One of the weakest claims in The Age of Em was that AI progress has not been accelerating.
J Storrs Hall (aka Josh) has a hypothesis that AI progress accelerated about a decade ago due to a shift from academia to industry. (I’m puzzled why the title describes it as a coming change, when it appears to have already happened).
I find it quite likely that something important happened then, including an acceleration in the rate at which AI affects people.
I find it less clear whether that indicates a change in how fast AI is approaching human intelligence levels.
Josh points to airplanes as an example of a phase change being important.
I tried to compare AI progress to other industries which might have experienced a similar phase change, driven by hardware progress. But I was deterred by the difficulty of estimating progress in industries when they were driven by academia.
One industry I tried to compare to was photovoltaics, which seemed to be hyped for a long time before becoming commercially important (10-20 years ago?). But I see only weak signs of a phase change around 2007, from looking at Swanson’s Law. It’s unclear whether photovoltaic progress was ever dominated by academia enough for a phase change to be important.
Hypertext is a domain where a clear phase change happened in the earl 1990s. It experienced a nearly foom-like rate of adoption when internet availability altered the problem, from one that required a big company to finance the hardware and marketing, to a problem that could be solved by simply giving away a small amount of code. But this change in adoption was not accompanied by a change in the power of hypertext software (beyond changes due to network effects). So this seems like weak evidence against accelerating progress toward human-level AI.
What other industries should I look at?