Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the ability of machines to interpret data and act intelligently, meaning they can make decisions and carry out tasks based on the data at hand – rather like a human does.
Chances are you’ve read a lot about AI in recent years – particularly how it’s going to save the world and/or end civilization as we know it. It’s certainly true that AI attracts a lot of hype and, shall we say, colorful predictions. But, unlike some technology trends, much of the hype surrounding AI is entirely justified. It truly is a transformative technology – one that will dramatically alter our lives in very real ways.
Not quite convinced? Here are five reasons why I believe AI is going to change the world in 2020 and beyond.
1. AI is everywhere
Ever asked Alexa for the morning weather report, or passed through a public space that uses facial recognition technology, or paid for something using your credit card, or bought a product recommended to you by Amazon, or browsed potential love matches on a dating app? Of course, you have. Most of us have done one or all of these things, probably in the last week. Probably in the last 24 hours.
And, you guessed it, all of these everyday processes are underpinned by AI and data. AI allows your credit card company to determine – in the blink of an eye – that your latest transaction fits your spending pattern and isn’t fraudulent. Mastercard, for example, uses AI algorithms to assess the 75 billion transactions a year processed on its network. So, to put it bluntly, AI is already deeply embedded in your everyday life, and it’s not going anywhere.
2. AI isn’t just infiltrating everyday life, it’s going to transform entire industries
The impact of AI is already being felt in a wide range of industries, from banking and retail to farming and manufacturing. In healthcare, AI is being used to identify (and, in some cases, even predict) disease, helping healthcare providers and their patients make better treatment and lifestyle decisions.
AI systems can even outperform human experts when it comes to identifying disease; in January 2020, clinical trials of AI software developed by Google Health confirmed that the software was better at spotting signs of breast cancer in mammograms than radiologists. The system also flagged fewer “false positive” results than the experts.
3. AI will make us more human, not less
As machines become more intelligent, they can carry out more and more tasks – leading to rising automation across most industries. With this rise in automation comes valid concerns about the impact on human jobs. But, while there’s no doubt that automation will lead to the displacement of many jobs, I believe it will also create new jobs – jobs that value our uniquely human capabilities like creativity and empathy.
AI will also make our working lives better. Journalism is one industry that’s undergoing an AI revolution, and there are many AI tools that help journalists identify and write stories. At Forbes, for example, an AI-driven content management system called Bertie is used to identify real-time trending topics, suggest improvements to headlines, and identify relevant images. This reduces some of the behind-the-scenes legwork for human journalists, leaving them to focus on telling the story.
4. AI is becoming more affordable for the masses
It used to be that to work with AI you’d need expensive technology and a huge team of in-house data scientists. That’s no longer the case. Like many technology solutions, AI is now readily available on an as-a-service basis – with a rapidly growing range of off-the-peg service solutions aimed at businesses of all sizes.
As an example, in 2019, Amazon launched “Personalize,” an AI-based service that helps businesses provide tailored customer recommendations and search results. Incredibly, Amazon says no AI experience is needed to train and deploy the technology.
5. AI fuels other technology trends
Finally, as if we needed any more evidence that AI really is going to change the world, let’s end with this simple fact: AI is the foundation on which many other technology trends are built.
Essentially, this means that, without AI, we wouldn’t have achieved the amazing recent advances seen in areas like virtual reality, chatbots, facial recognition, autonomous vehicles, and robotics (and that’s just to name a few). Think of almost any recent transformative technology or scientific breakthrough, and, somewhere along the way, AI has played a role. For example, thanks to AI, researchers can now read and sequence genes quickly, and this knowledge can be used to determine which drug therapies will be more effective for individual patients.
AI is just one of 25 technology trends that I believe will transform our society. Read more about these key trends in my new book, Tech Trends in Practice: The 25 Technologies That Are Driving The 4th Industrial Revolution.