Danger, Will Robinson.

Maybe you saw The Matrix? How about The Terminator, Battlestar Galactica, Westworld, or Lost in Space? These stories all share a dystopian future, roguish anti-heroes, and — significantly — a villain in the form of artificial intelligence (AI) gone bad.

SciFi writers from Asimov to Daniel Wilson have long been fascinated by our relationship with machines…and vice-a-versa. Their narratives — for better or worse — have shaped the popular understanding of AI. 

Below, we explore the questions: How powerful AI is today, and is it as menacing as media often suggests? Is it a threat to humanity, or an opportunity to expand business strategy? Read on to find out.

What Does Artificial Intelligence Really Do? 

Encyclopedia Britannica offers this definition for artificial intelligence: 

“Artificial intelligence (AI) [is] the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings…such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn…”

“Perform tasks” best conveys the role AI plays in our world today. Modern AI isn’t self-aware or sentient (let alone malevolent) but rather a collection of data, software, and hardware that can act in specific capacities.

In other words, the AI that responds to your Google queries or configures your Facebook feed will not someday rebel and wage war against humanity. Those potentialities are outside of its job description and, so, excluded from its programmed capabilities.

Similar to WiFi or computer software, AI is a tool that allows business leaders to create new efficiencies or features. Just like all technology, it can be abused (and has been in the past), but, otherwise, it’s not a threat.

Artificial Intelligence is a Force for Good

In the hands of business leaders and philanthropists, AI fulfills all sorts of needs and wants. 

Protecting Privacy. According to Gartner, “40% of privacy compliance technology will rely on artificial intelligence in the next three years.” That’s because AI answers data privacy requests — including protection and deletion at a customer’s request — faster and more efficiently than a human-based system. Plus, letting AI handle your data protects it from exposure to a human operator.

Detecting Fraud. Sophisticated AI can quickly analyze vast amounts of data, identifying the patterns (and exceptions to those patterns) hidden within. The banking industry uses this application of AI to detect suspicious activity and halt financial fraud.

Streamlining Business Processes. As technology advances, the demand for specialized labor rises. That’s where “knowledge workers” come in: specialists like doctors, lawyers, and analysts who perform high-level tasks that technology cannot. AI streamlines business processes by handling busywork, leaving knowledge workers free to focus on their specialized duties. 

Therapy. Scott Sandland, who spoke in our recent BrightTALK webcast about emotion AI, has worked extensively on “a natural language understanding system that improves human-computer communication and trains people and machines in improved soft-skills.” He hopes it will allow at-risk young people to access the help they need. You can watch more on this here.

What Can Artificial Intelligence Do for You?

Many people fear that AI could replace them in the workplace, which we address in another post. For now, just know that AI typically slots into roles and tasks that humans dislike or can’t do.

So, what is the ultimate takeaway?

AI is neither benign nor malevolent. Its application — and, by extension, its effect — depends entirely on the user. Also, more likely than not, it’s a tool that you’re underutilizing in your business or product strategy due to various unfounded fears.

Are you interested in  learning about AI and how it can benefit your business? At Synaptiq, we help business leaders unlock the potential of AI. Read more about our services, or contact us directly to set up a meeting.

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