Why AI Will Play a Huge Role in Our World
It took nearly a century for the average household across the world to own a family car. Radio and television needed some three decades to become integral part of the everyday life of the people in every part of our planet. Personal computers entered our lives in the course of two decades. And with them, the age of artificial intelligence came to life.
Most people associate artificial intelligence with robots and automated procedures. However, AI is much more than that. Artificial intelligence involves machine learning, predictive analytics, and adaptable algorithms that are able to process unimaginable amounts of data, uncovering hidden information layers and dependencies in the process.
And AI is already here – in your mobile device, in smart electric grids, in autonomous vehicles that knock on the door, in virtual assistants that take over the help and support tasks for a growing number of businesses, in your mobile fitness tracker.
How AI Affects Our Everyday Life
You are already using AI unless you were living in a cave for the past two decades. Take for example your smartphone or tablet on which you check the weather forecast. Most of the time you use a weather app, which in turn is using algorithms to predict what weather conditions will be within a given period of time. It is actually a pretty simple AI whose main strength lies with its capability to process huge amounts of historical and actual weather data to make relatively reliable forecasts for relatively short periods.
And while you can still look through the window and decide whether you need to take an umbrella going out, your health condition is not that easy to examine by yourself. Nonetheless, AI-powered systems are already capable of diagnosing a variety of hard to detect and potentially dangerous health conditions by scanning only your retinae, for instance. The last generation of fitness trackers are able to sound an alarm by measuring your blood pressure or taking your pulse and then using sophisticated algorithms to decide whether you need to pay a visit to your doctor.
Let’s take a look at a few more applications of AI in the household and our everyday lives.
- Intelligent robots are already capable of cleaning your living room and wash the dishes. A future generation of AI-enabled robots will be able to take care of kids or pets.
- A number of leading tech and automotive companies are testing autonomous vehicles and forecasts are there will be a fully operational driverless car in less than a decade.
- Artificial intelligence software is able to protect you from fraud by detecting changes in your credit card usage patterns.
- Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant are all AI-powered virtual assistants enabling you to manage a smart home. They just start expanding their capabilities, though.
Artificial intelligence will affect our daily life in more than one way and in many more ways we cannot even imagine at the present early stage of AI adoption.
It all depends on how fast AI algorithms will progress from today’s stage of Domain Specific Expertise to the stage of Reasoning Machines and then Artificial General Intelligence. We will speak more about that in the concluding paragraphs but it is worth mentioning that as of now AI has been successfully developed through three initial stages: Rule Based Systems, Context Awareness and Retention, and Domain Specific Expertise.
Smart household appliances are mostly rule-based systems, for instance. This is where AI begins and such systems are already widespread. The chatbots you are talking to when shopping online or the robo-advisor you are using to manage your personal investments are great examples of Context Awareness and Retention algorithms. These AI algorithms are also broadly used by both consumers and businesses.
AI systems that possess Domain Specific Expertise, the third stage of AI development, are also available. One example is Google Deepmind’s AlphaGo but these AI algorithms still do not have many practical uses. Nevertheless, these systems are able to develop specific expertise that rivals that of any human because they can access and process vast amount of information to take decisions. AlphaGo, for instance, managed to beat the world (human) champion in the game of Go. Its predecessor managed to win when playing chess with world champion Gary Kasparov.
The next generation of AI systems – the Reasoning Machines – will be able to interact both with humans and with other machines. That is when your AI babysitter will become a reality.
How AI Is Impacting Businesses
Evidently, artificial intelligence will broadly influence our business activities as well. A good number of industries already experience the disruptive power of AI and machine learning. Machine learning, predictive analytics and AI in general are the driving force behind numerous innovative solutions across the banking and finance sector, transportation, communications, customer service and support as well as other industries.
Both small and large corporations already use AI-powered chatbots to relive the burden of maintaining large customer support departments in-house. The new generation of chatbots are well equipped to deal with natural language processing with some advanced solutions being able to converse out of the context, just like a human operator. Nonetheless, these AI assistants are able to deal only with purchase and support requests that are deliberately made by a customer.
Predictive machine learning algorithms are capable of even more – you will be able to ship products and services to your customers to replenish items that are running out of stock in advance, for instance. Such capabilities of AI algorithms will disrupt the sales funnels across entire industries and will make it impossible to run a retail business without implementing a sort of AI.
Also, no forex trader or investment bank can afford not to run an AI-powered foreign currency trading platform anymore. Like it or not, but trading on today’s financial markets is largely automated, utilizing the power of machine learning, which in turn enables AI-based trading platforms to make trading decisions using predictive analytics.
The time is near when such transactions will be performed solely by AI-enabled platforms leaving little room for human intervention as the decisions for most of these transactions are made within seconds and require vast amount of information to be processed in the meantime.
We have already mentioned how self-driving cars will affect our everyday life but this AI-powered technology will have huge impact on businesses as well. Bearing in mind that companies such as Google, through their Waymo project, are investing hefty sums into the research of autonomous vehicles, you can expect to see a number of new players in this lucrative market. AI will also change other important aspects of this and other industries as your smart car will decide by itself where to stop for refueling, for instance.
Take a look at the logistics industry as well. Logistics companies use AI and machine learning to forecast where supplies will appear for pickup in the short term, then plan the fastest and most cost-effective route, and then plan for the nearest location where new supplies might be available. The same applies to suppliers or farmers who are able to harness the power of AI to select the cheapest and fastest transport available nearby.
With the Internet of Things also gaining pace, a new generation of industrial IoT devices will be able to use AI and machine learning algorithms to call for replenishments or for pickup without any human monitoring. Amazon, for instance, are already using AI-powered forklifts that perform complex logistics operations in their warehouses. The very same automated smart vehicles will be able to replenish items automatically and stock goods in a way that allows for fastest pickup and delivery.
The predictive abilities of AI systems also allow for predictive maintenance, which is a game-changer when it comes to reducing maintenance costs within industrial environments. An intelligent maintenance system is able to schedule servicing of specific equipment and plan for maintenance that will allow for uninterrupted manufacturing or processing. A machine-learning algorithm, powered by historical data, can forecast when a specific machine part will be worn out and replace it ahead of time.
Apart from goods and services, businesses already use AI also for hiring the right people for the right positions. As weird as it seems, algorithms something are better in assessing job candidates as compared to your HR manager. Of course, application of such hiring AI systems is still debatable as they too demonstrate certain biases but this is not a problem of the very algorithm rather than an issue related to the data from biased past decisions, made by human HR managers, on the basis of which the algorithm is taking decisions.
AI, machine learning and Big Data have many more possible applications in business while the combination of AI and blockchain networks opens even broader possibilities.
The Promise and Future of AI
The future of artificial intelligence and its applications is related to our ability to progress beyond the current state of algorithms that have Domain Specific Expertise and reach the next stages of AI development.
We have already mentioned the Reasoning Machines and such algorithms are expected to be operational within a few years. They will possess their own logic, which might be frightening at times but they will only add an additional layer of intelligence to existing systems such as service and support chatbots or smart assistants like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant. It will be funny to argue with Alexa about selecting what movie to watch tonight, right.
And here we go to the fundamental step where narrow AI is transforming into general AI. All the algorithms we have mentioned so far represent narrow AI i.e. algorithms that specialize in a certain field or procedure but lack human-like intelligence.
Stage 5 of the AI development is the creation of Self Aware Systems / Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) that have human-like intelligence. Once, and if, such systems are created, our world will never be the same as machines will be able to function on the same or similar level to human beings.
Those who fear the rise of machines often point at stage 6 and 7 of the AI development process. These stages plan for creation of Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) and ensuing Singularity and Transcendence phase, respectively.
Artificial Super Intelligence will supposedly outperform any human in almost any domain. These algorithms will be able to conduct scientific research independently and invent complex social and economic systems by themselves. Actually, it is very hard to predict what ASI will be capable of and it is yet unclear if such systems are possible to build at all. In any case, this is a possible scenario where our society might rely solely on AI/ASI systems to run the entire economy and many other aspects of our life.
The combination of tech hardware advancements and ASI may eventually give birth to the Singularity and Transcendence stage where people will be augmented and enhanced in a way to connect their brains to each other or even use artificial body parts or bodies. This is actually a step to immortality but we are still far away from witnessing such a reality.
What is real, however, is the Fourth Industrial Revolution that involves smart machines of many kinds and that affects every business, nation and individual on our planet. Regardless of where you live or what you do, algorithms are shaping your life and business in increasingly diverse number of ways.
And, as always in history, early adopters of machine learning and AI technologies will be the winners.