Deciphering the tech phenomena that is AI
At SWSX, there was no doubt that AI was the top buzz word of the week, sparking interest and excitement as people discussed its potential to change many industries. What stood out most however was the repeated need for demystification of it. Sadly, it is not magic, although there is rife speculation about what this field can achieve.
‘Elements of AI’ have set up an online training course developed in conjunction with the University of Helsinki who exhibited at SXSW. So here goes nothing, our attempt at decrypting the complex definitions of AI and its wider field:
- ‘Data science’ is a recent umbrella term that includes machine learning and statistics, as well as certain aspects of computer science including algorithms, data storage, and web application development.
- ‘Artificial intelligence’ is defined as a type of data processing that is both autonomous and adaptive, according to Elements of AI.
- ‘Machine learning’ is a subset of AI where systems improve performance in a given task as they learn through more and more exposure, experience or data.
- ‘Deep learning’ is a subset of the above and is the ‘cutting edge’ of machine learning that employs a greater amount of data, computing power and maths. It is where things like image recognition, and other advanced technology lies. It is very much in its infancy.
In case that went over your head, in its simplest terms AI helps to recognise patterns and organise data accordingly. Sounds simple enough, however in order to get there you need to be able to teach it what those patterns are, and these must be very black and white. AI systems don’t think for themselves and in fact don’t think at all. They just turn the patterns you show them into recipes for creating more of the same.
We can agree AI is in fact just a tool that makes humans better, more efficient, removing error. Science fiction has built up a distorted and unhealthy perception of its capabilities. Cassie Kozyrkov, Chief Decision Engineer at Google called it “Gratuitous anthropomorphisation,” but this is not the case.
In fact, Artificial Intelligence is all around us, a powerful aid used by many industries. It is used by our banks to fight fraud, in our stores to manage and predict inventory. Companies like Google Nest bring AI into our homes and it is on our phones to help take the best photos. Even the dating app Bumble is using AI to flag and detect nudity, as they aim to stop explicit images from appearing in users’ personal chats.
AI is an excellent tool that can be used to increase efficiency. For example, Walmart’s New York store uses 1,500 cameras and a team of 100 store associates to ensure stock is constantly refreshed. Ocado is another super market chain that has fully embraced automating the retail process, turning its warehouses into automated centers that are completely run by AI and algorithms. The Ocado system completes a 50-item order in less than six minutes, that would usually take a human about two hours. This automation in retail is freeing up time so human-centric work can be applied to more important areas of business.
So while a Google image search of AI generates infinite images of glowing circuit boards or dystopian lit up brains, AI is not what you think. Although the media is perpetuating the idea that AI has unknown powers that are too complex to comprehend, rest assured AI is in fact just a tool. One that when used correctly can drastically improve efficiency.
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