What is Artificial Intelligence? Separating Fact from Fiction

November 15, 2017/0 Comments/by Bright Apps LLC

What is Artificial Intelligence? Artificial Intelligence (AI) provokes a variety of responses. Some people think of AI as the next logical technological progression. Others think AI is pure science fiction. Some believe AI is already part of their everyday lives. All of these beliefs are true; however, these individuals are referring to different classifications of AI. The concept of AI began back in the fifties. The term AI is a large umbrella that contains more complicated concepts such as machine learning and deep learning. AI as most people think of it today is a combination of these two technological techniques.

How Machines Learn

There are two general approaches to these techniques: supervised and unsupervised learning. Most machines learn in a supervised setting. An individual supplies the machine with information to train it. The individual also gives the machine the desired end result so it can learn how to replicate it. Unsupervised learning does not provide such information. Instead, an individual presents the machine with information grouped into distinct categories and the machine learns how to produce the desired outcome.

A real-life example would be teaching students. If the teacher provides the answers to every question before starting the lesson, this is supervised learning. If, however, the teacher requires the students to come up with their own solutions after providing relevant information, this is unsupervised learning. This concept is the same for AI—the ability for a machine to tackle a problem without already knowing the answer.

Why Should Businesses Care?

While AI is making big strides, it is nowhere near how Hollywood portrays it. AI still has its limitations, but businesses cannot afford to brush it off as trivial. For example, think back to when the ecommerce industry first began. In its infancy, many individuals distrusted it and several retail giants chose to ignore it. Now, it is a prosperous industry demolishing brick and mortar stores that took too long to realize its potential. Major retail corporations like Walmart and Macy’s are now scrambling to catch up to their tech-savvy competitors in order to remain relevant.

AI is the next big boom and businesses need to take note. Several heavy hitters including Google, Facebook, and Amazon are vying to be the leader of the AI sector. Of course, these major tech companies can afford to compete with one and other. This does not mean, however, that smaller ventures cannot have a seat at the table.

How Businesses Use AI

Businesses use AI to serve a variety of functions. The most common are in the IT sector, but companies also use AI for marketing, accounting, and customer service purposes. Below are some of the most common AI business applications

  • IT: Security monitoring and defenses, providing helpdesk services to resolve IT issues, automating certain processes to improve productivity, and more
  • Marketing: Predictive purchasing analysis to recommend products to customers, monitoring social media for problems, etc.
  • Customer service: automated call centers and chatbots

One of the biggest benefits of AI is it frees up workers’ time to focus on the more significant aspects of their job. For example, an IT employee has several duties. Some are complex and require his or her full attention. Others, such as password retrievals for customers, are simple. While the task is simple, it is an unnecessary distraction and hinders the employee’s productivity. By automating the password retrieval process, AI can save the employee time and allow him or her to focus on projects that are more important.

Debunking AI Myths

With any new technology comes excitement. The possibilities can revolutionize how people work and live their day-to-day lives. However, with any new opportunity comes insecurity. There are also those looking to sow fear and discord to protect their own interests. Below are some of the most often cited concerns and misconceptions surrounding AI.

Machines Will Replace All Human Jobs

The idea that AI can assume all human jobs is a massive oversimplification. While AI will likely disrupt the workforce, this is true of any major societal advancement. For example, the industrial revolution created a significant shift in the employment makeup. However, it did not remove jobs without replacing them. Workers made the shift from agriculture to manufacturing. An increase in AI in the workplace will not create human redundancy. Instead, it will allow employees to focus on their complex projects thus boosting productivity. In addition, employers are not turning to AI with the intent to replace their human workforce. Companies want AI to augment how employees work to create innovation.

Machines Will Exceed All Human Capabilities

Most AI technology falls under two categories: specialized and generalized. Specialized AIs can only perform one task, but they perform it to an optimum level. In this instance, it is possible for a machine to supersede a human. However, most businesses do not need a one trick pony. They need a workforce that can perform several jobs to a proficient degree. Generalized AIs, in theory, can do this. Like beings with natural intelligence, generalized AIs can perform several tasks. Such technology, however, is not readily available and it will be quite some time before AIs achieve such capabilities.

There is another subtle layer that machines cannot achieve when measuring intelligence. If you gauge intelligence on a linear scale, such as the ability to remember facts, a machine will always outperform a human. However, humans possess more than straightforward, measurable intelligence. Humans are creative, empathetic, and strategic in ways that machines are not. Employers need all of these human aspects of intelligence to achieve business success.

Machines Will Enslave Us All

Hollywood popularized the killer robot trope, and it is not entirely without merit. Experts such as Elon Musk contend that progressive AI does have some risks. However, for a Terminator-esque doomsday to occur, several things would have to happen first. For one, AI would have to breach several technological boundaries. For another, society would have to make numerous concessions. For example, what is the likelihood that a person would create a machine that has the potential to decide to turn against and harm humans? The odds are not great that someone would make such a machine.

Drones are a real-world example. Several companies have developed drones capable of detecting and taking out threats. However, they are not available for purchase and are not likely to make it to the market. The reason? Widespread criticism by the public. In order for such science fiction fears to become a reality, humanity would have to allow it.

AI will be the next big business boom, and executives cannot afford to ignore it. Playing catch up rarely yields positive business outcomes—a fact brick and mortar stores proved when they neglected to invest in ecommerce. To learn more about capitalizing on the AI revolution, contact Bright Apps today.