the moment the package ships down from about an hour to just 15 minutes. And that’s with a boost to inventory capacity and a massive operating cost drop. With that kind of advantage, it’s not hard to see why rumblings of an Amazon-dominated retail future are so prevalent.It’s not quite all doom and gloom though. Netflix has dramatically improved their algorithms for helping users find movies they might like. The algorithm was already pretty great — enough that I recall wanting to punch the sun anytime my roommates would “like” random shows or movies on my account. But that, and many other minor issues have been smoothed out, and Netflix projects that this has helped that save $1 billion in subscription cancellations annually.I guess, though, if you think about it, Netflix is really just the replacement for brick-and-mortar movie rental shops and the clerks who would give you recommendations there. So I guess there is no silver lining. We’re all going to be funemployed in a decade or two. Better hope we figure out our collective shit.