“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say, ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?” –Isaac Asimov, I, Robot
Some great minds, including Elon Musk, are clearly worried about Artificial Intelligence (AI). And with the recent innovations like Google’s self-driving car, the Hong Kong metro automating its own maintenance, and computers that are able to read human emotion, this fear is understandable.
Technology is finally catching up to science fiction — but business leaders who wait until humanoid robots are walking around to begin implementing AI in their business will have missed the boat and let their competitors eat their lunch. With so many new developments in AI, the conscientious business leader should be thinking about how AI will impact their business today.
AI Is Already Here
Sci-fi has us looking for the wrong signs for the “arrival” of AI (e.g. C-3POs, Marvins, Hals). Much more immediate (and some may argue more impressive) achievements are largely left out of these stories. Having a computer pass the Turing test would certainly be a massive event. But is having a computer emulating humans the sign we should be waiting for?
Einstein supposedly said, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Are we being a bit shortsighted by focusing on how quickly computers can become like us — when computers are already far better at doing many things?
In Hong Kong and Mountain View, there is a much more important message: AI is already here. It’s arriving almost invisibly. It’s happening in many, if not most, industries. From the drones that you fly to the cars that will soon be driving you, companies are putting software to work doing what software does best: intelligently automating large data sets to make timely decisions more accurately and reliably than we ever could. They are removing work from human minds and hands.
AI’s Effect on Small Businesses
What does this mean as AI begins to enter business at large? Will humans lose their jobs? Will we enter a life of ease and leisure?
These questions are identical to those at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and we saw what effect that had on economic and job growth. It’s the Luddite fallacy. As AI rolls out, certain specific jobs will be put at risk, but many more will be created. That’s what massive social and economic progress looks like.
In a small but meaningful sign that non-human emulating AI will bring more benefits than ills to humans, a personal injury lawyer in California recently made public his fears for the personal injury law industry once Google’s driverless cars become widely adopted. If lawyers being replaced due to decreased injury to humans and our property isn’t a massive step for positive progress, I don’t know what is.
Asking the Right Questions
Savvy business leaders are asking their teams important questions that will keep their organizations ahead of the game and will by default drive AI adoption: What tech can we adopt to maximize the effectiveness of each employee? What data-driven systems exist out there to help our teams make more accurate, timely and impactful decisions? Is someone building a turnkey software that can allow my small team to compete with the global powerhouses out there?
These questions and others like them will ensure that organizations benefit from the artificial intelligence boom that is already permeating their industry in quiet but massively impactful ways. Thanks to the work of Google and other companies working with much less fanfare, a world of automated convenience is nearly here — and businesses that embrace AI will thrive. Is your business ready?