Artificial Intelligence (AI) was a movie in 2001 telling a story about a childlike android programmed with the ability to love. Set in a post climate change world of the 22nd Century, the movie was ahead of its time.
Dial ahead just 16 years, not a whole century, and AI is now talked about a lot, mainly through fear of the unknown and its impact on our jobs.
In other recent AI news Elon Musk announced Neuralink; a venture to merge the human brain with AI, adding this to his SpaceX retrievable rocket technology and the Tesla cars we are now seeing on New Zealand’s roads.
Leading media including The Wall Street Journal, McKinsey Quarterly, Harvard Business Review and Financial Times all have a plethora of articles about AI. Together with the advent of robotics, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re living a sci-fi movie.
So what is AI and should we be concerned?
There are a lot of definitions but Techopedia’s is a good one:
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Definition – What does Artificial Intelligence (AI) mean?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include:
- Speech recognition
- Problem solving
It may come as news but you are already benefitting from AI, although you may be unaware of it.
AI will help you find the best route to your destination or recommend the best products to consider based on your past buying habits.
But as the Wall Street Journal suggests AI is not going to be limited to these every day and somewhat mundane tasks.
In its article “How AI is transforming the workplace” it suggests managers move over as there is a new boss in the office. It goes on to look at how Artificial Intelligence will help businesses look for the best candidates, get the most out of employees and keep the best ones engaged and productive.
AI is able to do this because it can analyse vast quantities of data. In effect it provides what it says on the tin: intelligence in a situation, or to solve a problem, that the human brain couldn’t manage alone, at least in a realistic length of time.
It’s providing an extra brain on a problem, giving the expression “two heads are better than one” a different meaning, especially if the other one is a machine driven by advanced computer science.
And it learns too.
But before you think it’s curtains for your career, think again because there is nothing definite about what could happen in an artificially intelligent future and the jury is out on whether we should be looking at this as a glass half full, or half empty.
There are optimistic views about Artificial Intelligence
Earlier this year The Huffington Post commented about the changing structure of the workforce affecting 20 – 40 million jobs in the US alone and went on to say:
“…generally other professions will grow to fill the loss, often creating more jobs than the ones that were lost. Right now we are seeing a confluence of robotics and artificial intelligence that seem to be placing threats to a large number of existing jobs.”
And Deepak Chopra highlights AI will never rival the deep insights of the human mind.
“AI isn’t based on the truth. Computers process information at lightning speed and their abilities improve as the algorithms that are programmed into them become more sophisticated. Yet, without question, life isn’t algorithmic, which means that no computer can ever truly be alive. Computers cannot and will never have minds.”
There is no replacement for a human being and their brain. Artificial Intelligence and robots do not have gut-feel, emotions, cultural fit, relationships, despite the best efforts to portray them as such by Stephen Spielberg, or Elon Musk, for that matter.
What is happening is part of a new revolution. As Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, says in the McKinsey Quarterly: “…the industrial revolution was when humans overcame the limitations of our muscle power. We’re now in the early stages of doing the same thing to our mental capacity.”
There are also pessimistic views about Artificial Intelligence
At the glass-half-empty end, the Guardian says: “For every job created by robotic automation, several more will be eliminated entirely. At scale, this disruption will have a devastating impact on our workforce.”
Wired reported that analysts, including commentators like Bill Gates, say the greatest worry is the number of jobs that artificial intelligence systems are poised to take over. This year’s World Economic Forum 2017 highlighted a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute, saying nearly half of all the work we do will be able to be automated by the year 2055.
Jobs and change are the main issues. For most people change is a key concern because it creates uncertainty. While there is general consensus that every aspect of life and work will change because of AI, there’s no crystal ball. But it is clear, as Stephen Hawking points out, that the AI genie is out of the bottle and there’s no going back, meaning business leaders will have to think about it more and manage it to deliver benefits. Those who don’t will be left behind.
Cloud systems and taking advantage of Artificial Intelligence
As if cloud computing isn’t enough of a disruptor, the impact of AI is advancing over the horizon.
The Financial Times summarises this well in its article: Artificial intelligence in the cloud promises to be the next great disruptor.
While its observations are almost a year old, the FT says while cloud computing is still in its infancy, it is evolving more quickly than many executives realise. However, the case for the cloud so far has been based on its potential to lower computing costs and increase business flexibility.
The most recent change has been the combination of cloud and mobile. Quoting Tom Austin, an analyst at Gartner, it says this is starting to evolve into the next thing, the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud.
With AI being driven by vast quantities of data, for businesses to take advantage of it the question needs to be asked: will legacy systems prove to be up to the challenge?
The issue with legacy systems, or even hybrid legacy (some systems in the cloud and some not), is confinement, inflexible systems and inability to adapt to change.
Cloud computing is an ideal fit for an AI world because of its ability to corral information, deliver intelligence and be flexible and adaptable.
If Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google, is correct when he says “we will evolve in computing from a mobile-first to an AI-first world”, businesses are going to need as much potential to scale as possible as the tectonic plates of technology constantly shift.
The FT then goes on to say:
“Moving data storage and computing to the cloud will be only the first step in a far bigger transition. Once liberated from the confines of internal IT structures, companies will find other benefits, such as tapping into more varied feeds of data and accessing intelligent services. With such capabilities companies will be able to infuse their own services with this intelligence thanks to the “AI in the cloud”.
The message here is “get on the cloud and do so fast”, because if you don’t you are going to miss the next wave of change and opportunity. For many, they won’t even reach the starting blocks.
And if you need more endorsements about the importance of AI, Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, says:
“It’s clear to me [AI] is going to be the foundation for the next layer of programming.”
This echoes the late Steve Jobs who called it the “one more thing” — the unexpected bonus that would outshine all other benefits of moving to the cloud.
Companies who embrace AI will be able to grow faster, more efficiently and produce better results – it’s back to the point earlier: two heads are better than one – especially when one of them is artificial and reinforced by accumulated computer science.
With the weight of commentary about AI from some of the leading minds in the technology industry, it’s hard to ignore the potential of AI driven by the cloud.
Put simply, if companies are still based on legacy systems as this AI juggernaut comes down the road, there’s a strong possibility you will become just that, a legacy.
It’s unlikely to happen overnight but it has already begun and those who don’t have real intelligence about artificial intelligence now, will be left out.
Cloud systems provide the best architectures to fulfil the promise, benefits and opportunities of AI. For most organisations, an incomplete move to the cloud will not deliver the ability to effectively manage Artificial Intelligence and other future seismic changes.
If you are interested in moving your business to the cloud effectively and chatting with us about what the shifts in the AI world may mean for your business, contact us today.