More and more people are coming to accept AI as an integrated part of everyday life. Have you ever browsed Netflix recommendations? Hailed a car from Uber or Lyft? Or just browsed the web to make a purchase? If so, then you’ve already used AI, whether you were aware of it or not.
The extent to which we trust AI often depends on our experience with the technology and our expertise on the matter. For many of us, what we know about AI has been shaped by pop culture and sci-fi movies. But the reality is that the reach of AI is extending beyond our personal lives and becoming pervasive in the workplace as well. Many companies are turning to AI to improve efficiencies in business processes and gain a competitive advantage wherever possible.
Advisory and Autonomous AI
We can categorize the broad concept of artificial intelligence into two types of AI: advisory and autonomous.
Advisory AI provides information that enables to make better decisions. For example, Google Maps and Waze have long replaced old paper maps and navigation systems that lacked the ability to account for real-time traffic, accidents, and closed or off-limit routes. Advisory AI synthesizes vast amounts of data to optimize the intended objective – in this case, getting us from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible. With advisory AI, the human stays in control. In this case, whether I take the faster route that Google Maps suggests is ultimately up to me.
Unlike advisory AI, autonomous AI goes so far as to take the recommended action without any human involvement. An example of autonomous AI would be the driverless car, which although is still several years away from being available for purchase, is gaining steady traction (no pun intended). According to the Verge, “What you can buy today are cars with some rudimentary autonomous driving software, by Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, and vehicles with advanced safety systems, like the Volvo XC60, that employ automatic braking and steering.”
Autonomous AI is much more difficult to build than advisory AI, but the value provided from autonomous AI applications also goes much further. Current AI technology can automate simple tasks, freeing up time and enabling us to focus on higher-value work.
AI in the Workplace
Most AI applications for business fall under the advisory AI category. This includes sentiment analysis tools, which have become a must-have tool for marketers to gauge consumer attitudes towards their brand. Another AI tool that companies are using at a faster rate is predictive analytics, which identifies the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data. Predictive analytics can be used to identify certain behaviors leading to purchase or conversely, identify users who are likely to churn.
Both sentiment analysis and predictive analytics parse, analyze, and make some type of determination from data for companies to make informed decisions on how to move forward.
AI applications in the autonomous AI category focus on improving certain aspects of the business process by automating repetitive, mundane tasks. For the non-manufacturing sector, this often takes the form as chat bots and AI assistants that can execute simple, redundant tasks.
These AI or virtual assistants (not to be confused with real people who work remotely) are handling specific functions such as scheduling meetings or in a growing use case, reaching out and following up with sales prospects. Automating routine business conversations saves salespeople from having to manually reach out to every lead that comes their way.
As AI technology continue to advance, expect to see more workplace tasks carried out by AI assistants. But not to worry; they don’t have the skills necessary to replace knowledge workers. As Conversica Chief Data Scientist, Dr. Sid Reddy states, “Human insight, ingenuity and judgment will continue to supersede the capabilities of today’s AI technologies.” So, there’s no need to worry about AI taking over…not for a long time, anyway.