AI, or artificial intelligence, is becoming more and more common and accurate. Today, we have systems like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana — and that’s just scratching the surface. All those platforms are called virtual assistants, and they’re designed to make your life much easier. They rely on big data and modern analytics.
AI can also be found in smart devices like wearables, enterprise and marketing, and even in aviation. The autopilot system on a plane, for instance, is driven by an automated, albeit basic, AI.
What Is AI?
So, what is AI, really? The movies would have us believe it’s non-sentient life that has the potential to destroy the human race. That’s a bit extreme, though, especially since it will be some time before AI is so capable. Does that mean such a thing is nigh impossible? Elon Musk sure doesn’t think so, but that’s not what we’re here to focus on.
Artificial intelligence is simply the act of programming computers and devices to make decisions and carry out actions that normally require human intelligence. The system in question is developed to assess and follow a set of protocols based on various triggers. Home automation is a simplistic form of AI, without all the bells and whistles of a supercomputer. The app, IFTTT is a great way to explain how this works. If This, Then That denotes the automation process for setting up a “recipe” or rule.
AI is taking hold in enterprise, too. IBM’s Watson is a cognitive AI system designed to assist businesses and companies with a great many things. Most importantly, it uses machine learning to discover insights, trends and actionable intel based on incoming customer and performance data.
The point is, these technologies do exist, and they’re being used in today’s world for a variety of means. Of course, the more pressing question is how the technology will evolve.
The Future of AI: What Can We Expect?
You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing unorthodox being done with AI. Innovation is happening yes, but it all seems to be in areas or industries where you might expect — for example, AI systems to drive retail fulfillment processes, to improve the accuracy of medical devices and equipment, and even to make predictions about your web searches.
To look to the future, however, you really need to see what amazing things AI is being used for.
AI Can Predict Fertility
Fertility is something that is being tackled with technology these days. Women and couples are using mobile apps and software and even uniquely designed devices to keep track of ovulation and plan a pregnancy.
An Android and iOS fertility app named My Days deployed a unique service, powered by AI startup Neura. The system learned a user’s daily habits and information, and then it would send alerts based on predictive analytics. Not only would these alerts offer personalized information, but they were delivered at opportune times during a user’s schedule. For example, it might prompt a woman to take her temperature on a lunch break at work.
The system was so successful that usage of the app grew shortly after the service was deployed. Taking a cue from this story, we can see new ways in which modern AI can be used to improve our lives. In this case, it’s being used to predict fertility and improve the baby-making process, for lack of a better phrase.
It could also be used to improve diets and exercise regimens, optimize or become more productive with a schedule and much more. The system in question can connect to a data source, acquire information and spit out the kind of insights and predictive data that helps users make a more informed decision.
Entertainment and Satisfaction
Believe it or not, Netflix employs modern AI systems to deliver accurate content suggestions to its customer base. Users react to various movies and shows, by adding them to favorites, providing personal ratings and more. The AI system takes this into account and applies it to existing content offered via the platform to deliver targeted, accurate suggestions.
Amazon does the same exact thing in retail. The retail giant offers targeted product and service suggestions based on a user’s browsing history, past purchases and more.
This technology — thanks to big data and predictive analytics — is growing smarter by the day. Sure, it’s being used for Netflix of all places, but that can be applied to many services and brands in a wide variety of industries. Pandora and Spotify — music streaming services — use the same technology to deliver targeted content suggestions as well.
Alexa, the AI system behind Amazon’s Echo platform, also makes product suggestions to customers. She can even auto add items to a shopping cart based on a user’s preferences and history. Run out of paper towels, for instance, and Alexa will order more and have them shipped right to you within days.
This shows exactly where modern AI is headed in the near future. Expect to see many brands and services leveraging AI over the coming year. We’re sure to see some more innovative and more convenient solutions as companies work to improve the customer experience.
Improving the Accuracy of Diagnostics
Medical treatments are largely at the whim of doctors and medical professionals, at least when it comes to deciding what should be used. Patients will often share their ailments and symptoms, to which a professional will deliver a potential diagnosis. This leads to further testing or monitoring, before finally moving to treatment. Sometimes the process is relatively simple and quick — and others, not so much.
Furthermore, doctors are not infallible, which means they can and do make improper diagnoses at times. Luckily, AI-based medical systems can be used to improve the accuracy of these predictions and identify problems faster.
Enlitic, a company that specializes in deep-machine-learning, will be deploying dozens of systems across the world. Medical imaging centers will soon be outfitted with the kind of AI and deep-learning technologies that can make a variety of diagnoses for patients. Once up and running, the system in question can analyze MRI’s, CT scans, ultrasounds, X-rays and even nuclear medicine scans.
We don’t need to tell you how much this will impact the medical and health industry. We could see a long-lasting relationship between modern medical professionals and predictive AI systems that work to improve our quality of life.
Automating Your Business
The rapid changes in AI technology impact all types of business models. As companies automate different aspects of their day-to-day operations, expect workers to find ways of adding more creative endeavors into the mix. We can see this trend in fast-food restaurants already, where people can order on a screen, freeing up workers to better greet and engage with customers.
The process starts by redefining roles in your organization and figuring out what tasks computers can do quicker or better and what tasks humans are better off handling. Look to areas in your company that are prone to error. Machines are much better equipped to handle things such as mathematical configurations without making costly mistakes.
On the other hand, in one-on-one interactions such as onboarding new clients, a human touch is almost always the better choice. Artificial intelligence can undoubtedly gather and analyze fundamentals information, but the time savings of other operations using automation allows your employees to home in on each client and offer a personalized experience in an increasingly impersonal world.
Teaching Computers to Learn for Themselves
Expect 2019 to be a year where computers begin learning for themselves more and more. Although computer scientists have made impressive advances in this area in recent years, there are still some hiccups in AI. For example, teaching a computer how to feel emotion seems nearly impossible. Machines can guess at and mimic emotions, but they can’t yet experience sadness, happiness, anger, frustration, etc.
In the early days of computers, their knowledge remained limited to the information programmers fed them. Today, though, programmers use a method called reinforcement learning so computers can categorize on their own. Researchers are also working on allowing for supervisors and other computers to check in with that central hub.
Researchers are hard at work on an AI system that does not require supervision. The final stepping stone is figuring out how to get computers to give themselves feedback. Researchers have already taught a computer to solve a maze through reasoning similar to how the human mind reasons. The possibilities for machine learning are limitless as programmers try new methods and find ways to advance in the field.
Creating Transparency in AI
With the concerns over foreign governments potentially hacking into election systems and obtaining high-level government secrets, the idea of AI is a bit scary. Although there are many positives to advances in this technology, there is also some concern over how criminals might abuse the technology.
There is an increasing push this year to create more transparency about what’s going on with AI and how we might use it to solve problems. Technology is playing a role in areas we never thought of before, so it’s vital for people to trust the technology with their information. People also are a bit distrustful of letting machines control too much of their lives, although there’s a valid argument to make that technology, in the form of smartphones, already controls us.
Because companies developing the technology also fear future legal ramifications, expect more transparency in the future. The General Data Protection Regulation is one step toward protecting personal information and forcing companies to remain transparent about how they use data.
From medicine to retail and everywhere in between, AI is present. Only time will tell how this will all play out in 2019 and beyond, but for now, AI is doing its best to make our lives easier.