Top 5 Drivers of Business Disruption in 2017 – #1 Artificial Intelligence

The Rise of AI in our Daily Lives

In the first of our series exploring the top 5 drivers of business disruption in 2017, we focus on the rise of Artificial Intelligence in our daily lives.

Development and debate over Artificial Intelligence characterised 2016. High profile figures including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk insisted that AI should be carefully contained and controlled, whilst Ray Kurzweil stated that we can, ‘protect ourselves against rogue AI by creating safeguards.

Despite the negative press, the last 12 months has seen a huge increase in investment in AI. Since 2013, funding has tripled. This relentless expansion led tech giants Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM to create a partnership at the end of the year, supposedly to hash out ethical concerns. Other key developments in 2016 include the increasing use of AI within retail operations, Artificially Intelligent crime prevention and the successful prediction of the U.S. presidential election result by a machine learning platform. AI has proved a useful tool for business both behind the scenes and in customer relations. Through AI, companies solve the problem of knowledge retention, as AI doesn’t retire or move on like an experienced human employee. An endless list of ambitious AI startups are now aiming to capitalise on this by providing businesses with machine learning platforms.

In 2017, AI will continue to experience an inevitable increase that, in many cases, we won’t actually realise is happening. Take automated, online assistants – there is no real way of knowing if you are talking to a human or an algorithm programmed with standard responses. It’s only until your query is seriously complicated that you might have a verbal conversation with a human representative. Even then, by combining machine learning and advanced robotics, developers have made AI far more human. Cobots and sobots already work and live alongside humanity, for example, as domestic helpers and physical receptionists like Nadine at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Last year, commercial businesses including RBS expressed an interest in developing similar systems to deal directly with customers in store. As AI accumulates more knowledge and experience, the scope of the jobs they can take on will expand. Team this with advancements in artificial speech and we’re quickly moving towards human-level AI that can deal with our queries in real time, any time, via personal devices and home appliances like Amazon’s Echo.

The expansion of AI has the potential to disrupt every aspect of our lives. The stealthy growth of machine learning, especially in business, is geared at providing a better quality of service whilst freeing up human operatives. This will benefit customers, but not the staff that are currently employed in white collar jobs. It’s exciting to imagine the possibilities of human-level AI, but what happens when the technology exceeds the confines of human knowledge? This may not be a pressing issue for 2017, but the time to work out how to safeguard against the possibility of rogue AI is now.