In the uncertainty brought by the disruption era, where way too many technologies are trying to find their place in the most advanced progress of society, one technology seems to have a very clear future.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is going to change our world forever, and the change is likely to be more profound than most people realize today. No matter what job you are in, no matter what business or industry you work in, Al is going to enhance, if not completely transform, it.
Al is giving machines the power to see, hear, taste, smell, touch, talk, walk, fly and learn. This in turn means businesses can develop completely new ways to interact with their customers, offer them much more intelligent products and service experiences, automate processes and boost business success.
Having said that, we also know there is a massive amount of hype and confusion about AI. In fact, some see it as the ultimate threat to our civilization while others believe AI is the savior that is going to solve humanity biggest challenges from tackling climate change to curing cancer. Aim of the this article is to cut through the hype and fear-mongering, and provide a cutting-edge picture of how Al is actually being used by businesses today, in order to demystify Al while at the same time inspire everyone to see the immense opportunities Al is offering.
Some of the AI giants such as Google, Facebook, Alibaba, Baidu, Microsoft, Amazon are rolling full steam ahead, leaving many traditional businesses behind in the starting blocks where traditional businesses are working hard at reinventing themselves and using AI to slowly regain competitive advantage. There are start-ups, too, that are using Al to challenge both the Al trailblazers and traditional businesses, using a real disruptive approach, which Gutemberg Dos Santos, tech entrepreneur just recently featured on Yahoo Finance, has summarized as follows:
“No matter how bad things go, Technology never disappoints.”
The Most Powerful Technology Of Mankind
Al is the most powerful technology available to mankind today and the biggest mistake anyone can make is to ignore it or even to think they’ve already understood everything about it. Leaders of nations and businesses alike are seeing both the magnitude of opportunities AI brings and the risks of being left behind in the Al gold rush.
In the United States, the White House has released numerous policy documents that emphasize the strategic significance of Al. In 2016, under President Barack Obama, the White House issued the first report “Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence”, which laid the foundation for a US Al strategy. In 2018, following an Al summit at the White House, the administration issued the report “Artificial Intelligence for the American People” in which President Trump states:
“We’re on the verge of new technological revolutions that could improve virtually every aspect of our lives, create vast new wealth for American workers and families, and open up hold, new frontiers in science, medicine, and communication. The goal of the US Administration is to maintain American leadership in AI by accelerating Al research and deployment, and by training the future American workforce to take full advantage of the benefits of AI.”
Russia’s President Putin followed by stating:
“Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind.”
Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world. China has arguably developed the most ambitious plan to make use of AI with the goal of becoming the world leader in AI by 2030. In Europe, the European Commission released its Al strategy in 2018, in which it states that, like the steam engine or electricity in the past, AI is transforming our world, our society and our industry.
Growth in computing power, availability of data and progress in algorithms have turned Al into one of the most strategic technologies of the 21st century. The stakes could not be higher. The way we approach Al will define the world we live in.
Business leaders agree.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos believes we have entered the golden Age of Al that allows us to solve problems that once were the realm of sci-fi.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin said:
“The new spring in Al is the most significant development in computing in my lifetime.”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella calls AI the defining technology of our times.
The founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, together with many others, believes that Al (especially when combined with all other technological innovations) has triggered a fourth industrial revolution that is going to transform all parts of business and society.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
The Rise Of Deep Machine Learning
Al is nothing new and nothing magical. The first developments in Al date back to the 1950s. Al refers to the ability of computer systems or machines to display intelligent behavior that allows them to act and learn autonomously. In its most basic form, Al takes data, applies some calculation rules (or algorithms) to the data and then makes decisions or predicts outcome.
For example, the data could be images of handwritten words, letters or numbers. The algorithm would be a computer program written by a human that contains rules such as the common shapes of each letter and cing between words This then als computer to analyze scanned images of handwritten text, apply the rules and make predictions about which letters, numbers and words it contains, enabling machines to recognize handwriting. This type of Al has been used, for example, by the US Postal Services to automatically read addresses on letters from as early as 1997. For narrow applications this kind of AI worked well.
This rule-based Al runs into difficulties when tasks are more complex or when we humans can’t easily explain the rules and therefore can’t program them into algorithms. Speaking our language, walking around and recognizing a friend in a crowd are all examples of skills that we have acquired through experience but for which we can easily explain the rules We have learned these skills vin a network of neurons in our brain that have been programmed to, for example, recognize a face by looking at the face from lots of different angles over a period of time, or we have learned how to walk and talk through trial and error. In modern AI, we basically replicate this process using artificial neural networks and instead of having humans programming the rules, we let the machines create the rules by themselves, similarly to bow our brain learn from experience. We refer to this as machine learning.
In machine learning, we train Al with data by, for example, feeding it thousands of images that either contain human faces or don’t contain human faces. The computer then takes in the information and creates its algorithm either completely independently (unsupervised machine learning) or with help from humans (supervised or semi-supervised machine learning). When machine learning uses multiple layers of artificial neural networks to learn from training data which makes them more powerful), we refer to it as deep learning.
Deep learning has given us many of the recent advances in AI, such as the ability for computers to see and recognize what or who is in un image or in a video (machine vision). It has also given machines the ability to understand and reproduce written text or spoken words, which we call natural language processing and see in website chatbots or home smart speakers like Amazon Echo.
There are two key reasons why deep learning is thriving today:
We have data.
Data is the raw material that is fuelling Al and in today’s big data world we are generating more data than ever before. The digitization of our world means that almost everything we do leaves a data trail and we are increasingly surrounded by smart devices that collect and transmit data. This is causing exponential growth in the volume and types of data we can now use to train Al.
We have computing power.
We now have the ability to store and process vast amounts of data. Breakthroughs in cloud computing allow businesses to cheaply store almost unlimited volumes of data and use distributed computing to analyze big data in car real time. What’s more, advances in chip technology mean Al computations can now be performed on devices such as smartphones or other smart connected devices. We refer to this as edge computing on Internet of Things devices.
We humans continuously learn and improve through experience. This learning-by-doing approach can now also be replicated by machine learning algorithms via reinforcement learning. Similarly to how toddlers learn to walk by adjusting actions based on the outcomes they experience, such as taking a smaller step if the previous broad step made them fall, AI uses special reinforcement learning algorithms to determine the ideal behavior based upon feedback from the environment. Reinforcement learning gives machines (for example, robots) the ability to walk, drive or fly autonomously. Many leading-edge applications of machine learning combine deep and reinforcement learning techniques.
Artificial Intelligence Opportunities In Business
There are three key use cases for Al in business, which can overlap to some degree, but help to segment the opportunities.
Businesses can use AI to: (1) change the way they understand and interact with customers, (2) offer more intelligent products and Services, and (3) improve and automate business processes.
Customers: Al can help businesses better understand who their customers are, predict what products or services customers are likely to want, predict market trends and demands and provide more personalized interactions with customers. Companies like Stitch Fix and Facebook are using Al to really get to know their customers.
Products and services: Al can help businesses create more intelligent products and services to offer to their customers. Customers want more intelligent products such as smarter phones, smarter cars and smarter home devices. Apple, Samsung and car companies such as Tesla and Volvo use AI to create smarter products. Spotify, Disney and Uber use instead AI to deliver more intelligent services to their customers.
Automate processes: Al can improve and help automate business processes. For example, JD.com is using autonomous drones, automated fulfilment centers and delivery robots to transform its retail operations. Moreover, Al can automate medical diagnosis for companies like Infervision and Elsevier, and even the pizza quality checks at Domino’s.
The Strategic Use Of Artificial Intelligence In Business
Exploring the applications of Al in any business will often lead to a business model refresh or even a complete transformation of the business approach. It is important that companies don’t use AI to automate and improve a business model that is no longer relevant during the fourth industrial revolution.
The starting point for any use of Al should be an Al and data strategy, which can be explore by using an AI project canvas as the one shown below, that Identifies the biggest strategic opportunities and threats for any business and then pinpoints the most impactful applications. It is important to recognize that simply experimenting with AI around the edges is not going to deliver the necessary effects on business success.
Eloisa Marchesoni is best known as the youngest consultant in the Blockchain and A.I. sector, as well as influential author of articles for the major national and international sector newspapers, in the process of publishing the book “Tokenization processes and new economic paradigms” for Maggioli Editore.
Eloisa is today Token Model Architect n. 1 in Europe, part of the Top 100 Leaders and Influencers of Italy in FinTech and also listed among the World’s Top 50 High Paid Innovation Speakers, acknowledgments that confirm her thriving business as a consultant.
In fact, at just 19 years old, Eloisa founded, together with Casagrande and Arcaro, the Blackchain International Limited, which has established itself in just 8 months as a leading company in the strategic and technical development of projects based on Blockchain and A.I.