This Isn’t the Age of AR, VR, or Bitcoin. It’s the Age of AI.
I was asked a provocative question recently whose answer turns out to be the perfect way to end an amazing, challenging, tumultuous, momentous, exhausting year: How will the time we’re in right now be remembered from a technological perspective?
In hindsight, computing trends have followed clearly defined, highly discrete eras. The mainframe computer begat client-server software running on PCs, which led to the age of the Internet (and the Web), which fostered the smartphone epoch we’re in today. I doubt it was completely clear what was going on in the middle of these transitions—it took a bit of time to appreciate what the iPhone had wrought, for example—any more than we know today.
Yet a few things are clear. Voice is emerging as the next way of commanding computers. Augmented and virtual reality are making their bids to be the next computing user interface. Autonomous vehicles grab the headlines and the investment dollars. Cryptocurrencies are the most overhyped and yet potentially revolutionary factor in the word today.
But each of these trends is in its earliest practical stages. Amazon’s Alexa is fantastic but obviously a “1.0” product. AR and VR are on the cusp but still are clunky and fringe. Self-driving anything is a curiosity rather than a staple. Bitcoins are tulips until proven innocent.
No, the line that runs through these developments and promises to be the one thing our time is remembered for is artificial intelligence. It’s the underpinning trend that everything else that matters will be based on. As we power down 2017, welcome to the age of AI. You’re living in it.
This essay originally appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter about technology. Subscribe here.