Over the past five years, artificial intelligence has gone from perennial vaporware to one of the technology industry’s brightest hopes. Computers have learned to recognize faces and objects, understand the spoken word, and translate scores of languages. The world’s biggest companies—Alphabet, Amazon.com, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft—have bet their futures largely on AI, racing to see who’s fastest at building smarter machines. That’s fueled the perception that AI has come out of nowhere, what with Tesla’s self-driving cars and Alexa chatting up your child. But this was no overnight hit, nor was it the brainchild of a single Silicon Valley entrepreneur.
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