What's going on this decade?

From: Philip Goetz (philgoetz@gmail.com)
Date: Tue Aug 08 2006 - 15:29:31 MDT

I'm archiving a bunch of articles from the 1990s, and remembering how
exciting that decade was. We had a lot of new ideas about AI
architectures, such as situated activity, hybrid architectures,
dynamical-systems architectures; not to mention the continuing fallout
from the 1980s over connectionism and reactive behavior. We had
reinforcement learning, latent semantic analysis, statistical natural
language processing, wavelets, and hidden Markov models for the first
decent speech recognition. We had people trying to deal with action
selection and attention in cognitive archtectures for the first time.
We had functional MRI, brain function localization, and the decoding
of population representations, temporal spike train coding, and
chaotic basins of attraction in the brain. We had decent compression
for the first time - gzip and MPEG. We had genetic algorithms,
genetic programming, nonlinear science, self-organizing systems, "the
edge of chaos", artificial life, virtual reality, the World Wide Web,
Linux and open-source, developed the theory of quantum computers, had
the first nanocomputer designs, solved the first tough problems with
biocomputers. We also developed most of the transhumanist ideas that
we're still playing with today.

I could list a lot of things from the 1980s, also. But I can't think
of much that was kicked off in this decade that's as exciting as any
of the things I just mentioned from the 1990s. Support vector
machines? Blogs? Web services? Greasemonkey? Micropayments?
Outsourcing? That's all I can think of at the moment. Am I getting
old? Am I out of the loop? What's going on out there? I can't even
think of any new movements in science fiction from the 2000s.

There are some exciting things in other fields - genome sequencing
(developed in the 1990s), RNA interference, gene therapy (largely
1990s also), microarray protein expression analysis - but I can't
think of much in AI/comp sci/math that excites me lately.

Perhaps this is because I left the university in 1997 and went to work
in industry - but, I never found out about any of those exciting
things from my university classes anyway, so that explanation doesn't
satisfy me.

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