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Research: the most notable in AI news headlines in Russia over the past 10 years

August 13, 2020, 10:05 (UTC+3)|

At the end of July, IT company Yandex published a research report titled “Artificial intelligence in news headlines”. It included all materials of Yandex.News since 2010 the headlines of which included such combinations of words such as “artificial intelligence”, “machine learning” and “neural network”, as well as “AI” acronym.

The authors focused on the context where artificial intelligence (AI) was mentioned in the news: what it created, determined and forecast. After the study had been published in the media, the news with reference to Yandex PR team about the places that different cities took based on the number of AI mentions (Saint Petersburg - second place, Perm - fourth place, and Kazan entered top-7 cities) came out.

ICT.Moscow requested data from Yandex and tried to figure out how the number of AI mentions has changed in the context about cities and in general over the past 10 years and what topics the media focused on.

The initial data was provided by Yandex, around 61.5 thousand publications featured by Yandex.News were collected in total. Data analysis and interpretation were carried out by ICT.Moscow.

Out of the 61.5 thousand materials, 84% are from 2017-2020. In 2017 the number of publications exceeded 11 thousand, and over the past three and a half years AI was mentioned in the headlines of 51.5 thousand pieces of news.

Despite the fact that 2020 is not over yet, negative dynamics can be currently seen (for the first time since 2010). If the average number of publications per month is considered, the year 2020 is at the level of 2017 - about 950 materials per month.

In relation to the total number of publications in Yandex.News from 2010 through July 2020 (about 282 million), the number of news items mentioning AI in the headlines was 0.02%. This indicator has increased over nine years - from 0.0013% in 2010 to 0.0532% in 2019.

The technology was mentioned most often in 2019 (over 17.5 thousand times, 1.5 thousand times per month on average). It can be compared to the total number of AI references in media publications (not only in headlines, but in the texts also) which ICT.Moscow monitors within IT media trends monitoring. These dynamics also indicates a slight decline in the media’s interest in artificial intelligence compared to the previous year.

After Yandex’s data was processed, a ranking of top-20 cities which were most frequently mentioned in the AI news headlines was compiled.

The ranking cannot be considered absolute, as the number of mentions can vary upon the counting methods.

Moscow is the leader of the ranking

Moscow is leading by a significant margin: over one thousand mentions about the capital were found. Over half of all references in the context of artificial intelligence over ten years are from 2020, which is not over yet. The sharp increase in the number of mentions of Moscow happened against the background of overall decline in the number of references of this technology in the headlines.

The main newsworthy event was the launch of experimental legal regulation in the field of AI: in different variations it was mentioned over 200 times. The other relatively frequently mentioned topics were:

  • fighting COVID-19, first of all - diagnostics using AI in Moscow medical facilities;
  • a video of Moscow shot in 1896 and restored using a neural network

Notable issues in other cities

Other Russian cities are less often but still quite frequently mentioned in the headlines of the news about AI. Saint Petersburg is the second most frequently mentioned city after Moscow, and over half of the mentions within the context of artificial intelligence are from 2019. The announcement about the opening of the national center for industrial artificial intelligence can be called the “news of the year” in the northern capital. The coffee shop where AI will be used to determine customer tastes was also mentioned quite often, as well as the establishment of Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

The high position of Perm in the ranking was ensured by 2018 FIFA World Cup. When the event was being held, the news frequently featured predictions about the finalists and the winner of the competition. One of predictive AI models was developed in Perm University. As a result, the city was mentioned most frequently in the AI news headlines in 2018. However, a similar solution was presented by Perm scientists in 2013, in the lead-up to the Sochi Olympics (nevertheless, the city was not mentioned in the title of the publication).

Kazan, where digital technologies are being actively developed and implemented, was ranked 7th and was mentioned in several dozen more publications than Tyumen, which was ranked 8th. It should be noted that Innopolis which is located near Kazan was counted separately, it was also included in top-20 and was ranked 12th. Like in the case of Moscow, the largest number of Innopolis mentions occurred in 2020. The main newsbreaks were a web series about AI called “The last program” shot in Innopolis, and (also like in Moscow) - the development of neural networks for COVID-19 diagnostics.

Skolkovo Innovation Center, which is not a city but can be considered an independent significant toponym, was mentioned 77 times over the past ten years. It was firstly mentioned in 2010, when it was founded. Then ABBYY received Skolkovo grant for development in the field of artificial intelligence. Since 2014, the Center was mentioned almost every year (except 2015), initially within the context about AI conferences, and later - in connection with the establishment of the Center for artificial intelligence development and other practical developments (for fighting cancer, for instance).

Perception of the technology

The study of the materials about artificial intelligence which was most often spoken about only in the last three-four years (see the graph with the total number of AI mentions in headlines by year) made it possible to assess how the perception of the technology has changed over time. In the beginning of 2010s, “artificial intelligence” was not perceived as an IT tool, but as a description of the behavior of computer game programmed characters. From 2014-2015 such interpretation became less common.

In 2010, the media audiences were not used to seeing artificial intelligence as a standard IT tool. It is evident from the publications in the major media sources where AI self learning was interpreted as an evolution of artificial intelligence by analogy with living organisms. The concept of self-driving transport also was not formed: such developments (of Google, for example) were called “vehicles with artificial intelligence”. Nevertheless, already in 2010 Sergey Sobyanin, the Mayor of Moscow, spoke about the prospects of implementing intelligent systems in the urban environment. In particular, the Mayor proposed to implement them in the traffic management systems in order to reduce traffic jams.

2013 can be called a turning point in the mass perception of artificial intelligence. In that year there was a more than two-fold increase in the number of publications about this technology. After that the dynamic of mentioning increased until 2018, when the growth decreased slightly.

In 2013, artificial intelligence was practically no longer associated in the media with something fantastic, and was seen as a tool for fulfilling specific tasks, such as predicting the behavior of people at public events, recognition and processing of accounting documents, monitoring information from aircraft sensors, etc.

Also, in 2013 people started talking about implementing AI in medicine: one of the most significant newsbreaks was the IBM Watson supercomputer, the artificial intelligence of which was used for treating cancer. At the same time, the publications about self-learning algorithms forecasting the emergence of dangerous strains which can cause a pandemic also appeared.

Hype and corporations

Over the past 10 years, artificial intelligence technology has often been mentioned in the context of “hype” topics. It is well illustrated by the case of major sports events. The examples of neural networks developed in Perm were mentioned above in the text, but they are by no means the only ones. For example, during the 2018 World Cup, the artificial intelligence of Microsoft was also actively making forecasts.

The AI references in headlines experienced the most rapid growth in 2016-2018, when the number of publications increased by 3-6 thousand per year (see graph). Just at this time, major players of the IT market were frequently mentioned in the news: Google (more than 600 publications in 2016 compared to around 250 in 2015), Sberbank (about 200 mentions in 2017), and Yandex itself (over 200 references in 2017).

Thus, an increase in the number of references of the technology in news headlines is accompanied by an increase in the number of references of major IT players. Quite often the companies themselves created media hyping statements: a rock album recorded using a neural network for example, or the prospect of replacing thousands of Sberbank employees with artificial intelligence.

By the way, the news about Sberbank dates back to 2016. In recent years, the company has recorded the fastest growth rate in terms of references in the context of artificial intelligence. In 2019, the bank overtook IT corporations on this indicator: it appeared in the headlines more than 500 times, whereas Google, which is usually leading, was mentioned only 350 times.

The analysis of news in the sphere of artificial intelligence over the past 10 years showed how much the perception of technology has changed during that time. Previously it was perceived as something fantastic, then it gradually became associated with an IT tool that can solve very specific tasks. And the understanding of AI as an analogue to the human mind started to be mentioned with the subscript “strong” (once in 2013 in a specialized IT publication, starting from 2016 - also in other sources).

The dynamics convincingly demonstrates that various AI solutions in Russia have become firmly associated not only with hype topics, but also with cities. Most often - with Moscow, especially when it was announced that a legal experiment in the field of artificial intelligence was being launched locally. But other cities also make themselves known, regularly appearing in the headlines of the news about AI. It is not always about development: often about piloting, implementation, and practical use. The media usually covers these topics, meaning their target audience is interested in such issues.


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