The technology behind artificial intelligence, or AI, was being developed as early as the 1950s, although we are now seeing a surge in its applications—both today and for the future. AI and machine learning come along with a wide variety of benefits to humans, including advances in healthcare, better marketing strategies, and more efficient day-to-day tasks.
Because there are so many complexities surrounding AI and its applications, we asked our experts Erika Twani and Renee Lopez-Cantera to break down the basics for us. Erika is the CEO and Co-Founder of Learning One to One, and Renee is the VP of Business Development for Eikon Digital.
What Is AI?
To better understand AI and how it works, Erika Twani uses a helpful example of following a recipe in the kitchen:
“When cooking something, you have different ingredients and follow a recipe in a specific order to make sure at the end of cooking, you have the finished dish. In AI, the ingredients are the data, and the process is the analysis that you follow in a specific order and then interpret to have the finished recipe.
“AI does not think. It’s not like a robot. Imagine that you put all of your ingredients together without measuring anything or following the steps—your cake won’t turn out. AI is the same way. There has to be a finite number of steps that machines follow to make sure you have a result at the end.”
What Kind of Data Does AI Collect?
Erika explains that there are four levels of data that can be collected through AI:
Big data – The machine is collecting information from you to use later on. It doesn’t know yet how it will use that information, but it is collecting it. An example would be your Internet browser collecting all the terms you’re searching. Later on, it will use that information to your benefit.
Machine learning – When machines or computers start making sense of the data they’ve collected.
Simple neural networks – Imagine that Google search is crossing information with all the people who’ve searched for the same things as you have. So Google will suggest—without your asking for it—other subjects, movies, books, etc. that you might be interested in. This is the same as YouTube’s suggesting other videos that you might be interested in watching, based on what other people have watched.
Deep learning neural networks – Neurons communicate together in your brain. They form neural networks for things, such as how to ride a bike. The same thing happens with computers. Facebook, for example, asks you to tag yourself in a photo that you haven’t been tagged in, using face recognition.
What Are the Benefits of AI?
While AI might at first sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, it has very real applications and benefits that are already being implemented in number of industries.
“As humans, we’re going to benefit a lot from AI, especially in the healthcare industry,” says Erika. “It’s going to be a lot cheaper. It takes almost 20 years to form a doctor, plus 20 years to specialize in something. Doctors are also emotional, and human characteristics can play a role in their day-to-day jobs. With IBM’s Watson, you just add data, improve the algorithm, and bam—we have a great doctor. And Watson can be all over the world, not only in one city and one hospital.”
AI has important applications for businesses as well. Renee Lopez-Cantera explains that this technology can help businesses of all sizes “store their own data to make better decisions and better know and engage with their customer base.”
Will AI Replace Human Jobs?
In short, yes, AI will replace many types of jobs in the future. “Anything that’s in the automated industries will be replaced,” Renee says. “McDonald’s is already using machines for ordering. So service-related industries are affected. Also, often in healthcare settings where scans are involved. You even see it sometimes within automotive production.
“We are needing smarter jobs for humans,” she continues, “like the programming of AI. Computer science and data science will be needed in the future.”
Erika adds that any job requiring emotional intelligence will always need humans to do it. She also stresses that these changes are happening right now: “According to a report by the World Economic Forum, 50 million jobs will be lost to AI worldwide by 2020. But the good news is that it’s making things a lot more efficient.”
Where Is AI Headed in the Future?
While AI is already implemented in a number of industries—from tech to healthcare to logistics—Erika believes that the next big industry to be affected doesn’t exist yet.
“That’s the industry of the brain—cognitive skills,” she says. “We haven’t figured out how the brain works yet—even neuroscientists have no idea. They say that if you compare your whole knowledge about the brain as a one-mile walk, we have only walked three centimeters—nothing.
“Engineers and scientists all over the world are testing external devices that you can plug into your brain and connect to machines and run algorithms. These algorithms could do things like get rid of epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and other neurological diseases.
“Last year, UC Berkeley launched neural dust—tiny particles that are implanted in your brain and can connect with any devices. This could potentially treat depression, make people more motivated to exercise, etc. I think we are a couple decades away from neural dust.”
AI is an exciting technology that will have many groundbreaking applications across virtually all industries as time goes on. While the concept of machine learning might sound scary for some, Erika stresses that “computers will never have consciousness at all” and rely on specific steps that humans create for them to follow.
If this discussion was interesting and helpful to you, consider joining us for our next Just Ask TCI virtual discussion. These programs happen from noon to 1:00 ET on the third Friday of every month and are free and open to the public—so bring your friends and coworkers!