(Luke Downing speaking about Artificial Intelligence at the Virginia Medical Group Management Association in October 2023.)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on fire. Companies across the world are touting AI capabilities in their products (regardless of how minimal they are). Stocks like Nvidia have reached all-time highs based on AI euphoria. AI is the new “Cloud”. This blog will discuss the history of AI, the present, the future, and how it will impact businesses.
A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence
Alan Turing is often credited as being an early developer of AI. Turing worked on a team to help defeat the Enigma Machine during World War II. He also gave what might be the first public lecture on computer intelligence. He said, “What we want is a machine that can learn from experience.” He even developed a test called the Turing Test which is used to determine if a chat is occurring between a human and a computer intelligence or another human. Turing also theorized that an AI could beat a human in chess.
In 1956, John McCarthy held the first Continental Congress of AI called the Dartmouth Research Project on Artificial Intelligence. A dozen or so researchers came together to discuss the possibilities and future of AI.
In 2011, Watson debuted on Jeopardy and crushed Ken Jennings. Around this time, the focus was on teaching machines to learn and what follows are more examples of that.
In 2012, The Alexnet Large Scale Visual Recognition challenge took place where developers attempted to use neural networks to identify images. This helped bring AI into the visual realm.
In 2022, ChatGPT was released to the public. Chat GPT is a large language model that allows users to perform a variety of tasks including summarizing text or writing full articles. Stable Diffusion was also released and allows users to create images by simply typing words.
In 2023, Watson X was released to offer a trained AI competitor to ChatGPT. Training AI for a specific purpose makes it much more accurate. Adobe Illustrator also released an AI tool to quickly edit photos using text saving hours of design time.
And those are just a very few of the many advances in artificial intelligence in the last 75 years.
How Artificial Intelligence Has Improved Over Time
AI started a bit slow and humans could outwit it in many tasks. Over time, however, AI has eclipsed human intelligence in many tasks.
Everyday Examples of Artificial Intelligence:
Virtual assistants like Siri/Alexa/Google
Smart devices like Roombas
Stock trading (60-73% of trades are done by computers)
How Will Artificial Intelligence Affect Businesses?
Most businesses are likely leveraging AI already even if they don’t know it. Microsoft is leveraging AI, security programs leverage AI, you may have even chatted with an AI for customer service with a vendor. Most AI applications for small businesses are not yet center stage. However, over the next ten years, that will change. Many jobs simply involve moving data from one spot to the next. Answering a call and entering data, scheduling an appointment, or moving numbers from an invoice into an accounting system. In the next ten years, AI will be more deeply embedded in a variety of tasks including:
Automating Administrative Tasks
Security and Surveillance
When Will this Happen?
There is no set timetable. Currently software providers are investing a lot of money to integrate these tools in their software programs. Typically, larger enterprises will have the resources to invest in newer, costly technologies first. But over time, common small business applications will incorporate more and more AI tools that can be leveraged by all businesses to automate tasks and improve their bottom line. The next decade will find AI automate many routine tasks.
How Will Artificial Intelligence Impact Jobs?
New jobs will include AI Trainers, ethicists, and Robotics Managers. Data entry, customer service, and driving jobs will all be threatened by automation. Some jobs will stay neutral like trade work (AI won’t be fixing toilets any time soon), management, education, and environmental science.
How Will Artificial Intelligence Impact Society?
There are a lot of benefits to be had from robust AI. The first would be that with many repetitive tasks eliminated, people will likely have to work less at some point. John Maynard Keynes predicted this over 100 years ago. In fact, this was discussed in the 1980s when ATMs took off. ATMs actually led to more tellers being hired after they feared being replaced. What ultimately replaced many tellers, however, was mobile banking. AI can help eliminate the staff shortages that have proven to be common recently. Boring tedious tasks can be eliminated and that could even include cleaning up the house. Healthcare may receive the biggest benefit. AI can help diagnose patients better, assist with surgeries, compile massive amounts of data to discover new treatments, and provide quick 24/7 advice via Virtual Nursing Assistants.
Technology seems to be invented before we figure out how to control it and there are some risks associated with AI. First, AI is junk in and junk out. If AI is not developed and trained properly, it can produce disastrous results. If AI reduces the need to work, how will humans adapt to having more free time? Will there be a loss of meaning? AI will also require humans to step it up in terms of continuing education. Workers will need to develop skills to work alongside AI or to do the work that AI can’t do. There are some who believe that AI will be controlled by a few and create a larger wealth gap. And finally, AI will be used by law enforcement and the military. Will AI create a real-life Skynet from the Terminator?
AI is coming whether we like it or not. In its current form, it has a long way to go from nonsensical answers from ChatGPT to images where humans have merged fingers like the image above (quite impressive otherwise). We recommend talking with your current software providers to see what AI tools they have in their development roadmaps so that you can take advantage of them. If you need text summarized or to research something, ask ChatGPT. I find articles written by ChatGPT to be lack polish, but it can be great to get you started. We recommend you verify it with your own research, however. X and Google also have their own AI tools you can test. Now is the time to educate ourselves on how AI can benefit our businesses and our society and what steps we need to take now and the near future to ensure that humanity leverages the opportunities and avoids the pitfalls.