Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a common topic of conversation in business today, especially when it comes to the projected consequences of the growth of AI applications and the effects that automation will have on the global economy.
If media speculation is anything to go by, millions of people will be out of work when AI takes over and many jobs become automated. There is also a growing sense of unease about the potential for superintelligent AI to take over and dominate the human race.
However, the truth is, not even AI specialists agree on when or if superintelligence will occur. Either way, it’s clear that this smart technology is complex and needs to be understood from a practical perspective, without getting too caught up in fatalistic assumptions about technological advancement.
It can be difficult to know where to begin when it comes to explaining how AI relates to business, but with some kind of context, we can start to explore how it is being used, and what this means for business today.
What exactly is AI?
As Max Tegmark, founder of the Future of Life Institute, highlighted in his talk at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon last year, understanding the concept of intelligence is critical to understanding artificial intelligence. As he says, intelligence is the ability to perform complex tasks, which despite what we might think, is not restricted to biological beings.
According to this definition, artificial intelligence is a way of “recreating” intelligence through sophisticated programming tools. This goes beyond just being able to perform a complex task, and allows for applications to learn from mistakes and improve, which is referred to as machine learning. If we take it a step further, this evolves into deep learning, where the neural network pattern of the brain is used as a foundation for the continual learning and performance improvement of AI applications.
So really, AI is about translating what our brains do so well into technological applications. When applied to business, this means that we can use AI to process volumes of data and perform cognitive functions, which can greatly improve efficiency and accuracy, especially given the importance of dealing with big data.
Should we be afraid of AI?
In Tegmark’s view, the problem with AI and the hype around it is not so much the threat of AI technology itself taking over, but the way in which superintelligence can be directed towards predetermined goals. If AI is developed in a way that works towards common goals, like vastly improving efficiency for example, this can be a great thing, but if these goals aren’t aligned with what we want, this can be a problem.
The topic of AI Safety is extremely broad, but being aware of the potential of AI is very important, so that we can take advantage of the window of opportunity that we have to make constructive decisions about the world that we want to create, especially when it comes to business.
In fact, AI is already being used in so many applications, so the technology itself is nothing new. Just typing a search query into Google leads to a remarkably quick interaction with an AI application, that is getting better and better everyday, as it learns and improves thanks to the millions of search queries that people enter on a daily basis.
Deep down, we might be terrified of the potential of AI, but how else would it even be possible to make sense of the vast amount of big data in the world, that is increasing everyday?
If we think about how many jobs Google has created with search, it’s interesting to think about what will happen to the world of business when AI applications become even more mainstream, because already, they’re helping companies all over the world to gain a competitive advantage.
What are the latest developments in AI?
While it’s crucial to consider the theoretical and practical implications of AI in the future, what is actually happening in business right now?
At the moment, AI applications are being used to process big data more efficiently, which has all kinds of consequences for business. For example, predictive analytics. By using AI to make sense of your sales data, it’s easier to figure out where the gaps are, who you need to follow up with, and how all of your different data sets relate to one another. (Unfortunately spreadsheets just aren’t going to cut it here anymore!)
AI is also being used for cognitive applications, for example, translating texts, summarising information and even making medical diagnoses. In so many ways, it’s doing what our brains do, but without the challenges that come with being in a physical body.
What does AI really mean for your business?
As a custom software development company, SovTech sees AI as a critical aspect of their business operations. Managing Director, Andrew Chouler, states that “AI is already impacting all aspects of the software development life-cycle, from upfront conceptualisation of the software to development, testing, deployment and ongoing maintenance. The employment of AI is the very tool that helps us ensure on-time delivery of projects”
Speaking on the wider business landscape, Chouler remarks that “Essentially, the role of AI in any business is waste reduction through proactive measures and predictions pulled from rich datasets that help remove unnecessary work. Think chat bots, email spam filters, Siri, security surveillance, as well as data-driven insights and business forecasts.”
If you’re a small business, taking advantage of AI functionality means processing your data in a more efficient way, so you’re able to stay competitive without having to spend time and energy trying to make sense of all your sales and company data manually.
If you’re a big business, AI means you’re be able to do the same thing but on a larger scale, and allows you to process data that perhaps you didn’t even know you were collecting. Depending on the business you’re in, this can improve on your ability to respond to customer queries, and create more effective marketing opportunities (which is what the growing industry of customer success is all about).
In short, AI has the ability to enhance your business, so while we remain unsure about whether/when superintelligence will become a reality, we can take advantage of all the benefits that AI has to offer, especially when it comes to making more data-driven decisions.
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