Artificial Intelligence and the Future



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What is artificial intelligence?

When we hear the term “artificial intelligence” we tend to think up imagery of robot overlords and malevolent, all-knowing computers. While this does make for a good movie, it doesn’t actually paint an accurate picture of what artificial intelligence is and what it is capable of, making it seem like the current state of AI isn’t all that meaningful. The truth is, we are already seeing the beginnings of AI technology in our day-to-day lives.

A good example of AI that you are likely already familiar with is the virtual assistant on your smartphone, such as Google Assistant, Siri, or Bixby. There are also an increasing number of smart devices such as speakers or appliances which integrate virtual assistants such as Alexa or Google Assistant. All these devices use a simple form of AI. There are, however, many not-so-simple AI technologies which are making their way into our lives and improving our interactions with the world around us.

AI refers to any device which can perceive and understand its environment and use that information to accomplish certain goals. It is a very powerful tool, as we can see with virtual assistants who help make our daily lives easier. Combined with machine learning, which is a computer science field that focuses on teaching computers how to learn without any human input and we can already start to break down the limits of traditional computers, creating products which are as versatile as we are.

For consumers, this means new technologies which allow more difficult or time-consuming tasks to be accomplished with just a few simple verbal instructions. For businesses, it is a new way of reaching consumers by offering them new means of interaction. Business decisions, more informed predictions, and financial plans will be made more efficiently and reliably. Some of the biggest tech companies in the world such as Google, IBM, and Amazon are working hard to bring this technology to its full potential.

In this article we’re going to take a look at some of the great advantages of AI to better understand where the industry is headed and what your business can gain from being an early investor in AI technology.

Where we are right now

Nowadays, AI is involved whenever you listen to music, use your phone, browse the internet, or drive your car, whether you realize it or not.

In 2017 there were already four billion AI-powered devices in use across the world. Some of the biggest technology companies in the world such as Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and more have invested significantly into developing AI technology and using it to improve their products.

AI allows businesses to be more effective at meeting consumer demands, both directly as is the case with personal assistants, or indirectly by using AI to make better content recommendations, for example.

Google

Google is more or less leading the charge when it comes to AI development. It has been implementing AI in almost all of its services, from the common Google Assistant that comes with every Android phone to how Google searches work, how we watch videos on YouTube, and how we access our photos in Google Photos.

They have purchased multiple AI startup companies over the past few years and are making great strides in this area.

Amazon

Amazon has been working on their Echo products for years now. They are their signature smart speakers which use Amazon’s own assistant called Alexa. Alexa helps users with many common tasks and routines, such as setting reminders, checking the weather, streaming music or videos, searching the internet, and much more.

The first Echo device was released in 2015 and with it, Alexa become and continues to be the most popular home personal assistant. Since then, multiple versions of Echo devices have been launched, each with different characteristics and capabilities.

Apple

Apple was the first tech company to release a virtual assistant on the iPhone 4s in 2011. Siri dominated the personal assistant marketing for a while, but it was passed by Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa in terms of functionality.

Apple uses machine learning in other areas of their ecosystem as well, such as the cameras. The camera app uses neural networks not just for taking better photos, but also for performing certain tasks in real time which in the past would only be possible with traditional cameras. When the iPhone X released, Apple said that machine learning would be incorporated in all their phones moving forward. While its function is still mostly in the background, many features such as FaceID use artificial intelligence and we will likely see more examples as time passes.

Facebook

Facebook is taking a more open-source approach to AI. Instead of creating their own technology behind closed doors, they have released multiple frameworks and AI creation software to the public, allowing indie developers to work on AI themselves. While some of their work is for their own company’s benefit, such as the AI used in Facebook Messenger, they have also generally advanced AI technology.

AIBrain

AIBrain is an artificial reality development company who aims to create an AI which can become completely autonomous, and they are funding their work by offering AI solutions to consumer electronics companies. They are working on various projects in areas such as customer service, game development, robotics, and the service industry.

Athena is an example of one of their products. It is an autonomous virtual assistant which can learn from its surroundings and successfully navigate them, assisting customers. It uses SLAM technology to do this, which allows it to map its surroundings and determine where it is located without having any prior knowledge of its position.

AIBrain has also developed Tyche, which is an AI for young child development, Smile, an AI that helps children learn social and emotional skills, Futurable, a game which simulates certain aspects of the real world to teach AIs how the world functions, and dAIsy, a virtual assistant that helps with learning new languages.

DeepMind

DeepMind is an AI startup company that is now owned by Google. It is primarily focused on research and while they do sell software to other companies, they don’t make any actual products. They use their funding from Google and other companies to make advancements in artificial intelligence, writing formal research papers about the practical applications of AI.

They mostly focus on the impact artificial intelligence will have on healthcare and our society as a whole. Their Safety and Ethics department is focused on predicting how fully autonomous Ais will impact our day-to-day lives, our industries, and how we should manage it safely and responsibly. Their research also contributes directly to Google’s own products, of course, helping them create smarter assistants and adopt more energy-efficient practices.

IBM

IBM is one of the most influential technology companies of the last century. For several years now it has been working on an AI called Watson, which first gained notoriety by beating the Jeopardy! world champion.

Watson is different from other Ais because of its ability to perform tasks with less information. Businesses can train Watson to make more informed decisions, share knowledge and experience between employees, predict and make preparations for disruptions, as well as detect potential liabilities. It is a self-contained system which works to protect a company and make its work more effective.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s work in the AI field has focused mostly on helping developers understand and use AI concepts, helping companies develop new workflows, and offering accessible explanations for the inner workings of artificial intelligence programs.

Microsoft’s Azure cloud service includes AI software which developers and enterprises can use to make AI development simpler and faster. Azure’s Cognitive Service offers developers access to over 24 cloud-based APIs for a range of AI aspects such as speech, vision, knowledge, and language. They make it easier and faster to begin employing artificial intelligence, while offering the privacy and security which comes with Microsoft’s systems.

Industry applications and use cases

The main driver behind business growth over the past several years has been data: understanding consumer behavior, why they make the choices they make, and using that information to improve their experiences with a brand is key to success.

Data analysis is currently performed by a person combing through the data, an automated program which provides clear and concise information, or a combination of the two. AI will significantly improve our ability to interpret and use data as it will be able to perform these tasks simultaneously through automated reasoning.

AI already plays a major role nowadays in many of the interactions we have with technology, from simple personal assistants to complex machine learning algorithms which can predict consumer trends. However, we have yet to feel AI’s biggest effects. Computer scientists from all around the world are working every day on developing programs which can learn on their own. As computers become capable of learning about the world around them without any help, the contributions they will make to our individual lives and our businesses will be nearly limitless.

Decision-making and data analysis

  • Our decision-making is heavily influenced and weakened by our inherent biases. While our age, beliefs, and personal experiences offer us unique and valuable perspectives, they can also cloud our judgment. AIs, on the other hand, are purely objective and make their decisions purely based on reason and logic, which leads to better, more effective choices.
  • Our ability to make decisions can also be affected when we are stressed or facing multiple variables. This leads to us focusing on small numbers of variables and sometimes making irrational choices. Since an artificial intelligence doesn’t feel stress, it can consider every variable at once and choose the best path forward.
  • AIs or other computer automation solutions also provide value in repetitive work. Where a human may get tired or bored and as such become less productive, an AI would not have this issue.
  • While an artificial intelligence can make better judgment calls, there are still certain human factors which AIs lack. This means that in the near future, AIs will likely be used to provide us with advice instead of completely eliminating humans from the decision-making progress.

Business and marketing

  • Predictive lead scoring can benefit from an AIs learning ability and its data analysis capabilities. Besides processing large amounts of data quickly, AIs can also be trained to interpret data based on a business’s particular needs.
  • Companies such as Google already use artificial intelligence to optimize their search engines using machine learning. Analyzing people’s searches and their interests allows the AI to provide marketers with valuable information on how to attract customers and drive more traffic to their websites.
  • Retailers can use similar search engine optimization AIs on websites. For example, when searching for a product on Amazon, the AI could use your search history to provide better product suggestions, making online marketing more personal and relevant to each individual.
  • AI assistants can also be used in retail stores to help customers find the products they’re interested in and answer their questions, while also becoming more effective with their suggestions as they learn more from their interactions.

Personal assistants

  • Smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple’s HomePod are becoming more and more popular. Around 8 million people reportedly owned an Amazon Echo in 2017, which then was a 60% increase over the previous year.
  • While AI assistants are helpful for almost everyone, they will be particularly helpful for the elderly and those with disabilities. Assistants can help these individuals with ordinary tasks such as locking their doors, turning on the lights, ordering groceries, texting, calling, and so on. As the technology becomes more advanced, the benefits of AI will grow as well.
  • Our homes are quickly becoming just as smart as our phones. There are already apps available that help you with things like cooking, giving you voice control over your recipes, groceries, and pantry. At the same time, numerous smart appliances are already available, giving you the ability to manage almost everything in your house from the fridge and stove to the washer and dryer, all through an AI assistant.
  • An artificial intelligence’s ability to process large amounts of data will prove useful when analyzing politics. We could use an AI to predict political outcomes and determine more effective campaigning strategies.

Potential misuse

While AIs can do a lot of good, there are some cautionary examples of questionable or ineffective applications.

  • There are developers who are working on “robo-graders,” which are AI programs capable of grading student essays and long-form answers. While these can be very helpful for teachers, it poses an ethical dilemma of whether students’ futures should be in the hands of an artificial intelligence.
  • YouTube uses artificial intelligence to manage all its videos and determine if any of the content breaks its site’s rules. While it is impressively effective and efficient, there have also been numerous cases where videos have been wrongly flagged and cases where harmful content has made it through.
  • GitHub user daviddao has put together a list of potential misuses of AI technology and it includes instances of discrimination and misinformation, among others.

The future of the AI industry

Key predictions

The way we currently use computers requires a bit of know-how on the user’s part. While they are much simpler to use than they were not long ago, they still require certain skills for most industries.

Artificial intelligence will allow us to control computers much more easily without any intensive training. All a user will need to know is how to communicate with the AI and since it learns based on interactions with it, communication should become easier and more intuitive as time goes by. Shopping, making financial decisions, generating reports, doing housework, everything will be easier than ever.

The impact AI will have on consumers

There is currently a disconnect between how we interact with people and how we interact with computers. When we communicate with each other, we do it through body language and verbalization. When communicating with computers, we use input methods such as a mouse, keyboard, or a touch screen.

AI, however, allows us to communicate with computers just as we would with other persons. Similar to how you tell your GPS where you want to go, we’ll be able to control many more things in our environments by simply telling an AI what we want.

Interacting with computers will become more human and natural. Simply going to the store or shopping online will be much simpler and faster. Customer service, for example, will no longer be limited by the employee count a business has or an automated chatbot’s capabilities. Instead, companies will be able to gain more consumer trust through the use of AI representatives which offer the most effective support possible.

The impact AI will have on businesses

As consumers are increasingly comfortable with relying on computers, the businesses which offer them the best user-to-software interactions will more easily earn their trust. The easier it is to use a business’s service and the more modern and streamlined it is, the more attractive it will be to consumers.

Businesses can use artificial intelligence to make interactions with customers more natural and effective, saving customers time, frustration, all while earning their trust. Tools which help customers find products or get answers quicker will help companies compete in a world that is rapidly advancing. AIs that understand what people want before they are aware they want it will help businesses gain repeat business from customers who trust them to provide them with exactly what they need.

Since AI is so versatile, its uses are only limited by our imagination. The more you use this technology and work with it, the more obvious its benefits become, and because AIs learn from interactions, the sooner a business starts using it, the faster they can train it for its specific needs.

Limitless possibilities

AI can make intensive computer tasks effortless. Whether we’re talking about maximizing on marketing strategies, understanding the stope of a company’s expenses, or providing customers with unique and memorable experiences, AIs can save businesses time and money by doing all the heavy lifting.

With AI’s ability to learn and become more advanced and efficient with each interaction it has, the sooner businesses adopt it, the bigger the advantage they will have over their competitors. Because AI is still in its infancy, it is easier for early adopters to use it to set themselves apart. Besides modernizing business practices, artificial intelligence tools can offer users nearly limitless benefits in numerous use cases.

The possibilities of artificial intelligence are only limited by our ability to envision ways to apply it. Innovation and creativity are limitless frontiers available to any who wish to explore them. The examples mentioned earlier are only a first glimpse into what a future with AI may hold. Being proactive and implementing artificial intelligence into your workflow will keep your business agile, modern, and ahead of the competition.

AI/ML

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