artificial intelligence

It may not be immediately obvious, but AI already touches our lives every day.

When we talk about Artificial Intelligence, we are not talking about sentience, or at least not yet. AI today generally means the use of high-level machine learning and pattern recognition to determine meaning, generate insight and even make predictions.

For example, Amazon, Google and Facebook use your search and browsing history to help advertisers identify you for prospective future purchases. AI Face recognition can unlock your phone, or you can converse with a “bot” when calling a bank or utility company.

This is just the start of a truly exciting new technical age. AI is already embedded in our mobile phones for enhanced photos, or in Apps for learning new languages, proactive personal budgeting, smart calendar scheduling – every day the list grows.

AI requires thorough testing, optimisation and oversight to make it reliable, fair and trustworthy. For example, the use of face recognition by Police where the need to keep order and prevent crime must be balanced with the right to privacy.

Healthcare

Scaling primary healthcare to the needs of the population is a severe challenge. AI diagnostic tools will improve as they are used more. I expect that when you are at a medical centre, the triage nurse will be aided by AI tools that enable more rapid identification of the appropriate clinical pathway.

AI is able to review scans faster than humans and yield outstanding results; often performing better than a human clinician. While I do not envisage AI replacing skilled medical consultants altogether of course, I do expect it to be used to augment and supplement their skills, meaning that clinicians can spend more time on the cases that are more complex and need more attention.

Human Interaction

AI is giving computers the ability to converse with us in a convincingly natural fashion using speech and text. The technology enabling chatbots and auto-attendants can also be used in companion robots, personal assistants and many more devices that will assist us.

AI can understand not just our spoken and written word, but can also detect our mood. Call Centres often use technology that determines how the tone and language used by agents affects customers’ feelings. Agents receive real-time feedback on how their message is being received and advice on how they might alter their approach. Other technologies can determine mood and feelings based on facial expressions, tone of voice or even how someone walks. This is being used in both medical and consumer applications.

How will this affect us? It means that it won’t just be people with well-developed emotional intelligence who know how we feel – it will be computers too!

Manual Tasks

While robotics has been around for decades, AI is now enabling a new generation of intelligent machines that understand their position and movement in relation to their surroundings. Drones and self-driving vehicles are obvious examples of where this has led. Whilst I doubt that true autonomous vehicles will be acceptable for a while yet, I do expect more use cases to arise. For example, green initiatives are leading to more restrictions on traffic in city centres. It doesn’t take too much extrapolation to envisage a scenario where there will be larger city or tourism areas where only self-driving vehicles are allowed.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) leverages modern scanning tech like LIDAR with AI to understand physical spaces, recognise surfaces and objects, and to recognise gestures. This has applications in marketing, events, education and entertainment. You can already experience the look of new furniture in your house without leaving home, and in future perhaps we might even specify the interior of a new car as part of an Augmented Reality test drive.

AR will be revolutionary for training simulations in complex or dangerous environments, sports coaching, to develop specialist skills. Already there are AR training solutions for NFL and other sports teams. These are proving especially beneficial for specialised positions such as quarterback where the chaotic environment of the playing field can be recreated without the risk of injury.

The New Streetwise

One of the downsides of AI is its application in the creation of deep fakes and fake news, enabling rapid production on industrial scale. There are counter-initiatives that use AI to detect fakes by detecting digital artefacts inadvertently created in their production. However, the most effective way we can protect ourselves from falling for these is by being digitally streetwise: educated, using our common sense; the same way we keep ourselves physically safe now. We all should make ourselves aware of potential fake information or scams and develop our critical thinking capabilities so we don’t just accept everything we see and hear at face value.

It is important not to get left behind by the considerable changes to our daily lives over the next few years. It may feel difficult to know where to start so I close with a simple tip. When you search for something on the Internet, perhaps using Google, do your original search; then repeat the search adding a space and the letters “ai” after the search parameter. You will routinely be surprised at the results!

About the author

John Michaelis is an expert in the practical aspects of using AI and an experienced business consultant. He is an active angel investor and board advisor for early-stage AI companies. John was the founding shareholder of Aurora, which became the market leader in AI solutions for the air sector, before a successful exit. John is the author of You++, a practical guide to how to be more successful using AI.


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