Before I go into the rest of this article about advanced Artificial Intelligence, I just want to stop and recognize how COOL it is to live in the time that we do. I felt this very strongly as I looked at my inbox this morning and found numerous emails that outlined the not-so-distant future of technology. As I sipped my morning coffee, I read about new advancements, without shock or amazement - the feeling was something more blase, like, "oh yes, of course, that's to be expected."

Then my mind quickly flashed back to a decade ago when I, along with the rest of the world, watched in total amazement at the unveiling of the iPhone. We couldn't fathom that our phone could also be our own personal computer. But now, we take it completely for granted.

There is a huge discussion happening around Artificial Intelligence right now, and it reminds me of circa 2007. Some folks are in awe and amazement at the latest innovations, while others are skeptical (or even nervous) about what it will mean for their jobs. I can't help but think that in ten years' time, we're all going to laugh about how commonplace AI has become. The future is set to be an exciting place...and hell, the present ain't so bad either!

My Artificial Intelligence article from a couple of weeks ago prompted quite a few messages and tweets with some very good questions, which I thought we'd tackle in this article. It seems that many of us are dying to know more about what the future of AI will entail and (more specifically) what it will mean for our jobs.

To help me respond to these questions, I tapped the giant brain of Massimiliano ("Max") Versace, the CEO of Neurala, who has lectured on Artificial Intelligence for TedX, NASA, and the Pentagon, among others. Here's how he broke it down:

Is Artificial Intelligence for sales simply CRM software re-packaged with a fancy name?

A few tweets that came in last asked how the Artificial Intelligence used in sales was different from the traditional CRM software we use for emails and follow-ups. Good questions, folks! And the short answer is this:

Non-AI CRM software can't "think" like AI does; it obeys pre-programed rules that only work in simple cases. If you want your customer to receive an email, for example, you need to write the email and schedule it to be sent to them.

"AI, Neural Networks, can learn by examples to execute arbitrary tasks," explains Versace. "For instance, an AI 'CRM' solution can learn to respond to emails like humans. In essence, they can generate by teaching examples and very complex rules that humans follow."

So, in a nutshell, Artificial Intelligence is not simply "software re-packaged." It has it's own brain and can carry out tasks without you asking it to. Which brings us to another commonly asked question:

What's the difference between Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning?

The terms "Artificial Intelligence" and "Machine Learning" are sometimes used interchangeably because the two both describe the use of software and hardware that enable a machine to be "intelligent." But the difference is that "Artificial Intelligence" is a broader term for providing machines with the ability to perform rational tasks, while "Machine Learning" is a subset of AI that encompasses the use of data for the machine to learn.

But as Versace points out, the relevant distinction is really between AI / Machine Learning vs. Neural Networks. Which, of course, raises the question:

What the heck are "Neural Networks"?!

"Neural Networks is a subset of AI/Machine Learning that implements intelligence by directly emulating brain processing in software," Versace explains.

For example, Neurala builds emulation software of small mammal brains, giving the robot or drone the ability of that particular animal to perceive and navigate the world. Years ago, these kinds of behaviors were programmed in an explicit way, giving the machine a more outside view of the subject.

As human beings, we can look at a bird, for example, and give a commentary about how it behaves. With Neural Networks, the machine is essentially given the brain of the bird, which allows it to learn to behave exactly like the animal. Pretty awesome, right?

Will AI affect our jobs?

Of course this is a question on everyone's mind. And the answer is certainly, yes. Versace explains that ALL jobs not involving programming AI will be changed in the next twenty years.

"AI will relieve workers from working in tasks that are dull and dangerous," he explains. "Robots can take over those tasks, and humans can focus on supervising them, or other, more creative tasks. In a sense, it will take the "robotic tasks" out of humans, and enable humans to be... humans!"

Another astonishing byproduct of AI that Versace notes is that it will save businesses billions of dollars per year in increased productivity, as robots ramp up their output. Which is pretty good news for your bottom line.

No one has all the answers as to what the future may hold. But AI lets us develop certain patterns to predict future behavior and trends. And one thing is certain -- there will be more robots in it.

What does that mean for you reading this on your way to work, or sifting through your inbox in the morning? That we're on the brink of something amazing. So, between that, increased safety, and not conducting boring, mundane tasks, I say - there's an awful lot to look forward to!

Published on: Jan 17, 2017