What role will AI play in the future of business?
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Many welcome it, others fear it. Regardless, the AI bandwagon is unstoppable — but where is it going?
AI (or Artificial Intelligence) is often misunderstood, and quite dramatically. It’s hard to blame people, though, because years of futuristic representation in media have led people to imagine systems such as 2001’s HAL or the agents from The Matrix. But when we talk about AI in industry, we’re not talking about artificial consciousness — simulated minds. We’re talking about computer systems that are designed to mimic small aspects of our intelligence.
Using AI, we can automate away a lot of the minor tasks that soak up so much of our time. Instead of a person turning on the lights first thing in the morning and shutting them off in the evening, an AI system can replicate our ability to gauge the level of daylight and adjust the lighting accordingly.
Today, AI is rapidly changing many industries, and it’s entirely clear that its impact is only going to grow as the years go by.
But what exactly can we expect from AI in the world of business?
Let’s take a closer look at what the future holds.
It will supplement human communication when appropriate.
Natural language processing (NLP) might still be a long way from reaching the incredible grasp of nuance the average person possesses, but it has made some major strides in recent years. The rise of voice assistants has made this clear — speech recognition is practically viable after decades of development.
Because of this, we can already see chatbots being used to great effect to handle certain predictable requests, particularly relating to customer service. Instead of sticking to human interaction (sophisticated, but expensive and time-intensive) or committing exclusively to AI-driven chat (efficient but prone to error), the coming years should see businesses adopt smart communication models that choose the right approach for the situation.
For example, if a customer connects to a support system via telephony, the automated system can make an effort to interpret their requests: if it succeeds, and the issue can be resolved without human intervention, then everyone wins. The moment it has any comprehension issues, though, it can send in a human to take over, and even support them when needed.
It will achieve remarkable practical and logistical efficiency.
Every business runs on a range of systems, some more sophisticated than others, but all hooking into an overall operational chain. AI has the potential to analyze and maintain these systems, greatly boosting their efficiency. This will be good for all parties — greater efficiency means reduced resource costs, saving money and minimizing environmental impact.
In the communications world, this will see channels being open and closed as needed, with cloud processing scaled up and down to allocate power where it won’t be wasted. This will leave much more money in the budget to be spent on creative projects or invested in the future, but what will be even more interesting is to see how AI is put to work controlling that investment.
Consider that the fintech world is already rife with algorithms competing to short stocks faster than a human could ever be involved, then imagine what an AI could do for an investment portfolio. With appropriate oversight, a system could be left to implement major structural changes, renegotiate supply contracts, buy and run side businesses, and do much of the work that a CFO currently does. But AI can have even broader implications, as we’ll see next.
Every popular communications platform today has a comprehensive API made available to users and developers alike, allowing them to create extensions as well as make their third-party software capable of linking to that platform. As AI becomes more advanced, we’ll see the need for human developers to cater to APIs become greatly reduced — any two platforms that meet a given standard should be able to communicate right away.
This will make life a lot easier for people trying to work together on distinct systems, and make global communications much easier. Imagine a world where the entirety of the internet works like a single digital ecosystem: given the necessary permissions, every app will have access to the history of every other app. Two businesses wanting to collaborate will be able to do it easily.
It will make some jobs obsolete (but create many more).
Those of us who fear the rise of AI do so largely for one or both of the following reasons: it’s a risk to our safety, and it’s destroying huge chunks of the employment market. And while the former is really a matter of implementation, the latter is undoubtedly a concern — but is it really something we need to be worried about?
I contend that it isn’t, because while it is rendering jobs obsolete, it’s also creating numerous new positions with long-term viability. Reports have suggested that AI will be a net jobs creator, and it’s easy to see why if you give it some thought: even if AI systems could fully self-regulate, we couldn’t let them do so without oversight. We will always need people to check that systems are working as they should, and the more complex they get, the more people we’ll need.
In the coming years, AI is going to do everything we’ve looked at here, and much more besides. The big takeaway is that we shouldn’t fear it. While it will replace some mundane jobs, it will create fascinating new ones, and make life much easier for business owners and customers alike — particularly through further improving online communications.
Guest post by Patrick Foster, E-commerce Consultant at Ecomm Tips, an industry-leading e-commerce blog dedicated to sharing business and entrepreneurial insights from the sector.