May 17, 2016
by Anand Rao
Artificial intelligence must be ubiquitous to truly impact business and consumer life in a meaningful way.
As we saw in our first blog post on AI Everywhere and Nowhere, defining ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is like trying to hit a disappearing target. As soon as any aspect of AI gains widespread adoption, people fail to distinguish it as an AI technology, and it dissolves into the sea of general technology. As a result, most detractors of AI, at least until recently, have questioned the real-world applications of AI. In turn, AI never gains the respect and recognition it needs to evolve and reach its full potential. The beauty (and bane) of AI is that it is everywhere and yet nowhere – it is becoming ubiquitous in all of our interactions (at least all of our ‘virtual interactions’), yet most people fail to recognize and respect it.
Artificial intelligence is ubiquitous intelligence
You wake up in the morning and from your bed ask your digital assistant, ‘What is the weather like today?’ It replies back, ‘We have 80% chance of snow in Lexington later in the evening – with accumulations of 1-3 inches.’ The voice recognition, the natural language understanding of our question, the search through the internet to get the right answer and the translation of that answer into speech is all AI.
You get into your office and open your email. Your email gets automatically sorted into ‘Social’, ‘Forums’, ‘Private’ or whatever categories you have created, gets tagged as important or not or whatever tags you have provided to make it easier for you to read and clear your email. The classification of your email based on the To, From, Subject, and Content fields, the natural language processing to extract the right keywords, the machine learning to determine what is ‘spam’ or ‘not spam’ or who is important or not is all AI.
You open up your online newspaper to check on the stock market performance from yesterday. You get a description of the overall stock market performance and the movement of your favorite stocks. The news is personalized to the topics, sources, authors that you want to read and the newspaper has recommendations on what is trending among the sources or people whom you follow. The natural language generation based on structured stock market performance data, the curation of articles based on personal preferences and the recommendation engine for suggested articles are all AI.
You open up your favorite search engine, and as you type your query in the search box, the system suggests possible completions. Then, the system recommends the right websites from billions of documents on the internet, the right ad that matches your query, and fulfills the best bid for your search term amongst competing advertisers who want to personalize their message to you. The statistical inference in suggesting completions, the page rank algorithm that computes the relevant pages to display and the selection of the right ad using a real-time ad exchange are all AI.
The list goes on and on. In fact, there is very little in our day-to-day life that is not impacted by AI in some way. Yet the real power of AI is the insight that it provides us, without us being aware of it. The intelligence hidden behind many of our day-to-day interactions is powered by an AI algorithm related to machine learning, natural language processing or more generally unstructured data processing, intelligent search, intelligent agents, and robotics. And, while it is ubiquitous, I’m sure that we have only scratched the surface regarding what AI can mean for us.
What other realms of your personal or professional life are powered by AI? Have you ever pondered how your life would be different without AI or how it would continue to change as the field of AI advances?