AI: The wise of the machines?

Gareth Kershaw

Thursday 1 November 2018

From gaming to pharmaceutical administration, machines are learning. Fast. And while there are clearly still many lessons organizations must take on board when it comes to deploying Artificial Intelligence, its capacity to transform collaboration, knowledge management, the smart workplace, and much else besides is clear. Gareth Kershaw looks at why, where, and how it is doing so…

There’s something about the sudden success of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that just sort of, well, bothers us, isn’t there?

 

Specifically what this nagging discomfort is – apart from the standard, vague, Terminator-based, dystopian, paranoid nightmare seemingly playing out in all our heads – no-one ever seems quite able to say.

But bother us it does. Why?

It may have something to do with the stories hitting the headlines about AI being deployed in healthcare and other sensitive settings. Like the machine-learning software currently being trained to manage the frequency and dosages of certain chemotherapy drugs. (Using the same technique used to teach bots how to play video games.).

It’s all well and good using AI to teach Super Mario how to get a power-up, goes the righteous indignation of the typical article, but in cancer treatments?!
I think not!

Putting the labyrinthine ins and outs of this ethical minefield to one side however (there’s precious little room to do them justice in a modest little blog like this anyway), there’s no doubt that AI is finding its feet in business.

It may also comfort some to know that it isn’t quite the mysterious overnight success they’re taking it for. Many of the evolutions currently taking place in the AI sphere – specifically the so-called smart workplace – can be traced back at least five years and in some cases much longer.

So while AI is now making an impact across a range of less provocative scenarios across the commercial world – particularly in the context of the digital workplace – it actually isn’t all that surprising, or sudden, after all.

Collaboration and crowdsourcing. Intelligent analytics. Sales and customer service. Access control. Smart scheduling. Even niche applications such as translating and transcribing video conferencing: the list of smart AI workplace solutions is lengthening by the day.

Virtual assistants (VAs) are gaining major traction too. Indeed, according to Dimension Data, 62% of organisations expect such tools to be playing a part in their operations within the next two years. Many are even predicting that such deployments will become ‘the norm’ as they drive increasing benefits in disciplines like workforce empowerment and productivity enhancement via smart search and customised information.

Plainly, AI is a perfect and logical catalyst for the smart workplace. It is helping enterprise and industrial facilities become increasingly interconnected and intelligent. This in turn is boosting operational efficiency, as well as planning, analysis, and the potential for new, improved products and services.

And herein lies one of the real keys to the sharp recent uptick in AI’s fortunes: its   effectiveness in complementing and helping drive the push towards the digital enterprise. In freeing both management and those they manage from the more mundane aspects of their roles by delegating such chores to ‘virtual employees’, i.e. bots and the like.

Accordingly, before we allow our vague unease about AI to get too ingrained,  it’s important to recognise that not every AI application is a contentious one.

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