There have been many prizes in technology that have captured everyone’s imagination. But are these awards, especially the ones related to artificial intelligence, really worth it? There is an ongoing debate that if prizes and awards really help or inspire people to innovate and come up with breakthrough techniques.
The DARPA Grand Challenge changed the world of cars forever. The challenge included a prize of over $2 million for teams gaining excellence in driverless car technology. Again in 2010, there was a prize for teaching multiple vehicles to cooperate in a simulated combat situation. These two prizes have changed the future of transportation through meticulously planned challenges and an award. Another great award was the “The Netflix Prize” announced in 2006, which invited data scientists and programmers to make Netflix’s recommendations at least 10% better. Eventually a group named “BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos” cracked won the prize in 2009.
Recently, Communitech announced a $1 million prize for AI competition that will target a worldwide problem with an AI solution. This was sponsored by a Toronto-based tech investor named David Stein, who has made this new AI competition part of the local annual technology conference. David Stein told the press, “The Leaders Prize at True North aims to solve a major problem with broad applicability, recognize leading AI talent within Canada, and inspire the next generation to pursue a career in technology.” Though this competition requires the candidates to be from Canada there are many awards and prizes which have great prestige attached to them.
Increasingly, great minds in the industry have started believing that grand prizes bring grand ideas to the fore. Contrast this to other ways of solving a great AI problem. Building companies raising cash and solving an AI problem has its own timetable and market realities do not always agree to the idea. Research labs in universities also lose focus and get tangled up in the bureaucratic process. IBM which has many research labs of its own and also has many academic affiliations also took this road to solve important problems in AI.
IBM came up with a grand prize in association with X Prize Foundation to announce an AI prize. The award committee says, “The $5 million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE is a global competition challenging teams to develop and demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful AI technologies to tackle the world’s Grand Challenges.”
The Nobel prizes in sciences have been fruitful for the whole community of scientists and science itself. It is also apparent now that more and more AI prizes can help the field grow faster and create new heroes for the world.
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As a thorough data geek, most of Abhijeet's day is spent in building and writing about intelligent systems. He also has deep interests in philosophy, economics and literature.