Conversational tid-bits on artificial intelligence

With 62% of enterprises planning to deploy some type of Artificial intelligence by 2018, AI is a hot topic these days. It’s concepts and capabilities are invading our cars, kitchens, and jobs. But what is it? And what does it mean?

Image courtesy of Kevin Curtis via Unsplash

The other issue is how do you get involved. If you go out for drinks after work and people are talking about artificial intelligence how do you identify the pretenders? Or better still, how can you ask a decent question to show that you are interested?

This is not intended to be an engineering paper or give you the tools needed to present an AI recommendation to the executive staff at work. It’s not even AI 101 level stuff. I want to offer a few tid-bits so that when someone starts talking artificial intelligence you can exhibit a little human intelligence.

Right now it looks like the Finance and Healthcare  industries are deploying the most advanced AI instances. But if you’re in a manufacturing, transportation or marketing related field use of artificial intelligence is picking up speed.

When it comes to discussing Artificial Intelligence, it is obviously a broad topic. Don’t get drawn into an argument or conversation with anyone who paints with the “AI is about to take all of our jobs” brush. Those people are out there and they’ll cite examples from random websites but not have a lot of details to support the theory. Most likely they are afraid of change and don’t have the time to learn more.

Many of us, myself included, immediately think of what the experts call Artificial General intelligence (AGI) when we hear AI. AGI is the walking talking robot with a little bit of attitude and a whole lot of data. Or Jarvis from Iron Man. AGI is cool and flashy, but it’s not coming for your job in the next 5 years.

If you want to jump in on the conversation it’s good to ask what role the AI will be used for. There are all kinds if different AI’s coming to market. The AI used in Tesla’s autopilot is not going to also suggest a gluten free recipe you might enjoy based on the ingredients in your fridge. And the AI used to recommend a parts forecast for the manufacturing team isn’t going to start generating content headlines for marketing programs. Much like new head count, AI will have a specific job description.

Other terms you’ll hear related to artificial intelligence are machine learning and deep learning (Wikipedia links so you can read more). If you hear these mentioned it’s likely someone who is working with or growing familiar with actually using AI.

Machine Learning is a subset of artificial intelligence where an application can change based on receiving new data. It lets the computer learn without being programmed. Machine learning is the power behind many of the recommendation engines you see on your favorite content sites. It’s what allows the computer to suggest content based on what you have previously looked at.

Deep learning is closely related to machine learning. The biggest difference is that deep learning will take huge chunks of data and project a model of a predicted outcome. Deep learning is what would forecast your purchase of a new TV based on your last two months of researching them online. You probably wouldn’t know when your surfing is being fed into a deep learning algorithm, but it is.

Artificial intelligence is capable of many things. In most cases it will help people do their jobs better, not replace them. Getting involved in the conversation sooner will help you operate more comfortably as AI comes into your business.