Artificial Intelligence – what does it mean to your business

All through the ages, from the Greek God Hephaestus ‘three-legged self-navigating tables’ to Isaac Asimov’s ‘three laws of robotics’ introduced in 1942, there has been both excitement and trepidation regarding the concept of autonomous intelligence.

In the 90’s the advancement of AI provided valuable services within manufacturing, healthcare, crime prevention and education. These technologies have become ingrained in our culture; in the words of John McCarthy, who coined the term artificial intelligence, “As soon as the technology works, no one calls it AI anymore.”

We may be reasonably good at foreseeing technology advancements e.g. driverless cars, smart homes/cities/Internet of Things, etc. However envisioning a future where Robotics, Cyborgs, Augmented and Artificial Intelligence converge, morph, learn and grow – will surely be a less predictable path – one that is both exciting and unsettling.

Should we believe the hyperbole of Robotic Overlords enslaving and causing the extinction of humankind through ‘terminator’ style machines…

… OR should we take a moment to imagine a future where cityscapes are not bleak but beautiful, where humanity is happy, healthy, more productive and creative because of Artificial Intelligence! Where embracing a more symbiotic union with AI solves intractable problems and improves civilization.

Is the Future now?

AI and Healthcare

We are already benefiting from AI in healthcare. One such example is the development of neurotechnology. Neuroscientists have begun to decode electrochemical signals in the brain to deliver instructions that direct neurons to respond in a required way allowing people with full body paralysis to operate prosthetic limbs with their thoughts alone. Perhaps soon augmentation will enable humankind to expand their capabilities; triggering new ways of thinking, imagining or being.

AI and Industry 4.0

Industries have always evolved, and technological change is hard to slow down with threats from new entrants/rival companies/nations and progress itself! Had we pulled the plug, metaphorically, throughout history technologies such as electricity would have never happened.

Fear has been around a long time. The best-known example of ‘rage against the machines’ was the Luddite destruction of British stocking factory machinery in 1811. Just as horses were gradually made obsolete by the automobile, humans’ jobs have also been affected by technology e.g. self-service tills, drive through fast food, online shopping, etc.

Technology is part of strategic development, process agility, and customer-centricity. It is there to underline not undermine business success.

Businesses and consumers are already interfacing with AI technology; voice recognition devices and virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Cortana, and Siri, are used at home and in the workplaces.

Paul Chong, director of IBM Watson Europe, thinks businesses will increasingly see voice, rather than apps or web pages, as the best way to interact with customers. “In future people, won’t need to go to websites, it will all be about the conversation,” he said. “And chatbots were likely to change the way we converse.”

We adapt; businesses have developed, jobs have reformed, and when humans and computers work together they can do amazing things neither could do alone. Until the day businesses and employment become obsolete, there is plenty of room to develop strategies that push innovation, capability, and creativity.

Jobs and money

What happens when you no longer need to earn a living?

“What would you do if your income were taken care of?” Was a poster installed in a Geneva square by campaigners in favour of a Universal Basic Income (UBI)

This concept is steadily gaining traction as automation threatens jobs. The UBI model provides an income without sanctions or obligations.

In an article written for www.theguardian.com by Libby Brooks, Jan 2017, Scotland’s Matt Kerr has been championing the idea of a UBI in Glasgow and is currently arranging a feasibility study to present a strong evidence base for a pilot. Experiments in Kenya, the Netherlands and California will reveal this year what happens when governments and private organisations provide a Universal Basic Income.

How would Universal Basic Income affect small businesses?

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, in a November interview with CNBC, said: “There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation.” James Wallace, a serial entrepreneur and founding member of Exponential University, like Musk, predicted that a basic income is not only desirable but also “imminent and beyond probable.” and that five to 10 years from now nonhuman AI workers will have taken over many jobs.

“Today, we are paying the price so the future generation can be born into this world … and consider a life that doesn’t require 50 to 80 hours of work each week from age 20 to 70,” he said. “Instead, they can think, ‘How can I provide value to my planet in my niche with my skills and talents?’ — and isn’t that a great thing?”

Hypothetically supporters of the UBI have predicted increased number of start-ups and more people investing in companies. In the same article, Chris Yoko, CEO of Yoko Co., said he’d expect UBI to generate more competition in the market by giving more people the means to pursue disruptive ideas. However, that might be the death sentence for companies that fail to offer particularly innovative products or progressive ideas.

How can AI transform my business?

AI is an indispensable tool, especially in commercial applications. AI can process, analyse data far more quickly than a human brain could. It can provide a huge number of alternative courses of action, compare possible outcomes and streamline the decision-making process.

Off the shelf AI

DigitalGenius integrates with communication channels and customer relationship management tools like Salesforce.com, responding to repetitive questions, combining the best of human and machine intelligence to deliver on increasing customer expectations. When a new message comes in via Email, Social Media, Mobile Messaging or Live Chat, DigitalGenius suggests the best answer to the agent. If the prediction falls above a certain confidence level, the answer will be automated.

Conversica leverages artificial intelligence to automate the Lead contact and qualification process. It identifies which leads intend to purchase and are ready to buy now.

On your phone

Siri Part of Apple’s iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Intelligent personal assistant.

Cortana Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant. Designed for Windows Mobile but now on Android, and a limited version runs on Apple iOS. Also, works on desktops and Xbox One.

Google Now Available within Google Search mobile app for Android and iOS as well as the Google Chrome web browser on other devices. Delegates requests to web services powered by Google.

Though these technologies seem daunting, it’s getting easier to get started AI.

Next steps

Discuss the needs of your business with your IT Partner who will provide strategic advice; ensuring the IT foundations of your business are solid, secure, scalable and AI ready.
Netitude and AI

Netitude work with several technology partners who use Machine Learning (aka AI) within their product development to monitor systems; predicting and identifying when they will need repair, patching, and protection.

WatchGuard uses Machine Learning ‘AI’ to solve Malware problems. Identifying overall patterns in malware that humans cannot find on their own. WatchGuard uses the best technologies to improve security strategies.

BitDefender has continuously been developing and training Machine Learning algorithms for cyber security proposes since 2009 with six issued patents for Machine Learning technologies on how malware behaves and how malware algorithms complement security researchers in offering protection against malware.

VMWare is currently one of the global leaders in cloud infrastructure and digital workspace technology. VMWare has also worked to embed Machine Learning within its larger systems that manage servers and whole data centers, such as vSphere and vRealize to improve functions such as resource allocation, dynamic scaling, and hybrid cloud operations.

Azure Machine Learning in the Cloud helps computers learn from existing data to forecast future behaviours, outcomes, and trends. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Artificial Intelligence services on the AWS cloud bring Deep Learning (DL).

Contact your Virtual IT Director for advice on how your business infrastructure can support new technology. 

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