There are some things in the world that can never be fully understood–the laws of gravity, the concept of time, etc… But none of these things can top the utter mystery and shock that ensues when someone at a burger joint orders a meatless burger. So let’s get this straight, an order of lettuce, tomato, and cheese between two buns? That’s like buying a Ferrari and asking to swap out the V8 for an inline 4. Sandwiches, burgers included, are named after the meat in the sandwich. Why? The meat is best part. No one asks for a lettuce and pickle sandwich add turkey and bacon. Quite the contrary. The proper way to order a sandwich is to get the turkey and bacon sandwich and substitute the lettuce and tomato for more bacon. The heart of the sandwich–or burger–is what defines it. The case is no different for the current innovation economy–artificial intelligence is its heart.

Artificial Intelligence and the Innovation Economy

The concept of the innovation economy was introduced in 1942 by Joseph Schumpeter with the advent of Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Schumpeter argued that entrepreneurs and technological advancements are the lifeblood of economic growth and expansion. Though it took a while to catch on, Schumpeter’s ideas have been growing rapidly in popularity in recent years. This growth, in both the innovation and the global economies, can be attributed in large part to the growth in artificial intelligence technologies. From data science to machine learning to advances in robotics, AI has taken its place as one of the leaders in technological progression.

Hillary Mason, the Founder of Fast Forward Labs, a machine intelligence research company, argued in an interview that AI is “close” to the heart of our new innovation economy. She cites the growing trends in the industry, including the progress made in machine learning and big data. Mason notes that these developments are “legitimately exciting,” as AI continues to shed its former stereotype of impractical, research-only technology. Rather than being a temporary fad that passes in the night, Mason genuinely believes that the progress is permanent–and worthwhile.

The Elephant in the Room

Not all AI entrepreneurs share the same sentiment as Mason. Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has recently been very critical of AI, saying in a tweet, “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.” His tweet was also accompanied by a photo of a poster with the ominous words, “In the end, the machines will win.” Though Musk’s views aren’t echoed by everyone in the industry–Mason, for example, argues that machines won’t overtake humans because they cannot be rational–they do reflect a very common hesitation towards AI. In the back of everyone’s mind is the warning that every AI sci-fi movie has given–machines will outpace humans and eventually assume control of the planet. Yes, it seems far fetched and outlandish, but according to the brightest minds, it is entirely plausible.

For the time being, however, the advances of the industry ought to be praised. These technological accomplishments really are the way of the future. And as advances continue and progress takes place, global economies have much to look forward to. In many ways, it appears as if society as a whole is beginning to see that AI really is the meat to the sandwich–the heart of the innovation economy.