Artificial intelligence is one of the hottest new technologies on the block, and entrepreneurs are rushing to get a solid understanding of what it means for them. It's predicted that AI bots will power 85% of customer service interactions by 2020 and will drive up to $33 trillion of annual economic growth.
It's difficult to talk about AI without evaluating its place in the ecosystem. Loosely speaking, it starts with the Internet of Things, in which objects are connected to the internet and used to gather data. Once enough data has been gathered, it passes the arbitrary threshold and becomes "Big Data", which AI is used to interpret.
When there are so many data points that no human could ever process them all, artificial intelligence becomes the only real alternative. But AI doesn't always know what it's looking for, which is where machine learning comes in. Loosely speaking, that's the process of using AI to analyze data in such a way that it 'teaches' itself to interpret it.
AI disruption, then, is largely going to come in the form of new ways of processing and interpreting data that have never before been available. Here are just five of the industries that AI is set to disrupt.
The healthcare industry has been waiting for something to come along and disrupt it, and AI could be just the thing to get the job done. Value-based healthcare evangelist, The Future of Healthcare author and 2017 Boldest Digital Health Influencer nominee Dr. Emmanuel Fombu says, "Artificial intelligence is arguably the single biggest disruptor for the healthcare industry. It'll free up physicians' time by taking care of menial tasks, it'll aid in the discovery of new drugs and treatments and it'll help to provide personalized healthcare to every single patient in the system. The possibilities are mind-blowing."
It's certainly true that AI could drastically change the way that we think about healthcare, but its real impact will be seen in the number of lives that it saves. To give just one example, it could dramatically cut down on the thousands of annual deaths that occur due to adverse reactions to medication.
The marketing industry is increasingly relying on tools and automation to get the job done, and there's nothing wrong with that. Used correctly, these tools allow them to deliver more personalized messages to people, improving the experience for their customers whilst simultaneously selling more product.
Over the next ten years, it's likely that these tools will rely more and more heavily on artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies as they continue to strive for personalization. In the same way that Netflix bases its recommendations on what other people with similar tastes have enjoyed, the next generation of marketing tools will use AI and machine learning to make communications more relevant than ever.
AI is also used to power tools like Siri and Alexa, and it's likely that we'll continue to use them in our day-to-day lives whether we're asking a virtual assistant for directions or whether we're checking into a hotel with a virtual concierge.
Lifestyle brands have a particular edge over those in other industries when it comes to AI because consumers interact with them out of choice, rather than out of necessity. This means that they're more likely to engage with an AI system for the first time instead of shying away from the technology.
Artificial intelligence is also used to power autonomous driving systems, and it's increasingly looking like the self-driving car will become a reality - not in the distant future but within the next couple of years, and certainly within the next ten.
Self-driving cars are insanely safe. Google's self-driving car drove 1.8 million miles and was involved in just thirteen accidents - all of which were caused by the other car. They're so safe that driving manually may one day become illegal, which is bad news for professional drivers but good news for the 1.3 million people who die in road traffic accidents every year.
A very crude version of artificial intelligence is already used to detect bogus credit card transactions and to combat fraud in the finance industry. But AI technology has so much more potential to further disrupt finance, if only it can get past the regulators and operate in such a way that it obeys the often strict legislation that international financial organizations come up against.
Nevertheless, in the same way that AI and machine learning are being used in marketing to buy and sell advertising space, it can be applied to the finance industry to make data-based decisions about where to invest money and when to buy and sell stocks. It may even find its way into emerging new technologies such as digital currencies, and it can also automate much of the manual work that slows the financial industry down and makes employees less productive.
What's the future?
Ultimately, artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to disrupt virtually any industry on the planet that stores data. In this day and age, you'd be hard pressed to name an industry that doesn't.
With that comes a quandary that humanity will need to address, and it's not for us to say what the result will be. If all of this data is in the hands of artificial intelligence, what happens if that AI makes a bad decision? Take healthcare, for example - if a doctor follows suggestions from an AI system and the patient is killed by an adverse reaction, who's to blame? Is it the doctor or the AI?
Regardless of these questions and their lack of answers, AI can no longer be ignored. The potential benefits so heavily outweigh any negatives that we may not have much choice in the matter. The only question is whether you'll move with the times or get left behind.