In a world where every conceivable website idea has already been done; where will the millennials find their next billion?
Artificial intelligence has been promised as just around the corner for as long as I have been sat at my desk fixing bad robots: which is a very long time. AI has actually suffered so much inertia that the technical community coined the phrase “The AI winter” in order to describe the last two decades of slow progress.
In recent years though, something has changed, and suddenly AI has gone from feeling like we are waiting for the release of Duke Nukem (a popular game where the sequel was fifteen years in the offing), to slowly realising that we are already interacting with AI in one form or another. I need to make myself clear: I am not talking about a Space Odyssey or Matrix AI, in which it is conscious, aware and will eventually see humans as irrelevant, seeking to put an end to mankind. I am instead talking about an artificial mind, capable of learning and making changes.
We are already using AI
If you Google IBM’s Watson, you will ironically use Google’s AI, Deepmind to find Watson, while feeding and teaching Deepmind more information about how you use the internet. When you arrive at the homepage, you will see that Watson is available for a 30 day trial in your business…in order to serve customers, no less.
Facebook uses AI in it’s image search, Netflix and Youtube use it to offer you recommendations, investment companies are using AI to pick winning portfolios.
Past and Future
It is estimated that giving inert objects some level of intelligence will have one hundred times more impact than the industrial revolution. I am sure that if you analysed your own business for just fifteen minutes, you would realise the unbelievable change that is just on the horizon by adding a little bit of AI to certain processes.
In the 80’s, as the internet was fighting for mainstream acceptance, it required hardcore early adopters to show us the possibilities. As it grew, those same people made massively profitable enterprises by building portals for us to create our own content, and it will be the same for AI. We crave interaction and creativity, and currently the ability to get in touch with IBM and see how Watson could change our life and business feels alien and sounds expensive.
This will not last forever though, as Google and Microsoft move into the “build your own app with no code” era for business processes, I predict the same will happen for AI; making it more accessible, more usable. The shift will really start to happen.
The possibilities are exciting for some and frightening for others. Imagine you run a care company. You have people that require care that need pairing with people that provide care and an entire office of workers dedicated to this process. A sprinkle of AI removes so much human involvement and creates almost an end to end process for the two parties.
The AI can talk to both parties and pick precisely who is required, available and qualified for the role. The AI would also monitor, report and learn from failures in procedures and suggest changes for efficiency. I am not saying we have an Uber for care; the consequences of getting this wrong in this industry would be grave. I am instead saying that huge parts of the process could be monitored by people rather than carried out by people that are prone to error and lack of concentration. Uber is a matching algorithm, AI is so much more. I imagine we may have a return of a Luddite-type rebellion due to the dramatic change it will have on the workforce as we know it.
The above example can be used in all industries, and the possibilities are endless. In a future where AI will not be some omnipotent force, but rather specialist minds for certain tasks; adding AI to just about anything you do or use in life will be the next big idea. Take personal shopping, where AI would scour the entire web searching for clothes, comparing sizes and colours you had previously returned, while all the time learning your style. Homes could actually become intelligent, or alarms that rather than letting you hit the snooze button, will turn on every light in the house and turn the TV on downstairs at full blast. A Personal financial planner, where you are actually told the reasons why you cannot buy the next purchase to achieve your financial goals with a change in tactic to get you to listen, because last time you ignored the advice.
My personal opinion is that I am a bit bored with the internet. I am addicted but still bored. And my personal prediction is that the dawn of AI will alter the landscape as we know it. Eventually, we will not even need to look at a screen, it may give us more time to reconnect on a personal level at some point in the future.