The answer is likely somewhere in between.
Bill Gates once noted that transformative technologies are overestimated in the short run and underestimated in the long run. AI is certainly likely to be such a transformative technology.
Last week the New York Times ran a cautionary tale about how IBM tried and failed to use its heavily branded AI solution called Watson to transform the business world and solidify IBM’s future. The Times noted that, in the years since Watson’s famous Jeopardy win over Ken Jennings, IBM’s stock has fallen ten percent while stock of AI/Cloud competitors like Amazon and Google burst into the stratosphere.
Changing the world with one product is more difficult than senior management at IBM anticipated. The Times wrote “The company’s top management, current and former IBM insiders noted, was dominated until recently by executives with backgrounds in services and sales rather than technology product experts. Product people, they say, might have better understood that Watson had been custom-built for a quiz show, a powerful but limited technology.” A tool custom made for one job can’t always be easily converted for other jobs.
At the moment, our only AI tools fall into the category of “narrow AI” – tools designed to perform a function or limited groups of functions in a certain space. Siri may seem like she knows everything, but she doesn’t. She was designed to interpret speech in specific languages, to access databases and Apple’s platform features, and to respond accordingly in the (admittedly impressive) limited circumstances she is likely to encounter. AI can shock us with speed and apparent breadth of knowledge in chosen tasks that reach far beyond what humans are capable of, but only for a specific set of actions.