AI is opening a new chapter for business

From fiction to fact

Science fiction films and novels have long painted a future complete with multi-functional robots, “augmented” men and women who enhance their human capabilities, and autonomous machines that take control and govern the world.

 These futures – while often dystopian in nature for dramatic effect – have familiarized us with the idea of a world where smart technology can do everything. That future is now becoming reality.

Yet far from presenting a threat to humans flourishing, new uses of technology are emerging every day that are changing how we live and interact with the world for the better.

Specifically, technology pioneers are focusing unprecedented financial resources towards developments in artificial intelligence (AI).

These developments – such as satnavs that help us navigate from A to B, or apps that recommend a film we might enjoy, or fitness trackers that monitor our health and wellbeing – are designed to enhance our lives, give us more time in our day and liberate us from mundane tasks where we so choose.

We have the power

AI has a long history of theory and research behind it. Yet there have always been computational limitations that have constrained its progress.

We’re now at a point where technology is powerful enough, and accessible enough, to bring 70 years of thinking and ideas about AI to life.

It’s a new age for humankind and for business, turning imagination into reality and opening up all sorts of possibilities.

Over the following pages, we’ll consider:

  • Artificial intelligence: from theory to reality – looking at where AI started and how far the developments have come.
  • Intelligence for all – the concepts that are driving the widespread adoption of AI.
  • An enabler of progress – what we know for certain about AI and its direction of travel.
  • Reshaping old models – the opportunity AI brings to change how businesses operate.

Artificial intelligence: from theory to reality

1950 – Alan Turing designed a test of a machine’s ability to “exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.”

1955 – McCarthy, Minsky, Rochester, and Shannon predicated that “every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.”

Therefore, it is clear that AI has a long and respected history. Significant advances have been made possible by a coming together of multiple disciplines – mathematics, statistics, computer science, biology, biotechnology, neuroscience, and cognitive science. After decades of fundamental and applied research, hundreds of billions of dollars of investment and the widespread adoption of computer technology, we are starting to see an “overnight sensation.”

Intelligence for all

AI encompasses many technologies, diverse in their type and nature. Yet common to them all is one aim, to simulate the functions that make us “intelligent”: our abilities to observe, remember, analyze, communicate and act.

We think of these as the “five senses of intelligence” – and we’ll explain how businesses can use them as a framework for adopting AI solutions in a separate article.

Pioneers of progress

The significant computing power now available via the cloud has accelerated the development of real-world AI solutions. Companies can experiment like never before, and process huge data volumes without heavy investment in on-premises IT by renting computer resources “as a service”. This provides them with the agility to fail safely often and learn quickly, adapting and evolving at an extraordinary pace.

The stage is set

Today’s upsurge in AI development can be viewed as decades of ideas and work finally bearing fruit. Thanks to improved communication networks, increased processing power and huge storage capacity, which is more affordable and accessible than ever, we have the ideal conditions for AI to thrive.

An enabler of progress

There are, of course, well-publicized concerns about the increasing adoption of AI by businesses and organizations.

Philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists and many people of influence have been theorizing on the future of work and employment – questioning the role of humans in a world where robots can perform not just simple manual tasks, but more complicated work as well.

AI shouldn’t be seen as a threat, but as an enabler of human progress. Today’s AI technologies are embracing every human activity and helping us rethink how we live our lives for the better.

As budgets rise for AI and robotics research across the globe, we’re seeing the birth of new opportunities. It is shifting the focus from learning and training to imagination and creativity, allowing everyone and anyone (not just the technologists) to contribute valuable ideas that enhance customer experience, employee satisfaction, and people’s lives.

Reshaping old models

Established businesses, in their current form, are the product of a bygone age – and the emergence of AI is bringing about the need for radical change.

Most managerial and organizational models in place today were inherited from the early industrial revolutions.

Despite the tremendous progress made in workplace tools, training and qualifications, these models have remained virtually unchanged and inflexible.

As such, people find it difficult to pursue their own aspirations at work, even when encouraged to be more creative, independent and enthusiastic.

Adapting to a new normal: hyperintelligence

As businesses embrace today’s Artificial Intelligence revolution, there is the

opportunity to reshape organizational models completely.

We can be less concerned with who does and knows what, human or machine, in a quest for efficiency. We can focus instead on empowering people to work together with AI. The scale and speed of today’s technology removes the constraints of previous eras, allowing people to bring all sorts of new skills and ideas to the table.

This alliance will move businesses to a state of “hyperintelligence” – where human intelligence, innovation and imagination is liberated and enhanced by technology. Ultimately, this will raise the value and effectiveness of everything a business seeks to do.

In our next article, we’ll demystify AI by introducing a framework that maps and compares its components to the five senses of human intelligence.

This will explain how today’s AI solutions are the simple coming together of different technologies that mimic how humans observe, remember, analyze, communicate, and act.

We’ll look at how a lot of these technologies are already very familiar to us, and therefore how businesses can deploy them easily without deep technical expertise to improve services, enhance customer experiences and transform the workplace.

Christopher Stancombe
Xavier Hochet