Artificially intelligent or AI machines hit our imagination way before reality. Consider the Golem of Prague: a magically animated, mud-bodied robot with little to no imagination but insurmountable damage prowess. His character was written in the 1600’s – roughly 200 years before Frankenstein’s infamous monster. Of course, modern pages of robot-lore are filled with a laundry list of malevolent AI-powered machines ready to break out of 3D screens at movie theaters. Our imagination has even shaped AIs like Ultron and Skynet ready to threaten human extinction.
However, after all that hype and fear-mongering, what we really bring home is a mild-mannered AI-powered device playing songs and booking cabs with voice commands. You could term that split the difference between bestselling pop-culture content and ruthless consumerism.
We use the intelligence of AI machines like Google Assistant and Alexa to our heart’s content. After all, there’s the fear of missing out if not genuine use for such technology. But then, there’s the concern over privacy. It’s a just shadowy feeling of invasion though – like when you acknowledge that you might have left the front door open but are too lazy to get off the bed, so you trade off your sleep with what could be a potential disaster.
The industry is another dimension of AI in itself. Businesses continue to leverage AI and improve upon just about everything from chat support to workflow to brand intelligence. Aberdeen research indicates that one in every two organizations is leveraging artificial intelligence in some form or the other.
The Complexity of AI in Business
As we speak, AI is playing songs at our homes, gobbling up a hundred Excel sheets in seconds at the workplace and scaring us to the hilt in the movies. Effectively, AI participates in our lives all through the week – and on weekends, too. That’s smart to the point it’s scary.
Nevertheless, if you run an enterprise, you cannot possibly do without AI. But as is the case with every new technology, adopting AI into business can be trickier than it seems. You cannot just turn up at your technology provider’s and ask for an all-business-pervasive AI package. Businesses are feeling sufficiently roughed up even when it comes to implementing AI solutions to select verticals of operation.
Perhaps the most iconic hurdle to implement AI in business is the level of expectations of users. The best models of AI technology (Alexa and Google Assistant) are both affordable and accessible. This means regular folks all around the world now have hands-on experience of Artificial Intelligence making their lives easier and more entertaining. To wit, if your product is based on or makes use of any form or manifestation of AI, the experience has to be every bit as neat as Amazon, Google, or Facebook.
Concerns Over Privacy & Additional Regulations
Notwithstanding the gamut of applications and overwhelming contemporary relevance of AI, the technology is not free from concerns. So far, the outstanding concern over AI has been over privacy. Lately, there has been news of Alexa storing recorded conversations and Facebook displaying ads based on regular conversations between individuals. Such vaulting ambitions on the part of tech companies have aggravated the ‘AI-trumps-privacy’ stance of many consumers.
Plus, you have to consider something called the Turing Test. Wikipedia defines the Turing Test as
…the test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
The test itself was developed by a gentleman named Alan Turing in 1950. 68 years later, in 2018, we got to see something extraordinary at the Google IO – Google Duplex. Check out this clip:
Case in Point: Google Duplex
What we see in the clip above is either amazing or bone-chilling, depending on the way you look at it. While most tech enthusiasts rallied solidly behind Google and their technology (and how dumb they made Siri look), there were some that spotted an element of cheating in not immediately letting the respondent know that they were speaking to an AI assistant and not an actual human being.
To be honest, we already have AI chat assistants pretending to be humans and we can’t tell which is what. It’s just that the level of colloquial and sentential nuance with the ‘mm-hmm’s and ‘uh’s that the Duplex demonstrates at once injects a bunch of frightening realizations. If I recall this correctly, the only relevant examples of such trained AIs are Jarvis and Friday from the Marvel movies. That’s perhaps only one of the realizations that have been sending a chill down spines. And this value of shock will inadvertently play out every time we realize and materialize technologies from Sci-Fi movies.
The big question is about the necessity of something like Google Duplex. We understand the bit about the top brass of Silicon Valley decision-makers, who, in all probability, have shaped the theory of the Duplex. But is the average Google customer really that busy? Something tells me that technologies like Duplex are less about the ‘busi-ness’ of people and tell more of a story about their stark laziness.
Monetizing AI Machines: Cute or Cunning?
Cashing out on public laziness is not really close to being a danger – that’s just good enterprise. The real game where the plot gets murkier (and dangerous) is this: (how) does Google plan on monetizing a technology like Duplex?
When you come to think of it, the same technology that books an appointment for a customer at a hair salon can also respond to the customer’s call on behalf of the salon. Add one value to the other and the receptionist could summarily be forced into hunting for an alternative career – in a market with fewer jobs for humans anyway.
Be that as it may, there’s no doubting that this is a remarkable point (somewhere close to the crest?) in the historical revolution called Artificial Intelligence. Businesses will adopt AI because of its manifold benefits, which, at least on face value, outweigh the concerns. Artificial Intelligence will help companies reduce costs, make decisions with greater certitude, cut down on ‘human errors’ and hustle through process speeds to deliver a real winning strategy.
Trend Picking Intelligence
AI Machines and systems play a big collective role in predicting customer trends. As these trends are fragmented into categories and the categories subsequently analyzed, innovations will rise out of nowhere.
We will witness rather sudden products and platforms, many from unsuspecting market players. Moreover, there’s always the blessing of artificially intelligent customer service interfaces and bots that eliminate the inefficiency and time lag of the ‘the-team’s-getting-used-to-it’ phase. Aberdeen research indicates that businesses that use AI machines save significant IT costs and serve customers faster.
The irony with Artificial Intelligence in business is this: the line was drawn way before we discovered any scope for debate on the technology. Whether we like it or not, this is what the future looks like. Businesses that avoid Artificial Intelligence today will suffer the same fate as businesses that avoided computers back in the day. Put plainly, only fools would miss out.
AI, Machines & the Future of Business
No one’s asking anyone to overlook a definitive gamechanger like artificial intelligence. But organizations must also weigh in, what I like to call from here on, the Cost-to-Human (or CTH) factor of it. By all means, go for it if the consequences are a) irrevocable but small or b) substantial but revocable. However, if the underlying cost of leveraging AI machines in business is both grave and irrevocable, step back and find an alternative (not necessary an alternative technology though). Now that we live in Industry 4.0, it must be the collective responsibility of us all to ensure human well-being before anything else. Jyoti Vazirani, CEO of Futran Solutions has previously written elaborately about the conflict between artificial and natural intelligence.
With that, let’s go back to the question I started this piece with. In all likelihood, the golden unicorn called AI is turning into an all-pervading, oversized behemoth. But not all giants torture and maim and kill. That’s what our collective psychology would surmise since the tale David and Goliath was written. However, recent literary evidence shows us that the opposite could be just as true (think Hodor and Wun Wun from GoT).
My point is AI could go either the Goliath way or the Hodor way. What’s certain is that it will go one day (just like Goliath and Hodor). The thing that really matters is how we treat it while it stays. At the end of it all, history will remember us for the way we treated humans when we had a set of options to choose from.
At Futran Solutions, we offer solutions in RPA and Artificial Intelligence. While respecting automation, Futran Solutions also participates in re-training of the employees who may lose their jobs to AI machines and systems.
Futran Solutions supports robotic process automation and artificial intelligence. We are a pro-technology company. And we believe that if a technology deserves to go viral, we must do our part in making it viral. We provide a range of RPA and AI solutions to industries across the board. Adjacently, we run a series of training programs to aid the displaced workforce.
Drop us a line to know how we can help you with RPA consulting and project implementation.
Krishna Vemuri is the co-founder of Futran Solutions and the CEO of the up and coming tech startup Onata. He writes on technology industry dynamics and the rather eclectic tantrums of his husky, Loki.