MAD Perspectives Blog

2017: The Artificial Intelligence Tipping Point?

Peggy Dau - Monday, January 02, 2017

As we enter 2017 we are seeing the natural evolution of the Big Data discussion. Even as many companies are still coming to grips with how to collect, aggregate and analyze all their data, we began hearing about artificial intelligence. We are now seeing AI discussed in the main stream media - perhaps a sign that there is some solid foundation to the predictions about the rise of artificial intelligence.  Of course this is not the first time we’ve heard about AI, but it may be the first time it can truly be applied in a measurable manner.

I guess we should have seen this coming. We’ve been collecting data for decades, yet Big Data has been the driver of many corporate conversations related to product management, customer engagement, marketing campaigns, supply chain management, financial oversight, succession planning and more. We’ve been gathering and parsing the data from internal databases and external sources in the attempt run our business more efficiently, drive greater innovation and better understand our customers. So, why do we need artificial intelligence? Aren’t we all smart, savvy business people?

The answer is, yes, of course we are all smart, savvy business people, but don’t we all crave a competitive edge? Don’t we all want to “discard” those tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming? This is the promise of artificial intelligence.

Thanks to advances in compute power (and the related decrease in the cost of that power) and the development of complex and deep algorithms (by really smart people) that became known as machine learning (computers analyzing data over and over again to recognize patterns and deviations from said patterns), computers now have the ability to learn, reason and recommend.

While I’m not ready for HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, to run my world, most initial forays into artificial intelligence are about improving the customer experience.  In fact, we are already welcoming AI into our daily lives with the use of Siri, Cortana and Alexa. These “digital assistants” help us find answers to questions, recommend music, capture shopping lists and more. 

In fact, MIT has defined three forms of artificial intelligence – and I’m sure each of us can think of examples of how we have already experienced each of these types of AI:

  •      - Assisted intelligence – automates basic tasks so that they can be done more quickly and cheaply
  •      - Augmented intelligence – helps people make more effective decisions based on their circumstances
  •      - Autonomous intelligence – where a human is no longer involved in the decision making and control is given to the machine

We’ve seen examples of assisted intelligence with the use of robots in warehouses, selecting products from vast shelves and placing them in a cart. And we experience augmented intelligence every time an insurance company or bank assesses risk. We are seeing a rise in the use of augmented intelligence in as we receive content recommendations from Netflix and product recommendations from Amazon, and other online retailers. Autonomous intelligence is the future as exemplified by NASA’s Mars Rover.

2017 will be the year artificial intelligence becomes part of our daily lexicon. Some applications of AI will be exciting, like smart cars. Others will be concerning, especially when it comes to automating jobs. Some will augment our user experience, like enhancing character behavior in video games. Others may frustrate us as they continue to mature (e.g., customer support). With access to scads of data and the computing power to analyze it, 2017 may be the tipping point in the commercialization of artificial intelligence.

What’s your perspective?