Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Future of Business

“AI is so pervasive, it will move into every aspect of our lives, both seen and unseen.”
“By the year 2030 it could be illegal to drive.”
“AI is the next revolution.”

These are just a few of the thought provoking insights presented at Business South Bank and hub4101’s recent Professional Development Session, The Next 5 – exploring what will be common place in business and what the likely AI trends will be in the next five years.

Paul Judge, Strategy & Innovations Director at Cutting Edge presented an overview of what AI actually is, and what it isn’t. The terms that Paul says you should add to your vocabulary?

  • ‘Perceived’/‘Pseudo’/‘Applied’ AI – Technology which relies on machine learning, where algorithms, data sets and user behaviour input is used to learn and adapt to individual situations. This includes a lot of the technology we have in our pockets today, which aren’t necessarily true forms of AI (Google Assistant, Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, the autopilot on Tesla, IBM Watson, Google DeepMind).
  • ‘True’ or ‘Generalised’ AI – AI which possesses the same characteristics of human intelligence.

According to Paul, AI offers us the opportunity to enhance all of our interfaces or technology, both software and hardware, but those advances will really depend on the infrastructural changes behind them.

AI technology is set to have a major impact on industries including customer service, entertainment, the legal system, and the transport sector, both positive and negative.

The automation of marketing processes is also set to grow exponentially. Profiling of consumers will be easier, and gone are the days of generalising markets; through AI, everyone can be considered an individual, and data can be quantified and controlled through AI interfaces.

Craig McCosker, Product Manager for ABC News Digital shared his experience working with the team that developed the ABC News Facebook ‘Chatbot’, a project which was launched in November 2016. In the months since its launch, ABC News has been able to tap into a new, younger audience, all by making innovative use of the existing Facebook Messenger interface. Check out the chatbot yourself by typing this link into your browser:

What is a chatbot? In layman’s terms, it is software that lets people talk conversationally, to effectively, “get stuff done.” Rather than leading with AI, Craig says it’s important to have a really good service to start with, and then work out where AI can help.

If you are planning to build a chatbot for your business, Craig’s advice is to use a narrow domain and guide the conversation and user experience by minimising the ability for users to type, and instead encouraging the use of buttons. Most importantly, Craig points out that AI and chatbots require lots of training – getting data, categorising data, and allowing the system to learn.

Craig foresees that in the next five years, ‘Computer Vision AI’ will be prevalent – technology which allows elements of images to be identified and then quantified. AI will also be able to automatically generate a range of content such as written documents, video, photos, voices and music, all by training it with data.

There are a range of tools available to help you start using AI now, even without being a machine learning expert. Check out Craig’s presentation slides (link below) for the entire list.

Dr. Luke McMillan, Dean SAE Southern, SAE Qantm Creative Media Institute, delved deep into the difference between human thinking and computer thinking, with some enlightening insights.

According to Luke, human thinking is based on our flawed design and the ability to make mistakes; we’re creative, cunning and strategic, which is something that computers cannot match. While AI may be great at memory recall and brute force, humans will continue to have the upper-hand with our ability for strategic thinking. We just need to make some changes to allow us to let AI supplement some areas of our lives.

Remember the days when calculators couldn’t be used in class because it was considered cheating? Educational institutions like SAE are now encouraging students to outsource their cognitive functions using tools for speed-reading, compilation tools for coding, and various other forms of AI.

Luke says that there is actually less of a connection between what a student is currently studying and what their vocational output is, as a result of this kind of technology. Because the ability for factual recall is diminishing in students, schools are focusing more on the development of students’ behavioural skills, and this is important to consider in recruitment.

Why is AI such pervasive technology? Why is it going to be a part of everything we do and experience in the next five to ten years? According to Paul, the reason is we want to simplify executions and activities; we’re always going to want to increase our ability to do more. The concern is, how far do we take it?

To access Paul’s presentation slides, click here.
To access Craig’s presentation slides, click here.
To access Luke’s presentation slides, click here.