Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming how businesses operate. It can automate routine tasks, identify new opportunities and risks, make sense of data on a scale that humans cannot, and drive business performance in ways that are game-changing. It can also create personalized experiences for customers and predict outcomes that will boost customer loyalty, improve product development, and increase operational efficiency. For many industries, AI is a strategic imperative.
The field of AI has evolved over the decades, but it’s still too early to say that the technology is “advanced.” Most companies have just dipped their toe into the water, not dived in headfirst. Companies that haven’t embraced AI are being left behind by competitors that do, especially in high-growth sectors such as retail and auto manufacturing.
One of the most interesting uses of AI is in healthcare. In the future, doctors may use AI to help detect and diagnose diseases. For example, a company called Infervision has developed an algorithm that can identify the presence of lung cancer in chest X-rays. This could save thousands of lives per year in China alone, where radiologists are overburdened and human fatigue often prompts errors.
Other examples of AI in the field of business include chatbots that can gather urgent information from consumers and recommend products, and predictive analytics that can forecast future sales and profitability. AI has made it easier to build business systems that can handle massive amounts of data, and it has helped companies to develop more personalized marketing initiatives based on customer behavior.
The most successful business applications of AI have focused on specific, well-defined problems. These narrow AI tools have reached the performance levels of human experts and professionals in particular activities such as medical diagnosis, computer search engines, and voice or handwriting recognition. They are designed to augment, rather than replace, their human partners and are globally networked, making them difficult to control or rein in. They can be used by corporations seeking profits and governments seeking power. In most cases, values and ethics are not baked into these systems.
The next big step for AI will be to achieve general, human-like intelligence. This will be a monumental task that will require enormous computing resources. Fortunately, commodity compute power has become available in the form of cloud-based servers that can easily be scaled up to meet the needs of large AI projects. This will allow the full benefits of AI to be realized in all industries.