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Why NZ businesses should not fear AI, but embrace it

Why NZ businesses should not fear AI, but embrace it

Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk are among the scientists who have raised concerns about the risk AI poses to humanity. While there genuinely is something frightening about sentient computers, they have little to do with how artificial intelligence is actually developing today or how it can be used in business, writes Bruce Aylward of Psoda

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
“If science fiction has taught us anything, it is that artificial intelligence is something that should be feared,” notes Bruce Aylward CEO and founder of Psoda.

The genre, he states, is filled with tales of self-aware and highly intelligent machines intent on the destruction of the human race.

“Even scientists, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, have recently raised concerns about artificial intelligence and the risk it poses to humanity.”

“While these warnings are scary and there genuinely is something frightening about sentient computers, they have little to do with how artificial intelligence is actually developing today or how it can be used in business.”

Aylward discusses further AI’s continuous foray into mainstream business:

“Much of the application of artificial intelligence in business today is highly unlikely to ever lead to the development of self-aware or sentient computers.

Applications like Google Now or Siri may come across as being very intelligent, but in reality they are little more than algorithms – they are not self-aware, and will not become sentient automatically.

They are just examples of machine learning where computers use algorithms to learn from and make predictions on data.

Read more: CIO Upfront: 'Big data is too important to leave to data scientists'

The real danger of using AI in business is not about machines turning against us, but rather people accepting the answers we get from computers as being infallible.

Bruce Aylward, Psoda

And although the computational power of the best supercomputers is almost at a point of matching the processing power of the human brain, adding human-level intelligence to that power is still some time off."

AI is already present in the enterprise

"In fact, AI is already built into many of the systems a lot organisations use today, and is already delivering benefits to people and businesses.

The smarts behind voice recognition, translation or transcription services are all based on artificial intelligence. These applications make use of artificial neural networks which are able to learn on their own and make sense of information from a variety of sources. AI-based voice recognition applications can in effect “understand” a range of words and instructions, and improve their understanding over time to become more accurate. They do not need to be programmed to recognise each word or phrase, but can learn to understand any combination of words and phrases.

Enterprise search engines also employ AI. Using semantic networks, these applications can establish links between related keywords to deliver search results rather than rely just on an index of words. This makes it possible to even find misspelt words or to look for patterns where a series of words is found.

Meanwhile companies like Amazon, Netflix and Pandora use AI powered analytics to detect patterns in what people buy, view or listen and create suggestion based on what they learn.

Using manual processing by people to perform that kind of analysis would take too long to deliver actionable results.

The real danger of using AI in business is not about machines turning against us, but rather people accepting the answers we get from computers as being infallible. AI might deliver interesting answers to questions, but they will not always be right and should be treated as hypothesis for which we need to find evidence to prove their veracity."

Adding a layer of intelligence to data analysis

Read more: Gartner asks, are you meeting the needs of 'information citizens'?

"Overall, businesses can benefit greatly from the insights that could be gained from applying a layer of intelligence to the analysis of their own business data.

By using AI in their business intelligence or analysis, organisations can discover patterns and trends that would be either impossible or too time consuming for people to detect.

Because AI can detect correlations between factors that humans are not able to, it can reveal issues not previously known, or uncover new ways to solve old problems.

This could help organisations discover solutions to issues they might never otherwise have thought of, or help address problems they did not even know existed.

That doesn’t sound so scary does it?”

Read more: I, Robot: A lean, mean fighting machine

Editor’s note: Bruce Aylward is CEO and founder of Psoda – a Wellington-based provider of cloud project, product and portfolio management software.

Send news tips and comments to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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