Ask someone what springs to mind when they hear the words AI or artificial intelligence, and the first thing they might mention is a young Haley Joel Osment in the film AI. Or internet sensation Sofia, the world’s first robotic citizen.
In fact, a brief foray into movie history shows that the concept of AI has been thrilling audiences for some time. Whether it’s Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, in 1951; Westworld’s vision of the future in 1973; Terminator; Blade Runner or the recent adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One, we’ve been provided with a powerful image-library of what AI might look like.
Yet AI isn’t some futuristic vision. It’s here, and functioning, right now; with most of us using or benefiting from AI (either knowingly or unknowingly) pretty much every day of our lives.
That Smart Reply in Gmail that lets you quickly send an automated response? That’s AI at work. As is that unnervingly prescient advert that pops up on Facebook.
From Google predictive searches, Amazon product recommendations and banking fraud alerts, through to helpful chatbots that answer questions online, AI is already helping us navigate our daily lives.
AI as we know it
It’s worth noting, however, that many of the applications of AI we see are defined as ‘weak’ or ‘narrow’ AI – non-sentient artificial intelligence, which focuses on one task alone.
This in contrast to ‘strong’ AI, which refers to applications that can formulate their own decisions without human input (Haley Joel Osment-type AI). Despite this, the benefits of ‘weak’ AI are still astonishing, and many businesses are already incorporating them into their daily processes.
So what might it do for your organisation?
The business side of AI
When it comes to business, AI can be invaluable – whether it’s used to identify and target a potential customer base or streamline internal processes. A range of professions are already making use of digital dictation and voice recognition, for example, where the technology is able to ‘learn’ as it continually improves as it adapts to the speaker’s voice.
A 2018 survey by Harvard Business School found that three-quarters of the 250 executives questioned felt AI would substantially transform their companies within three years when it came to the use of cognitive technology (ie, AI which detects patterns).
However, they also thought that, rather than AI being used to achieve highly ambitious goals, it would probably be more successful in helping businesses with their day-to-day tasks.
To this end, three business needs were identified where AI could offer value:
- Process automation, such as data transfer or error reconciliation;
- Cognitive insight, where AI predicts what customers are likely to buy or provides actuarial modelling or targeted adverts; and
- Cognitive engagement, such as chatbots and customised care plans.
Embracing the future
Already, a range of industries, from retail and banking to the security and legal sectors, are taking advantage of what AI can offer. The goal for future-thinking organisations is to make sure they have the right strategies in place so that they’re able to adopt these rapidly evolving AI capabilities.
At the moment, the best way to do this is to make sure technical infrastructures remain current and to gradually experiment with AI. Rather than investing too much, too quickly, it’s better to take small steps, to see how new technologies can fit into existing processes in order to enhance them.