What is AI? 

AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. The term may also be applied to any machine that exhibits traits associated with a human mind such as learning and problem-solving.

I hear people talk about AI all the time, but I have never really understood what it meant. This is most likely due to the possibility that we don’t fully comprehend AI’s role in our lives.

If that last statement was true for you, it is because, like me, you’re surrounded by good AI. You and I interact with AI more than we know, and that’s because the technology is meant to be an inconspicuous and seamless part of our routine. It impacts us by listening to us, talking to us, and learning about what we like. Knowing our preferences and our behavior makes it stronger and more effective in fading into the background and, most of all, knowing what we want before we want it. After all the directions we find, the music we play on-demand, the random questions we ask a small device, we mostly never know AI is there.

Netflix, Siri, Uber, Travelocity, Amazon, Alexa, Waze…all learn about you and make suggestions to support you or sell to you. Emotionally intelligent AI is already underway with facial recognition, voice recognition, and SOPHIA. Have you ever seen Sophia? Sophia, the social humanoid robot developed by Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics is quite literally a walking and talking representation of how far AI can go.

What is AI not?

AI mimics humans but is not a human. A pitfall with AI is to become unconscious about it. It is good at fitting into our lives to make them more convenient. But what is important is to be aware and consciously choose where and how you use and accept AI in your life and work.

How can you elevate your application of AI in business and everyday life?

I talk to my Google Home every morning and don’t even think about it. When I am on the road and I get into my car, my map program says to me: “On your way home?” and pulls up the map to my home. That can be kind of weird at first, but then you get used to it…the convenience of it. The more times I use it, the more the computer takes data from me, the more it learns. But AI isn’t just a GPS guiding you on your way home from work… it’s a notification that you never scheduled that appears just in time when you need it.

In business, low-value work is becoming more automated making companies more efficient and productive. And in most cases, companies can elevate the remaining employees to deliver higher-value work like customer service and complex problem-solving. Additionally, customer experience is continually being enhanced through AI. As a result, businesses can elevate their users’ experience and relationships with their brands.

Use only for good

In an article called, “The truth behind Facebook AI inventing a new language,” Roman Kucera, CTO at Ataccama, describes in detail how FAIR (Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research) researchers created robots that could simulate dialogue and negotiation. The robots were provided with items (hats, balls, and books) and were also provided with an idea of which items to prioritize over others.

Because two robots that knew no English had to decipher English training data, they began to communicate with one another and learn from each other in their language. This is what prompted Facebook to shut the robots down. What is interesting is that, as long as the robots abided by the only rule (which was stringing the right words together on a screen) and as long as they found the most-preferable way to distribute hats, books, and balls, they succeeded at their task. You can read the full research article here.

When you give a robot a human task there can be an advantage including being able to run thousands of simulations and process a strategy at a speed that humans cannot match. However, computers don’t always understand the why. It only knows what has worked and not worked in the past.

Algorithms can help make good decisions. Sometimes they can make better decisions than us. Don’t let that get you off the hook about the human part of the equation. It is important to remain responsible for the human role in decision-making for the sake of both security and integrity. AI is not a silver bullet, but likely nobody thinks it is. We, humans, are still learning AI…how it can help as well as understanding its limitations.

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