Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being likened to a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” because of its potential for creating profound change in people’s lives, much as the invention of steam engines (First Industrial Revolution), electricity and mass production (Second Industrial Revolution), and the rise of the digital age (Third Industrial Revolution) did in the past.
Not all things we accept are AI really are – some are simply software with an algorithm that responds based on predefined input or user behaviour, albeit with extensive behavioural algorithms that make them more useful. A true AI system can learn on its own – typically improving on past iterations, becoming more aware and smarter.
AI and machine learning applications are everywhere and we use them all the time as individuals without always recognising them. Reflecting on how we are current use AI is a good starting point for thinking about whether and how it might be appropriate to use it in our businesses.
How we use AI
1. At home
- Central Heating control e.g. Nest bought by Google in Jan 14 for $3.2 billion, controls your central heating and learns your routine, through monitoring your location via your phone and movements in the house.
- Music and TV show recommendations – Music services use AI to track your listening habits. Spotify and Itunes use the information to suggest other songs you might like to hear. Amazon operates in a similar way.
- Alexa and Siri for finding information, getting directions, adding events to our calendars, sending messages etc. Turning on the TV or Radio, or changing the channel or station.
- Not just autofocus but portrait mode. Taking several pictures in some instances and prompting you to keep the best.
3. Email Communications
- Email Filters in Gmail – Google uses AI to ensure that nearly all of the email in your inbox is authentic. Gmail sorts email into 4 different tabbed categories, and sends the spam mail to a separate folder. Google claim that AI-powered filtering prevents more than 99% of spam from getting into your inbox.
- Smart Replies in Gmail. These offer users a way to respond to emails with simple phrases like “Thanks!” or “Let’s do it!” with a single click of mouse. Smart replies attempt to mimic writing styles, and often do a pretty good job of mirroring the way that you might respond.
- Nudging and Reminders in Gmail – Many email systems prompt you to review if an attachment should be included if your text uses words like attach an or enclose. Gmail’s “nudging” feature reminds you to follow up on emails you’ve ignored or forgotten. Using AI, Gmail attempts to determine which emails require a response, then highlights them after a few days of non-attention.
4. Social Media
- LinkedIn – AI is used to help match candidates to jobs. On its talent blog, LinkedIn explains that they use “deeper insights into the behaviour of applicants on LinkedIn” in order to “predict not just who would apply to your job, but who would get hired…”
- Pinterest – Pinterest’s LENS tool uses AI to identify objects in images. Take a picture of your friends dining table using Pinterest’s LENS tool, and its AI-driven feature will help find similar tables. In some cases, you’re even able to find the product’s seller so you can but it yourself.
- Facebook Proactive Detection – In November 2017, Facebook launched a proactive detection feature that scans posts to detect patterns that indicate a user may be considering self-harm. When it detects suicidal thinking patterns, the AI-powered program sends mental health resources to the person and, sometimes, also to their friends.
5. Web searches
- When you begin typing a search term and Google makes recommendations for you to choose from, that’s AI in action.
- Predictive searches are based on data that Google collects about you, such as your location, age, and other personal details. Using AI, the search engine attempts to guess what you might be trying to find.
- Google search engines evolved over time by studying the linguistics used in searches. Its AI learns from results and adapts over time to better meet the needs of users.
- For example, a search of “How much is the price of tea in China” offers Google’s choice of “best answer” highlighted at the top, followed by a list of sources that answer the question.
6. Online shopping and self service shops
- Adverts – Amazon and other retailers gather information about your preferences and buying habits from your online account purchases and loyalty card. Your shopping experience is personalised with suggested purchases tailored to you.
- Chatbots recognise words and phrases in order to (hopefully) deliver helpful content to customers who have common questions. Sometimes, chatbots are so accurate that it seems as if you’re talking to a real person.
- Dynamic pricing – Many businesses adjust the price of tickets (e.g. for an airline seat, ferry crossing or music concert) based on the number sold so far compared with ‘normal’.
- Bank apps – AI is used by many banks to personalise your experience on their mobile apps, doing things such as; reminding you about outstanding bills, alerting you that you are using your overdraft or prompting you to make a transfer
- Banks and card payment processors – These use AI to learn from your day-to-day financial transactions so that they can identify something unusual, and therefore potentially a fraud. They are often linked with an automated action – such as a text message to your ‘phone.
- Cars increasingly have predictive capabilities, with cruise control that breaks automatically due to other road users or pedestrians in front, and systems which warn of tiredness or lane departure without indication. Tesla cars are ‘information based’ with over the air updates and data sharing to provide more info to support development of self-driving cars.
- Satnavs – Google Maps takes actual and expected traffic and roadworks into account to find the quickest route and estimated arrival time.
- Taxi Apps – Uber uses AI to manage matching customers with drivers. Increasing the price when demand is high to decrease demand and encourage more drivers on to the road. The price increase required is constantly evolving based on AI learning. Journey times are calculated so you know when to expect a driver, food delivery or when you should reach your destination. Uber recently filed a patent application covering the use of artificial intelligence to determine if a potential customer has been drinking — before the driver agrees to pick them up. The software would attempt to determine their state by comparing the users typing, clicking and walking with their norm!
- Airlines – You might be surprised to discover how little flying the pilot actually does. A 2015 survey of Boeing 777 airline pilots reported they spend only 7 minutes manually flying the plane during a typical flight, with much of the rest being done by AI technology. Wired Magazine reports that Boeing is working toward building jetliners completely piloted by artificial intelligence — with no human pilots at the helm.
9. Translation Services
- Are often now used to communicate with those who don’t speak the same language (for example when abroad, getting help / directions or simply chatting) and viewing website written in another language.
10. Medical diagnosis
- Aid clinical judgment or diagnosis – Using AI to diagnose patients is in its infancy, but there have been some exciting starts. A Stanford University study tested an AI algorithm to detect skin cancers against dermatologists, and it performed at the level of the humans. A Danish AI software company tested its deep-learning program by having a computer eavesdrop while human dispatchers took emergency calls. The algorithm analysed what a person said, the tone of voice and background noise and detected cardiac arrests with a 93% success rate compared to 73% for humans. Theresa May announced an AI revolution would help The NHS predict those in an early stage of cancer, to ultimately prevent thousands of cancer-related deaths by 2033. The algorithms will examine medical records, habits and genetic information pooled from health charities, the NHS and AI.
- Image analysis – Very time consuming for human providers, but an MIT-led research team developed a machine-learning algorithm that can analyze 3D scans up to 1,000 times faster than what is possible today, providing critical input for surgeons It is also hoped that AI can help to improve the next generation of radiology tools that don’t rely on tissue samples.
- Surgery – Robots guide a surgeon's instrument during surgery, which can lead to a 21% reduction in a patient's hospital stay. Robot-assisted surgery is considered "minimally invasive" so patients won't need to heal from large incisions. Via artificial intelligence, robots can use data from past operations to inform new surgical techniques. One study that involved 379 orthopedic patients found that AI-assisted robotic procedure resulted in five times fewer complications compared to surgeons operating alone.
Use of AI in business
- AI is not magic – it will not solve all business problems instantaneously!
- AI is still something of a dark art – it often requires the commitment of massive resources and expertise to build applications
- AI for AI’s sake is a likely to be a bad idea –tools should be chosen for the value they deliver to your business, and not simply because they use AI
- Some businesses can already use some AI applications “out of the box” – best examples are in marketing, accounting (bookkeeping systems) and logistics / fleet management, online legal (employment contracts) and operations, and fraud detection
- Data is the key to AI – AI needs data to “learn” and work properly
- Data is a valuable resource – smaller business owners need to store and record data in a consistent manner if it is to be used with AI in future.
- In 1997, Deep Blue, the IBM supercomputer, beat reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov in a six-game series. Twenty years later, Google’s AlphaZero routed Stockfish, the world’s best chess engine, over the course of 100 matches. The difference between the two machines: AlphaZero taught itself how to play like a human.
- Replika is the main product of Luka, an artificial intelligence startup founded by Eugenia Kuyda, a former magazine editor from Moscow, that’s based Moscow and San Francisco. When she started the company in 2013, its main product was a chatbot that talked to you about restaurant recommendations, until her team realised that people preferred looking for restaurants on a graphical interface, and seeing lots of options at once.
- She got the idea of a chatbot friend after her friend died in a car accident in Russia, using the texts they had exchanged as the underlying data. An avatar – Mazurenko that you can download from the App store.
- In the BREXIT referendum, everyone has their own motives for casting their vote, and campaigners needed to find out which future most appealed to them. This is where big data and artificial intelligence (AI) came into their own.
- According to the Guardian, billionaire financier Robert Mercer, who helped bankroll Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency, “directed his data analytics firm to provide expert advice to the Leave campaign on how to target swing voters via Facebook – a donation of services that was not declared to the electoral commission”.
- The Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica more than $6m (£4.8m) to target swing voters in the US election, but Andy Wigmore, communications director of Leave.eu, said the person friendship between Mercer and Farage meant that the Leave campaign was offered the firm’s help for free.
- Cambridge Analytica’s technology harvested public data from people’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media profiles and used advanced machine learning to “spread” through their personal networks. The Leave campaign used this profiling information for over a million individuals alongside artificial intelligence to target specific undecided voters. Leave.EU founder and financial backer Arron Banks made it clear in a series of tweets that “AI won it for Leave”.
- A new book If this has caught your interest ; ‘The Creativity Code: How AI is Learning to Write, Paint and Think’ by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.