NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- One of the myths of the last two years in technology is that "big data" is going to allow all these amazingly personalized services for us.It hasn't happened. Katie Roof, a journalist, tweeted the other day: "I get random roofing companies following me on Twitter... Roof is really my name..." When I log in to Facebook ( FB) right now, I am being fed an ad about "Affordable Graphic Design." If I scroll down my entire News Feed in Facebook, I don't see one Sponsored Story. If I go on to Twitter, I'm getting a Promoted Tweet from SAP North America telling me that "85% of IT managers say current data management systems merely meet expectations or worse, fall short entirely." I would go on to Groupon ( GRPN) but I've given up after too many emails about mani/pedi offers. There's obviously something that's not working here with all these companies. Where's the "big data" that's supposed to learn who we are and show us what we uniquely want? It turns out that the "big data" you've been told about is the equivalent of adding more bookshelves at the library. All these companies are buying more servers and filling up places like North Carolina and Oregon. They're certainly cataloging all the information you share publicly. They're just not doing anything with it -- yet. The "big data" part that most of us know as being rather intelligent and knowing how to find that needle in a haystack, or that piece of information in one paragraph on one page of that book buried in the stacks, is really artificial intelligence or AI. AI is just getting off the ground. We're really only about one out into the top half of the first inning of the AI game. Monday night, tech entrepreneur and angel Chris Dixon tweeted: "There are certain areas in tech where you need $100m just to start. Search, maps, most AI, etc. Good for incumbents but not startups." He's absolutely right. Apple's ( AAPL) pushing hard in all three. So is Google ( GOOG). So is Microsoft ( MSFT). Maybe Yahoo! ( YHOO) will try also but it doesn't have an extra $100 million lying around.
If Yahoo! doesn't have that kind of scratch, neither does Facebook -- let alone Twitter and the rest of the small fry. I once talked to a friend of mine who has been working in the now-hot area of speech recognition services for 15 years about how he views a service like Siri and whether it could one day retrain all of us to ask a personal assistant for information instead of typing in a query into a search box. He thought it was definitely possible but he said something very interesting to me about how they are going about that goal. "Google has a lot of really amazing speech rec people working for them. In fact, they're much better than the speech rec people employed at Apple, in my view," he said. "But Apple is amazing in AI. They're way ahead of Google in AI." Apple's obviously making a big bet on AI. Is it working? Most have written off Siri. "It doesn't work," they say. The version 2 is better but not enough to knock people's socks off. However, as with the new Maps service, Apple's collecting tons of data every day from Siri and Maps. It's then throwing its AI at those data full force -- finding the relationships that will form the basis for real intelligence down the line. The promise of "big data" will be realized, but it's going to happen through AI, with lots of money and lots of time. At the time of publication the author had positions in YHOO and GOOG. Follow @EricJackson This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.