Understanding Artificial Intelligence
A.I or Artificial Intelligence has been making a buzz in the media for quite some time now. Companies like Google (Alphabet), Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple etc are investing heavily in the field of AI. But what exactly are we referring to when we say AI?
One of the first definitions of AI came as early as in the 1950s. In 1956, a professor of Mathematics at Dartmouth College John McCarthy stated: “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.” (1) Let us illustrate this with examples.
A simple conventional calculator cannot be termed as AI because such a calculator is not capable of reasoning and learning anything new on its own and, instead, its functioning is determined by the integrated circuits/chips designed for a predefined and limited range of output. However, a very nascent stage of AI application is apparent when we access our social media and online shopping accounts; in the form of content recommendation, targeted ads, promotional offers, friend suggestions etc. It requires complex algorithms to customize digital content for individual users. The software programs running these complex algorithms are designed to map and respond to the changes in customer behaviour.
Impact of AI on businesses
We have already witnessed how innovative companies like Uber have used the platform of technology to build their markets around the world. The consequence – local/domestic businesses which remained oblivious to the global trends and the might of technology or simply watched them and did nothing perished.
After the internet, AI could be the next big disruptive technology that will change how businesses work. It is being increasingly believed that we could be on the verge of the fourth industrial revolution with artificial intelligence as one of its influential propellers.
Some of the areas in which many big businesses are already making use of AI include content recommendation, targeted advertising, navigation services, virtual reality, gaming, cab services, APIs (facial/voice/image recognition), personalizing user experience, understanding customer behaviour, training and education, medical research etc. And it is very likely that small and medium-sized businesses too will have to get aboard the AI platform very soon as they may not be able to afford to sit complacently at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution.
AI as a business consultant
Concerns have been raised that substituting human involvement in business activities with AI would create widespread job losses including that of the conventional business consultants. However, we could be at least a few decades away from AI possibly surpassing certain inherent attributes of human intelligence like creativity, negotiation, leadership, emotional intelligence etc which cannot be easily simulated. But with its present-day capabilities, AI can prove to be much more effective and efficient than the humans in the execution of certain critical business activities and can play the role of a virtual business consultant or advisor.
Handling a large amount of data – If informal sources are to be believed, 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years. In this age of BigData, internet, smartphones, social media and e-commerce, data of humongous volumes and of diverse nature are created every day and stored in the servers of the companies. Processing these data and creating meaningful insights for business decision-making is impossible without using advanced analytical tools driven by software intelligence.
Enhancing digital security and confidentiality – Business data is sensitive. With the increased use of software applications and hardware technologies to execute business processes and operations, businesses generate a lot of digital data pertaining to customers and clients, financial transactions and reports, employee records, supply chain activities, business contracts and agreements etc. With high-end and intelligent digital encryption technologies, business enterprises can enhance the digital security and confidentiality of their business data in storage and transmission.
Facilitate decision-making – In order to take timely and accurate decisions in the various functional areas of management and business processes, business enterprises have to rely on data and information from various internal and external sources. Use of ERP, business intelligence and analytical tools has significantly addressed this requirement. However, with AI, businesses will seek to automate their routine and non-strategic decision-making processes.
With the nature and magnitude of efforts and investments flowing into this field, there can be no denying that Artificial Intelligence is the next big thing slowly paving its way into the world of business just like the internet did. It is only a matter of time that businesses begin to realize how they should embrace AI.