“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” Stephen Hawking told the BBC a few years ago. Elon Musk has delivered even more dire warnings, while Bill Gates recently suggested “we shouldn’t panic” because potential problems are not imminent.
Our sci-fi visions of the potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) have always had a tinge of doomsday about them, but the truth is that we’re a long way from Skynet-style sentience.
Earlier this summer a Google Duplex demo showed off Google Assistant calling businesses to make appointments for people. It spoke in a natural, human-like way, as it made an appointment at a hair salon. The attendant on the other end of the call clearly had no idea they were talking to a digital assistant.
Passing the Turing test is impressive, but this demo is more about the potential of machine learning. It was able to learn natural speech patterns and master how to react to different responses, but it wasn’t thinking for itself. It’s an expert system trained and built on rules about making appointments. It’s exactly this kind of AI or machine learning that can help you to leverage more value from your data, improve customer service or unearth solid leads.
The Benefits Of Machine Learning
Once trained with enormous data sets, AI programs can outperform humans for some pattern recognition tasks. AI doesn’t get tired and it doesn’t need breaks — it can perform with a very high level of consistency.
Asked to sort images of dogs into categories based on breed, the average human has a 5% error rate. This has already been surpassed by software from Baidu (4.58%), Google (4.8%) and Microsoft (4.94%).
There are a lot of possible applications for this in the business world. Quality control in manufacturing is an obvious place to start, but AI could also be trained to recognize wear and tear in parts and highlight when a Boeing turbine engine needs something replaced or to pick out patterns in financial records that might indicate fraud. It can also be used to answer basic queries from customers, reducing the load on human operators. The basic principles and algorithms can be conceivably applied to unlimited applications…