The media has done a disservice to the general population by propagating myths about Artificial Intelligence (AI). A recent conversation I had with a woman behind the cash register at a retail outlet voiced a common misunderstanding, that AI is about killer robots. This could not be further from the truth.
Some academics and large technology companies are working on creating what is known as “general artificial intelligence” or the creation of computer programs or robotic systems that are able to perform all the activities that humans can, perhaps even being indistinguishable from humans. While this is a very interesting and lofty goal with many differing opinions about when and if this accomplishment may or may not occur, it ignores the incredible advancements in AI that are making an impact today and that will dominate the world of business for the next few decades. The AI systems in action today are referred to as narrow AI; the term narrow meaning AI focused on a specific problem domain. Chess AI and Go AI that have recently beaten human masters of these games are examples of narrow or focused AI.
Another common fear that the media continues to fan is that AI will replace humans at work. I have seen some media reports quoting ridiculously high numbers of jobs at risk, some as high as 47%. While some jobs are certainly going to be impacted, more sophisticated and careful analyses put the jobs affected numbers at less than 10%. What is more likely is that job descriptions will change but most jobs will not be eliminated.
Computers are good at making decisions that are highly computational and governed by very structured logic, like games of chess and Go. Does it surprise you to know that although computers can beat us at chess and Go, they still can’t beat humans at crossword puzzles? The former games are highly structured, governed by strict rules and quantitative logic. Crossword puzzles while structured also contains lots of ambiguity in the clues which require interpretive skills to decipher meaning. Most jobs contain elements of both types of tasks, those requiring ambiguous situational interpretation and interaction with other people as well as a smaller number of highly repetitive, quantitative tasks and decision making. I think you can see where I am going, narrow AI systems will take over the parts of jobs that are quantitative leaving humans to do what we are good at which is interacting with other people, making sense of complex and ambiguous situations.
Computers are tools that were invented more than 50 years ago and they have been used in ever increasing ways to improve the human experience at work and play. AI is just another technical innovation that is on the continuum of computing advances that will change the nature of our leisure time and work, improving our job experiences and the performance of business processes involving highly quantitative and complex decision making. These advances should not be feared as AI will not replace your jobs. The changes are inevitable and practical. Choose to play a role in guiding how AI is implemented in your workplace and you will see that AI is not that different from previous technological advances although the results it can deliver will change our world for the better.
At Daisy we have developed AI systems that assist our retail and insurance clients to make better decisions. In the retail space, choosing what products to promote, prices to charge and how much inventory to allocate to stores are critical decisions that impact retailer performance. In the insurance world, selecting what prices to charge for policies and detecting and preventing fraud are critical elements of managing profitability. Our clients are improving profits and eliminating cost by integrating AI into their decision making processes. AI is freeing people from the more boring, repetitive and quantitative parts of their jobs so they can spend more time on the strategic elements that are most meaningful to our work experience. At Daisy, we believe that improving industry profitability will change the world for the better – creating more wealth which will be deployed into investment in jobs, new industries and more innovation. AI should be embraced not feared.