To AI or not
JANUARY 28, 2020
To AI or not - A Business Perspective
Artificial Intelligence is a buzz word you might have probably heard of a lot, lately. You being an expert in your business world might be thinking…
“is it something I should be experimenting with?”
“is it going to put me out of business?”
“is it significant enough change for me to worry about?”
“is it something which if I early-adopt is going to give my business a competitive edge?”
Well, this article doesn’t answer these questions but it will give you an intuitive understanding about AI without getting technical which will indeed make you answer them yourself.
Is it big enough?
We all have been hearing from the past five years that artificial intelligence will have a significant impact on our work and businesses. To answer the question of whether to be as spectators or actors in this AI revolution, let me throw at you a bit of philosophical history to show how big this revolution is, in scale.
We as humans have seen three major revolutions in our history. We had the Agricultural Revolution of the ancient times, the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th to early 19th century and finally, the Digital/Tech revolution which overlaps the time we live in. Industrial Revolution brought about a change in production methods, from handmade production to machine-made production, as well as new iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, development of machine tools, and increased usage of steam power. Similarly, the Digital revolution brought with it the mass production of digital logic circuits and its derived technologies like the digital cellphone, fax machine and — who could forget — the computer. In essence, the Industrial Revolution and the more modern production methods that it brought are what fueled the Digital Revolution, allowing for mass production of these digital circuits.
We’re on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0. It’s quite different than the three Industrial Revolutions that preceded it — steam and water power, electricity and assembly lines, and computerization — because it will even challenge our ideas about what it means to be human and AI is going to be the show stopper in all this.
Addressing the scary ghost
Quite recently I have met this wonderful, talented person who is working in an MNC as an English to German language translator. In our casual talks, she asked me where will she be placed in this AI world, now that AI can do the translations quite efficiently. Without waiting for my response, she asked how she can learn more about AI and apply it herself. I think we should all be asking this question ourselves. Far too many people think of AI as some abstract, mysterious force in the hands of expert geeks.
Well AI is simple at its core. It is acting based on experience. It learns from experience and acts based on its learning. But it has these unusual properties that require some getting used to. For a business, experience comes in the form of fresh data and some kind of feedback on how it’s doing so far.
How real is it?
Let me first sell you with the idea of how cool AI is. Google, the mother company running the world’s largest AI system built an algorithm for power management that decreases the energy costs at google data center by 15% which is at google scale a hell lot of money. AI is already transforming web search, advertising, e-commerce, finance, logistics, media, and more.
Now let me cut through the hype and say what AI really is doing today.
The following data is from Andrew Ng who is one of the most active heads in AI research. Most of the people in Machine learning call themselves Deep learning engineers because of Andrew Ng’s courses. It’s know it sounds weird but let’s park that for another blog.
Surprisingly, despite AI’s breadth of impact, the types of it being deployed are still extremely limited. Almost all of AI’s recent progress is through one type, in which some input data (A) is used to quickly generate some simple response (B).
If a typical person can do a mental task with less than one second of thought, we can probably automate it using AI either now or in the near future. Understanding what AI can do and how it fits into your strategy is the beginning, not the end, of the process. AI is extremely good at both calculations and finding the patterns and it outperforms humans in many cases. Machines perform tasks differently from humans. Machine should not copy humans; a self-driving car should not copy human drivers any more than today’s cars copy horses. This should be factored in while architecting an approach to AI.
As much cool as it sounds AI is not a magic wand. AI is not readymade; nurturing is required to build the intelligent tool itself. You can’t buy intelligence; you can probably get all naked AI algorithms for free but they are not natively intelligent thus they have no business value. Instead, you need to nurture them by training them on data, lots of data, your data, a little bit like providing first experiences to a newborn child.
So at the end…
Drop your scare, AI is not complex, it can help you find patterns even in our real-world populated by humans, you just have to train it with lots of data and tailor the approach to AI rather than to enact humans. Tailoring the approach to AI is where the expertise comes in. Tech consulting companies like wavelabs.ai and many others bring in this expertise in a very customized and goal-driven manner. The advent of technology and capabilities of such service companies allows the algorithms to run at an unprecedented pace of developing intelligence and stupendous scale of applying it. AI is like a powerup that can boost your businesses to a never seen before level. If you are in procurement it can help review contracts, if you run critical equipment it will help in preemptive maintenance, if you are in recruitment it will help in delegating interviewing and scheduling, if you own an e-commerce website it will help in personalized recommendations for your customers, if you are in Ad marketing it will help you in Ad placement for optimal ad clicks. We could go on like this forever.
People sometimes worry that they might be out of work if they start applying AI. But I, in reality, tasks are not jobs, and jobs are not your work. I agree that some tasks will be automated by AI but you can redefine the job by augmenting your performance with AI and you might even expand your career by applying AI to all of the untapped opportunities all over the world. AI is not a destructive force; it will force us to be smarter and more creative than mechanical and dumb. If its anything, it’s the most constructive than any other tool we have been using since the dawn of time.
The more intuition you get about AI the faster you move from being spectators to actors in the AI world.
To infinity and beyond 🙂