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Artificial intelligence

Ambient AI Is About to Devour the Software Industry

December 1, 2017

Amazon has casually unveiled what could turn into a fundamentally different way to build software.

At its AWS conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, the company demoed Amazon Cloud 9, an integrated development environment (IDE) that plugs directly into its cloud computing platform.

This might seem like no big deal, but it’s actually the latest sign that cloud-based machine learning is about to take the software industry by storm—and, by extension, to rewire the entire economy. Using Amazon’s new platform, developers can collaborate in real time to tap into powerful, cloud-based AI that they can bake into a new generation of apps and Web services. This will mean learning new ways of thinking about software, and it should lead to the rise of everyday software that behaves with more intelligence.

This shift promises to be the biggest transition for the software world in decades. The easy availability of on-demand machine learning, combined with tools for automating the design and training of AI models, should, in fact, have an increasing impact on overall economic productivity, according to some economists.

This helps explain why Amazon, Google, and others are currently engaged in a desperate race to add AI to their cloud platforms, and to make the stuff as easy to use as possible. There are some cool startups in this area, including Paperspace, which lets you get up and running with deep learning on a cloud-based virtual machine in a few minutes, and Pentuum, spun out of Carnegie Mellon University.

But all this doesn’t just set the stage for a mighty battle between today’s tech titans: it’s incredibly cool to be able to fire up a browser and have your code, your data, and a whole bunch of machine learning tools at your fingertips. Tomorrow’s coders don’t know how lucky they’re going to be.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

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An AI that can design new proteins could help unlock new cures and materials 

The machine-learning tool could help researchers discover entirely new proteins not yet known to science.

DeepMind’s new chatbot uses Google searches plus humans to give better answers

The lab trained a chatbot to learn from human feedback and search the internet for information to support its claims.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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