The once-futuristic predictions about how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact the world are becoming reality. Legendary futurist Ray Kurzweil has imagined advanced technology delivering everything from computerised brain chips to near-total automation of industries, and we already see the signs that AI will ultimately change the way we live and work.
AI, where computers behave like humans, is no longer the stuff of science fiction. In many respects, AI is like a freight train racing down the tracks. Steady advances in hardware and software are sparking immense progress in how machines help interact with customers. Google’s voice recognition technology, for instance, improved to 98% in 2014 from 84% just two years earlier. Facebook’s DeepFace technology now recognizes faces with 97% accuracy. As for IBM’s Watson, its technology is 2,400% smarter today than when it achieved its Jeopardy victory in 2011. Voice recognition systems themselves now perform tens of millions of online searches every month.
As machines get smarter, companies across the globe are beginning to explore ways to leverage AI to work more efficiently, safely, accurately and cost-effectively, and improve consumer engagement and customer experience at the same time. AI will be used to replace simple human tasks and augment more complex ones in the foreseeable future. In fact, we are already seeing humans being replaced by AI in mundane customer service roles – for example, through chat bots. Cognitive technologies are making possible faster actions and decisions that satisfy today’s consumers who seek speedy responses. It’s enabling improved efficiency of operations and employees, reduced labour costs, and greater scale by performing major tasks that are impractical to perform manually.
We can expect AI to impact critical fields like medicine, where it will be harnessed for more accurate diagnostics, treatment, and possibly even consultative roles. In the long term, it’s been predicted that AI will extend our brains to predominantly non-biological thinking.
Exactly how AI will be adopted and change the world isn’t easy to predict, but there is no doubt that smart businesses will use AI, as they have with every other technology at their disposal in the past, to disrupt themselves in order to succeed. Much of this move to AI will be driven by a business need to anticipate customer needs in ways that surpass expectations, while increasing operational efficiencies.
The increasing dependence on AI, and its impact on the way people live and work, will feel disruptive to some and quite natural to others. For younger people, the so-called ‘digital natives’, moving from engagements with chat bots to counselling from AI therapists will feel like a natural progression. And for business, the benefits realised by the early adoption of AI technologies are likely to drive faster uptake.
The Author – Dr. Donald Brown is Founder and CEO, Interactive Intelligence