The technology and business media have published a number of articles dealing with Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the past several months. But, what does it all mean? It sounds like another one of those science fiction things that people with funny “propellor hats” get excited about, but have little relevance down on earth where the rest of us live.
Artificial Intelligence is the next wave of significant technology innovation that will change the way we all live. Consequently, it is useful for us to understand what it means for us today – in normal non-geek speak.
What was before AI?
Before we think about AI it is useful to look at its logical precursor that many organisations and people are still coming to terms with. There has been a tech trend for the past several years called Big Data. Big Data has been an attempt to draw all of the disparate data sources we have together and then to try analyse it using detailed formulas to find trends or patterns in the data. Then we have attempted to understand what these patterns may mean.
In reality Big Data has ended up being an exercise in frustration for most sites that have attempted it – because the sources of the data were so diverse. It was an exercise in patience, frustration, and BIG project budgets to pull the data together before it could even be analysed. The few who managed to get this right then spent lots of energy designing the formulas that would look for the patterns and trends in the data. The final few who managed to get some useful trend data then hit the hurdle of wondering how to adjust business’ strategy to take advantage of the patterns identified. Big Data has been tough to do well.
Labels applied to AI
Artificial Intelligence is picking up the gauntlet and moving on from what Big Data tried to achieve. The labels and names being applied to the field are not generally “Artificial Intelligence” instead we are talking about “Deep Learning” or “Machine Learning”.
These labels don’t address the expression and outputs of the Intelligence process but rather redirect our view toward how this is being done. This is useful because it helps us understand that true AI is the end result of a technology development process that gets the best out of the way machines learn. Our focus on how machines learn will enable us to mitigate against the doomsday scenarios of science fiction. Noted people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk raised their concerns in 2015 about the way in which untempered growth of Artificial Intelligence could undermine the development of our society. This seemed to come to fruition in Korea in early 2016.
An AI developed by Google called AlphaGo beat the world Go champion (a game it was believed a computer would never be able to master) in a round of 5 games held in South Korea. The significance of the victory was in the way in which the AlphaGo applied its AI. It used a process called Reinforcement Learning. Simply this means that AlphaGo took every possible decision it could take and even though it actually only executed one option it processed the learning of each possible alternative, thereby becoming exponentially more intelligent with each move.
Eventually, this process allowed AlphaGo to execute a move, in move 37 of the second game, that had never been played before. The significance of the move was that it was the closest we have ever seen an AI come to executing what we generally call human intuition.
Facebook has taken a different approach to AI. It is focussing on developing an AI that will teach other AI. This process will accelerate the way in which Facebook’s AI becomes progressively more intelligent and effective. Facebook uses its Artificial Intelligence engine to identify faces in pictures, drive the selection of what content from your network is pushed onto your timeline, selecting more relevant targeted advertising, and other actions that will make your activity on the network more effective and ultimately generate more revenue for the business.
The incredible thing about Facebook’s AI is that it will be open sourced and made freely available to anyone who wants to use it.
Artificial Intelligence Open Sourced
Facebook is following an industry trend in open sourcing its AI engine. Google has a machine learning library called TensorFlow that it open sourced on 9 November 2015. TensorFlow was designed to drive Google’s image search ability – especially the ability to run a search using an image and not text.
In December 2015 Elon Musk and Sam Altman (a leading Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist) created OpenAI, an initiative that head hunted the top AI experts in the world from Google, Facebook, and other companies. Their objective is to create an open source AI development community that replicates the process that gave rise to the community that built Linux. This think tank will tackle the biggest challenges in AI, and as they solve them they will make them freely available to the rest of the world.
Artificial Intelligence has stepped off the pages of science fiction novels and is developing at a breakneck speed in our world today, it is not an element of some utopian / dystopian future.
But, what does all of this mean for a business person today, in our current world of work?
We all need to be future fit in the way we manage our lives. We need to understand where our world is developing and what that means for our individual and collective futures. Artificial Intelligence will very shortly begin to impact purchasing choices you make, hiring and career decisions, it will even influence the way in which you manage your friendships.
We respond to the advertising stimuli we receive. If we didn’t, advertising as an industry would no longer exist because it would be useless. By analysing your online activity and life, and that of others in your social network, AI will enable more intelligent and effective product placement on every page your surf. You will take note of more of the adverts because they will resonate with your life. You will, consequently, act on more of the advertising prompts and buy more products that AI introduces into your life.
There are a number of tasks that currently get done by people that will soon be done more cheaply, quickly, and effectively by Artificial Intelligence. IBM recently made its quantum computer available for anyone to use via the cloud. As these computers become more powerful, and open source AI algorithms begin to run on them, we will we begin to redirect tasks onto these platforms. We will no longer recruit people for a whole range of tasks. Talent Management and Human Resourcing will be directly impacted by the evolution of AI and quantum computing.
The spin off from the recruiting impact of AI is that there are a number of careers that we will no longer plan to be a part of. Essentially, anything that relies on working through a number of data points, cross referenced to historical data, and processed using iterative learning will be a function that can be done by computer. Job like doctors, accountants, even lawyers may be replaced by effective AI. Baker & Hostetler a law firm with offices across the USA hired an AI called ROSS in May 2016 to resource its Bankruptcy practice. This is the first beachhead in a profession that will be turned upside down by AI.
Most of us live busy lives and manage our relationships, at one level, through the use of social media and networks. As these platforms have developed and become increasingly popular our networks have begun to generate more information than can be presented coherently. Most networks have programs running in the background that decide what will and will not be pushed to your feed and into your attention. In a very real sense our friendships, and the way we manage these relationships, is filtered through this layer of AI. Artificial Intelligence is already impacting your friendships by what it chooses to expose you to. As the AI algorithms develop these feeds should become more relevant, but the fact remains that AI will be determining which of your “friends” you spend virtual time with – which friendships grow, and which friendships become increasingly peripheral.
Artificial Intelligence is already active in our lives today using names and labels that sound like innocuous “geek speak”. More and more of the elements of our lives that are online are beginning to rely on these machine intelligences to define the type of support and activity we enjoy. Why do we need to know about the impact of AI? Because it is already all around us. The future is not coming, it is here today.
5 things to do in response to AI
- Look at your future, and that of your children, and assess where AI may change the way your work is done.
- Look at your future and consider how you may more effectively integrate the presence of these learning machines in the way you live and manage your life.
- If you are in the corporate sector review the tasks you, or your business, currently do and consider which may be outsourced to AI in the near future. Adjust your recruitment planning to accommodate this change.
- Review your social network presence and activity. Go and visit the pages of people who you want to be prioritised in your network feed, or on whose feed you want to be prioritised. The AI will note this and rank you accordingly. Do this periodically to keep on the AI “radar”.
- Review your life and work and see what space AI may be opening up in your life, by automating things you may have had to spend time on before. Consciously take possession of the time and energy opened up and decide how you want to use it. If you don’t do this, it will just sucked up and consumed by the mundane busyness of your life.
Chat to us if you’d like one of our team to come and address your team to ensure you are future-fit and adapting with these exciting, changing times!