Artificial intelligence is here, and it’s being put to work across all manner of industries and applications. While the technology still has someway to go before we see machines capable of true independent thought and decision-making, what we do have is sending waves through the business world.
While only 23 percent of businesses have incorporated the technology into the products and services they offer right now, a massive 83 percent have named AI as a strategic priority for the near future. Global spending on cognitive and AI systems is estimated to reach $57.6 billion in 2021 and the AI market is set to grow to become a $190 billion industry by 2025.
What are the benefits of AI to businesses according to industry experts?
It’s clear that the world of business has high hopes for artificial intelligence, but where does the technology come from? Let’s venture together back through the annals of time and find out.
The idea of thinking machines has long been the fodder of science fiction writers, whose cautionary tales of man’s obsession with technology have been delighting bibliophiles and cinema-goes for decades.
The term was first coined by John McCarthy in 1955, who – along with Alan Turing, Allen Newell, Herbert A. Simon, and Marvin Minsky – is known as one of the founding fathers of AI. It was Alan Turing who developed his Turing Test which he claimed could establish whether a machine could truly appear to be reasoning as a human would. The Turing Test went undefeated until 2014 when a computer program called Eugene Goostman, which simulates a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy, passed it at an event organised by the University of Reading.
During the 70s, computer use flourished and, over time, the machines themselves became faster, cheaper, and able to store and process ever more information. Eventually, they gained the ability to “think” abstractly, self-recognise, and begin to understand, process and generate natural human language (feats that have since been developed significantly in the fields of Natural Language Understanding (NLU), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Natural Language Generation (NLG)). As we moved out of the 70s and through the 1980s, computers gained deep learning techniques which enabled them to learn alongside the user experience. The 90s saw further development of these technologies, but a lack of government funds and public attention would ensure that significant progress wasn’t made until the early 2000s.
Today, AI algorithms are being used to process data faster and more accurately than ever before, offering amazing benefits to all kinds of industries.
As we have already touched upon, the number one application for artificial intelligence and specifically machine learning in business is in data processing. The sophisticated algorithms of contemporary machine learning technology can crunch the numbers of vast quantities of information in the blink of an eye.
This data can then be deployed to help brands get a better understanding of their customer by, for instance, creating ever more sophisticated buyer personas through the analysis of buying behaviour, browsing data, abandoned cart information, and more. This enables businesses to discover the reasons why people engage with them – and, perhaps more importantly, the reasons why they don’t. This evidence-based understanding takes the guesswork out of marketing, allowing businesses to craft strategies that meet customer needs much more precisely.
We’re also seeing artificial intelligence take to our roads and highways thanks to the advent of self-driving vehicles. The AI installed in the futuristic transports being developed by such innovative brands as Tesla enables these vehicles to safely navigate the various obstacles and hazards they may encounter when ferrying their owners around. While driverless cars still have a way to go before they become a dominant force on our roads, other self-driving vehicles, such as food delivery drones, are seeing success. Domino’s, for example has been experimenting with a delivery robot in Australia.
(Image source: dominos.com)
Perhaps one of the most exciting applications for artificial intelligence can be found in the healthcare sector. While there has been a lot of buzz about the use of AI in healthcare, much of it has been premature and based on poor-quality research, leaving only a small number of studies which actually show promise.
However, one field which has shown genuine potential is in the analysis and interpretation medical images. AI is able to employ deep learning – a sophisticated form of machine learning in which a series of labelled images are fed into algorithms which are able to identify features within them and learn how to classify similar images – to spot everything from eye conditions to certain types of cancer.
Recent research has found that artificial intelligence deployed in this manner is at least as good as human assessors at identifying these images. That said, it should be added that, in the study, the human assessors were not given access to additional information they would normally use to help steer their diagnoses. However, healthcare professionals remain optimistic about the potential of AI in healthcare for its ability to act as a diagnostic tool and help tackle the backlogs of scans and images which can quickly accumulate.
While AI has yet to reach its full potential as a way of creating true cognitive machines, the technology is already being put to use in so many amazing ways. It’s going to be exciting – and hopefully not even slightly apocalyptic – to see where it all ends up.
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