THE FUTURE IS NOW: AI’S IMPACT IS EVERYWHERE
There’s virtually no major industry modern AI — more specifically, “narrow AI,” which performs objective functions using data-trained models and often falls into the categories of deep learning or machine learning — hasn’t already affected. That’s especially true in the past few years, as data collection and analysis has ramped up considerably thanks to robust IoT connectivity, the proliferation of connected devices and ever-speedier computer processing.
Some sectors are at the start of their AI journey, others are veteran travelers. Both have a long way to go. Regardless, the impact artificial intelligence is having on our present day lives is hard to ignore:
Transportation: Although it could take a decade or more to perfect them, autonomous cars will one day ferry us from place to place.
Manufacturing: AI powered robots work alongside humans to perform a limited range of tasks like assembly and stacking, and predictive analysis sensors keep equipment running smoothly.
Healthcare: In the comparatively AI-nascent field of healthcare, diseases are more quickly and accurately diagnosed, drug discovery is sped up and streamlined, virtual nursing assistants monitor patients and big data analysis helps to create a more personalized patient experience.
Education: Textbooks are digitized with the help of AI, early-stage virtual tutors assist human instructors and facial analysis gauges the emotions of students to help determine who’s struggling or bored and better tailor the experience to their individual needs.
Media: Journalism is harnessing AI, too, and will continue to benefit from it. Bloomberg uses Cyborg technology to help make quick sense of complex financial reports. The Associated Press employs the natural language abilities of Automated Insights to produce 3,700 earning reports stories per year — nearly four times more than in the recent past.
Customer Service: Last but hardly least, Google is working on an AI assistant that can place human-like calls to make appointments at, say, your neighborhood hair salon. In addition to words, the system understands context and nuance.
But those advances (and numerous others, including this crop of new ones) are only the beginning; there’s much more to come — more than anyone, even the most prescient prognosticators, can fathom.
“I think anybody making assumptions about the capabilities of intelligent software capping out at some point are mistaken,” says David Vandegrift, CTO and co-founder of the customer relationship management firm 4Degrees.
With companies spending nearly $20 billion collective dollars on AI products and services annually, tech giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon spending billions to create those products and services, universities making AI a more prominent part of their respective curricula (MIT alone is dropping $1 billion on a new college devoted solely to computing, with an AI focus), and the U.S. Department of Defense upping its AI game, big things are bound to happen. Some of those developments are well on their way to being fully realized; some are merely theoretical and might remain so. All are disruptive, for better and potentially worse, and there’s no downturn in sight.
“Lots of industries go through this pattern of winter, winter, and then an eternal spring,” former Google Brain leader and Baidu chief scientist Andrew Ng told ZDNet late last year. “We may be in the eternal spring of AI.”